Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have made their need for bullpen help and a backup catcher known for a while and managed to grab both in the same deal last night. The Cubs acquired highly-coveted reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for prospects Jeimer Candelario, Isaac Paredes and a player to be named later.
The Tigers and Cubs had been rumored to be in talks over Avila for some time now, but Wilson hadn’t been mentioned in the discussion until recently. Multiple writers reported that talks were escalating over the weekend and began early Sunday afternoon.
Wilson comes to the Cubs as one of the best bullpen arms available on the market. He has 2.68 ERA in 42 appearances this season and has shown the ability to get both right-handers and left-handers out (.220 vs. LH/.131 vs. RH). Wilson has closing experience (13 saves in 15 opportunities with DET) and can provide the Cubs with an additional closing option if Wade Davis is unavailable. Wilson doesn’t hit free agency until 2018 and could also be insurance for the Cubs in case Davis decides to opt-out after this season.
The arrival of Avila provides the Cubs with a veteran backstop who can handle the staff, provide some offense, and give Willson Contreras some much needed rest down the stretch. Avila has had a resurgence offensively in 2017: he’s hitting .274 with 11 homers and an even-better .294 TAv. Avila has always been known to take his fair share of walks, and he has continued to do so this season with a .394 on-base percentage.
Candelario, who ranked No. 92 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100, will now get a chance to have a role in Detroit. In order for the Cubs to make any move of significance, they were most likely going to have to part with Candelario. While the Cubs really liked Candelario, there was no immediate or medium-term spot for him on the big league roster. He’ll likely get plenty of time in a Tigers lineup that could use a shot of youthful exuberance. Paredes has big upside and could end up being the best player in this trade. The 18-year old shorstop was hitting .264 with seven home runs and 49 RBI at Class-A South Bend.
It should also be noted that while the Cubs have dipped into their farm system recently to help the club in Chicago, the purpose of having prospects is to develop them to either play on the big league team or trade them to help supplement the current roster, which they have done. With Bryant, Contreras, Happ, Heyward, Rizzo, Russell, and Schwarber occupying space, there’s nowhere for these guys to play.
The Cubs have been trending up since the All-Star break and have played well following the addition of starter Jose Quintana. With more help on the way, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Cubs continued to their ascension atop the NL Central after this latest move.
Lead photo Rick Osentocki—USA Today Sports