By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — To borrow a phrase from Cubs right-hander John Lackey, executives Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod aren’t here to get a haircut.
That was the term Lackey defiantly used in 2016 when a media member asked about his mindset behind signing with the Cubs in free agency. Winning a championship is the lone goal nowadays for the Cubs, and they again displayed that attitude Monday, when they officially acquired left-handed reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila from the Tigers in exchange for prospects Jeimer Candelario, Isaac Paredes and either cash or a player to be named later.
The acquisitions of Wilson and Avila don’t guarantee a championship given the anything-can-happen nature of a baseball postseason, but combined with the addition of left-hander Jose Quintana a couple weeks ago, it puts the Cubs in prime position to repeat as NL Central champions and fill the team’s holes come playoff time.
The thinking with the addition of the 29-year-old Wilson was two-tiered. He will serve as a left-handed setup man, with the ability to throw 95 mph with a nasty cut fastball as well. He has a 2.68 ERA and 0.94 WHIP with 55 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings this season and gives manager Joe Maddon another trusted arm to go alongside the likes of Carl Edwards, Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop in the seventh and eighth innings. Looking ahead, Wilson is under team control through 2018, so he could take over the closer’s role should Wade Davis depart in free agency after this season, which is expected.
The Cubs cast a wide net in evaluating the trade market but were always hoping to add someone who would be with the team for more than just a few months.
“We did look at some rental options,” Hoyer said Monday afternoon after the non-waiver trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. “We were strongly looking at transactions that would help us beyond 2017. With getting Quintana and Wilson, we did that. This was with an eye to the future and eye on how our roster may change after the future. We feel we have strengthened ourselves for the pennant race but also for 2018 and beyond.”
Not having to move any players off the current 25-man roster was crucial in the Cubs’ mind, Hoyer said. As the team moves ahead in the coming weeks, left-hander Mike Montgomery could switch back and forth between a long man role in the bullpen and sixth starter role to ease the burden on the starting rotation down the stretch.
“Adding Wilson takes a lot of pressure off of the other bullpen guys now,” Hoyer said. “We feel very comfortable putting Montgomery in the rotation at any time. If we need to give someone a break or if there is an injury, he has done both jobs well.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.