(CBS) At once in the same deal, the Cubs have added a key bullpen arm and backup catcher that they so coveted in their push for another championship.
Chicago has acquired left-handed reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila from Detroit in exchange for infielder prospects Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes and either cash considerations or a player to be named later, the team announced Monday morning, about six hours ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline.
While the Cubs’ bullpen has the fifth-best ERA in baseball through Saturday, the front office had been scouring the market for weeks searching for another reliever for manager Joe Maddon to trust in high-leverage situations. They believe they’ve got that in the 29-year-old Wilson, who has a 2.68 ERA and 0.94 WHIP this season. Wilson has struck out 55 batters and walked 16 in 40 1/3 innings.
Wilson was the Tigers’ closer, converting 13 of 15 save chances, but he figures to slot in as a setup man with the Cubs, who have All-Star Wade Davis handling the ninth inning. He’s held righties to a .131 batting average, while lefties have hit .220 off him. Wilson has a career 3.20 ERA across six MLB seasons.
Another benefit of adding Wilson is that he’s under team control through 2018, meaning he could potentially fill the closer role next year if Davis leaves in free agency this offseason. Wilson is making $2.7 million this year and will be arbitration-eligible this offseason.
Avila’s addition allows the Cubs to ease the workload of second-year catcher Willson Contreras and also provides insurance in the event of an injury. The 30-year-old Avila is having one of the better seasons of his nine-year career, all of which has been spent in Detroit. Avila was hitting .271 with 11 homers, 32 RBIs and a .864 OPS in 76 games through Sunday. He’ll be a free agent at season’s end.
The Cubs’ latest work on the trade market came just hours after they defeated the Brewers, 4-2, at Miller Park to open up a 2.5-game lead in the NL Central.
The 23-year-old Candelario debuted in the big leagues last season and played 11 games across two stints earlier this year for the Cubs, but his future with Chicago was roadblocked by reigning MVP Kris Bryant manning third base. He also has the ability to play first base, but that spot was blocked by Anthony Rizzo. Candelario has spent most of this season at Triple-A Iowa, where he has hit .266 with 12 homers, 52 RBIs and an .868 OPS in 68 games.
Candelario was rated as the No. 92 prospect by MLB.com and was the Cubs’ highest-rated prospect. His exit is just the latest in a housecleaning of top talent in the Cubs’ farm system as they’re in the midst of their championship window in the big leagues. The Cubs notably traded shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres to the Yankees for closer Aroldis Chapman in July 2016 and just a few weeks ago dealt two blue-chip prospects in outfielder Eloy Jimenez and right-hander Dylan Cease to the White Sox for left-hander Jose Quintana.
The 18-year-old Paredes, a shortstop, is hitting .264 with seven homers, 49 RBIs and a .754 OPS in 92 games at Class-A this season. The Cubs signed him in June 2016.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated right-hander Dylan Floro for assignment. He had a 6.52 ERA in 9 2/3 innings for the Cubs this season and a 3.88 ERA in 48 2/3 innings at Triple-A Iowa.