Dempster, Cubs near 4-year deal

CHICAGO-Pitcher Ryan Dempster and the Chicago Cubs are close to agreement on a four-year contract worth about $52 million, according to a baseball official.

The official, with knowledge of the negotiations, spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the Cubs had not made any announcement.

Dempster was 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA for the Cubs last season, then became a free agent. Chicago has not commented in recent days on its efforts to re-sign the 31-year-old right-hander.

“We are still talking seriously about it,” Dempster’s agent, Craig Landis, said in an e-mail late Monday, adding Tuesday the sides had not yet reached an agreement.

Dempster was the Cubs’ closer from 2005-07, saving 87 games in 102 chances. He made a big switch this past season, returning to the starting role he once held with the Marlins and Reds from 1998-2003.

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He was 14-3 at Wrigley Field during the regular season. But one of his worst performances came in the playoff opener against the Dodgers on the Cubs’ home field.

Dempster threw 109 pitches in just 4 2-3 innings, giving up four runs and four hits while matching a career high seven walks. He gave up a grand slam to James Loney in the Cubs’ 7-2 loss. Chicago, which had the NL’s best record, was swept out of the playoff in the first round for the second straight season.

On the first day of spring training last February, Dempster said he thought the Cubs would win the World Series. They still haven’t won one since 1908.