The Cubs have acquired Justin Wilson and Alex Avila from the Tigers in exchange for (in-a-depleted-farm-system-top-prospect) corner infielder Jeimer Candelario, highly regarded 18 year old shortstop Isaac Paredes, and cash – or, my favorite, a “player to be named later”.
In other words, it cost a pretty penny. The front office, however, once again proved brilliant – exchanging prospects from positions of depth to acquire absolute needs. In this case, the Cubs killed two birds with one stone, acquiring a left-handed reliever (who knows his way around high-leverage situations) while also picking up a catcher who brings a veteran presence and can capably serve as a backup to the emerging star that is Willson Contreras.
The Cubs maintain a solid left handed relieving situation. Mike Montgomery – picked up last year at the trade deadline in exchange for, most notably, Dan Vogelbach – has served capably as a long reliever, lefty specialist, and briefly as the number five starter in the rotation. He also threw the final out in the 2016 World Series. But he’s not a late inning, high-leverage situation reliever the Cubs desired, even as he transitions back to an important role in the bullpen.
Neither is Brian Duensing. Seemingly a random pickup (I personally advocated for the Cubs to resign Travis Wood), he has performed well for the Cubs this season, posting a 2.47 ERA in 42 2/3 IP with a surprising (and drastically higher than career) 10.1 K/9. While inconsistent early, he has pitched well since April, and has proven to be more than just a LOOGY, as he has also thrown well against righties.
Justin Wilson, whom the Cubs had been connected to for awhile, is a huge pickup. He became Detroit’s closer in early May, and has pitched to the tune of a 2.68 ERA in 40 1/3 IP, a ridiculous 12.27 K/9, and 13 saves. He features a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball, and has one more year of team control via his third year of arbitration (which also makes him affordable). For now he will assume the role of Wade Davis‘ apprentice, and can logically fill the role of closer next year if necessary while providing a big boost to the bullpen for the playoff run this year. The Cubs desired a lefty reliever, preferably one that understands high-leverage situations. They got their man.
Victor Caratini seems by all accounts to be a capable backup at the big league level. He’s also unproven. Picking up Avila, then, was a prudent and necessary move. He’s not only considered to be satisfactory defensively (with a 33% caught stealing percentage), he’s having a career year offensively (.274/.394/.495 triple slash, 11 HR) while providing a veteran presence that will certainly benefit Willson. And as a pure rental, he won’t ultimately hinder the development of Caratini, who I predict will be on the 25-man roster in 2018.
So what did we give up?
Jeimer Candelario was our top prospect. He’s major league ready by all accounts and can play third base at an average level (and has shown similar, though limited, capabilities at first base) with upside offensively (20+ HR a year seems to be plausible). Problem is, we’re locked at both positions, so while it’s entirely unfortunate, Jeimer simply wasn’t a long-term fit for the Cubs. It’s sad to see him go. It’s also understandable that he was the centerpiece to this trade.
Isaac Paredes, the second major trade piece, is a bit of an enigma. He’s young, he has an incredibly high ceiling, but he also has a long road ahead to the major leagues. At 18 years old, he has proven to be an absolute gem defensively, but unpolished offensively (.264/.343/.401 at the Single-A level). He could very well develop into an everyday regular in the Tigers lineup, but that day is far away, and with Addison Russell and Javier Baez, the Cubs could clearly afford parting with a prospect like Paredes.
So we won this trade?
Yes, but so did Detroit. While we picked up two positions of need, at a cost that won’t ultimately affect the ball club, so too did the Tigers fulfill their goal of beginning the process of restocking the farm. Long was the team that overpaid for veterans in the hopes of winning the World Series. With Mike Ilitch sadly passing away earlier this year, the Tigers are now in position to rebuild, and with a middling 47-56 record this year, they have been open to trading major league assets for prospects.
This trade suggests they are willing to do so in a way that compliments the current roster while also looking forward to the future. Given the current state of everyone involved they did well here, as did our beloved Cubbies.
This was an ideal trade for the Cubs. They filled the only two glaring holes on the roster without sacrificing any of the young talent already on the MLB roster. And yes, the farm system is now barren, but Jed and Theo have proven adept at drafting well, signing impact international free agents, and filling voids with savvy trades. The Cubs are not only aiming to repeat, but to compete for a title for the foreseeable future. This move perfectly complements that goal.