The Chicago Cubs acquired lefty reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for third baseman Jeimer Candelario and minor-league shortstop/third baseman Isaac Paredes, multiple reports indicate — including Jon Morosi of MLB.com and every Cubs beat reporter. The assumption is that the teams are waiting until Monday morning to officially announce the deal.
Wilson, 29, is in the midst of a great season for the Tigers. He took over as closer and has saved 13 games in 15 tries with a 2.68 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 55 strikeouts against 16 walks in 40 1/3 innings.
Where Wilson fits in the Cubs’ bullpen is a fun topic. Wade Davis remains the closer, but Maddon has a bevy of guys he employs in late-inning, high-leverage situations, including Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop , Koji Uehara , Hector Rondon and lefty Brian Duensing . Mike Montgomery is a lefty like Duensing and Wilson, but he remains the long guy. Justin Grimm may be in trouble of being designated for assignment here, as he’s the likely guy squeezed out the presence of Wilson.
The look of the Cubs’ bullpen was already strong. The stable currently boasts a 3.34 bullpen ERA, which is good for fourth (tied with the New York Yankees , actually) in the majors, trailing only the Cleveland Indians , Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox . Now it’s better.
In looking ahead at the upside, a back-end trio of Davis, Wilson and Edwards with Uehara as the change-of-pace guy, Duensing as a guy only needed to get out lefties, Montgomery as the long man and Strop and Rondon still available is top notch.
Keep in mind that fellow NL contenders like the Dodgers and Washington Nationals were reportedly also vying for Wilson, so getting him is also a victory in keeping him away from teams the Cubs are planning to face in the playoffs.
Even more bonus for the Cubs is that Wilson isn’t hitting free agency until after 2018. If Wade Davis walks in free agency — which seems the likely scenario — the Cubs could shift Wilson to the closer role for next season.
Avila, 30, is hitting .274/.394/.475 with 11 doubles, 11 homers and 32 RBI in 264 plate appearances this season. Youngster Willson Contreras is firmly entrenched as the starting catcher, so Avila will presumably be used in order to rest Contreras. Keep in mind that Contreras can handle left field, too, if the Cubs wanted to use him out there with Avila behind the plate. Rookie Victor Caratini will be sent back to the minors to make room for Avila.
Candelario, 23, is a career .136/.240/.250 hitter in 50 major-league plate appearances. He’s hitting .266/.361/.507 with 27 doubles, three triples and 12 homers in 81 games for Triple-A Iowa this season. He’s considered a high-upside prospect and was ranked as the number 96 prospect in baseball heading into the year by MLB.com.
Candelario can play first base or third base. With the Tigers, he’ll also have a shot at DH. While a prospect many like, he was pretty expendable for the Cubs, given that Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are blocking him for the foreseeable future. He’s currently blocked in Detroit, too, by Miguel Cabrera , Nick Castellanos and Victor Martinez , but the Tigers are rebuilding, so stockpiling younger assets regardless of position is a good move.
Paredes is an 18-year-old shortstop and third baseman currently playing in Class A. Through 91 games, he’s hitting .261/.341/.399 with 25 doubles, seven home runs, 49 RBI, 49 runs and two stolen bases. He’s certainly projectable, but far away from the majors. Again, this makes sense for both sides.