Ryan Dempster has exercised his $14MM player option for 2012, the Cubs were informed today according to Gordon Wittenmyer of The Chicago Sun-Times (on Twitter). Dempster hinted at wanting to remain in Chicago beyond next season a few weeks ago. The team confirmed the move on their Twitter feed.
The 34-year-old right-hander just finished his worst season as a full-time starter with the Cubs, pitching to a 4.80 ERA in 202 1/3 innings. His underlying performance was no different than previous years, however. He struck out 8.5 and walked 3.6 batters per nine innings, getting a ground ball 44.1% of the time. Dempster eclipsed the 200 IP plateau for the fourth straight year, every season since he moved back into the rotation in 2008.
Given the underwhelming class of free agent starters, there's a good chance that Dempster could have secured a multi-year contract on the open market this offseason. Instead, he'll join Matt Garza, Randy Wells, and possibly Carlos Zambrano in the Cubs' rotation next summer.