Levine: Cubs Continue Search For Reliever, Backup Catcher

By Bruce Levine

CHICAGO (CBS) — The consensus among those in baseball is that the Cubs will add a piece or two ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline Monday afternoon.

Specifically, the Cubs front office still intends to add another reliever and a veteran catcher to back up second-year pro Willson Contreras. The expectation of manager Joe Maddon is that any more additions will come at fringe of the roster and not be high-profile, as he’s content with the makeup of his current roster.

“I know we like our team,” Maddon said. “I don’t talk to (the front office) about (trades) on a daily basis. They come to me when they have something cooking.

“I just talked to Theo (Epstein) and they are going through the war room stuff. There is no white smoke as of yet. When we get back home, there might be more to talk about. Right now there is nothing.”

The trade market changed Sunday, with the Twins trade left-hander Jaime Garcia to the Yankees for prospects. That means Minnesota is likely to move right-hander Ervin Santana by Monday afternoon as well. Whether the Cubs have interest remains to be seen. The 34-year-old Santana is making $13.5 million this season and will make the same in 2018, after which his contract includes a team option for 2019.

The Tigers have three players that continue to interest the Cubs: right-hander Justin Verlander, catcher Alex Avila and closer Justin Wilson. All three are on the trade block as the Tigers continue to solicit offers.

In Verlander’s case, the Tigers have insisted on the Cubs including either infielder Javier Baez or infielder/outfielder Ian Happ, sources said. The Cubs much prefer to use minor league prospects in the deal and not disturb their 25-man roster. The money aspect could be solved by the Cubs absorbing about three-quarters of the $56 million that Verlander is owed across 2018 and 2019. He also is owed about $9 million more for the rest of 2017. With Jake Arrieta and John Lackey coming off the books after this season, the Cubs will have money to add a contract like Verlander’s.

The Verlander talks have had little traction as of early Sunday afternoon, sources said. With little interest across baseball being expressed in Verlander at Detroit’s current asking price, the Tigers could change course in talks in the final 24 hours ahead of the deadline.

For now, adding a reliever and a backup catcher remains the focus for the Cubs. Wilson, Padres reliever Brad Hand and Blue Jays reliever Aaron Loup are their main bullpen targets. If Avila isn’t attainable as a backup catcher, the Marlins’ A.J. Ellis, the Mariners’ Carlos Ruiz and the Mets’ Rene Rivera are the other options.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

More from Bruce Levine

Watch & Listen LIVE