By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The trade winds are blowing north in Chicago as the rejuvenated Cubs continue to pursue the final pieces for a playoff run this season.
Among the names to keep an eye on for the Cubs as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches: Tigers catcher Alex Avila, Tigers lefty reliever Justin Wilson, Padres lefty reliever Brad Hand, Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish and Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray.
The Cubs have talked to numerous teams about adding quality starting pitching and bullpen help, sources said. Wilson, 29, has had a strong year in Detroit and has been on Chicago’s wish list lately. He’s a power pitcher with a 2.75 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 36 innings. He’s making $2.7 million this season, then will be arbitration eligible in the offseason and hit free agency after the 2018 season.
The Cubs have plenty of competition for Wilson’s services, most notably from the Nationals and Astros.
Another reliever Chicago has inquired about is the 27-year-old Hand, who has a 2.20 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 49 innings in San Diego. He’s under team control through 2019. Like with Wilson, there are a half-dozen or more clubs looking at Hand that believe he’d could be a nice setup man in a playoff push. He’s making $1.38 million this season and is arbitration eligible the next two years.
Hand is also interesting because he has big league starting experience as well. Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been open about their desire to add club-controlled pitchers who have the flexibility to pitch in the rotation or the bullpen. One such example of that was when the Cubs acquired left-hander Mike Montgomery from the Mariners last season. He worked mostly out of the bullpen in 2017 and was on the mound for the clinching out of the World Series, then moved into the rotation this year after injuries to others. It appears Montgomery may soon go back to the bullpen now.
The Cubs are also believed to be interested in the 30-year-old Darvish, a soon-to-be free agent who could be moved and then sign back with the Rangers this offseason. Darvish wants to return to Texas on a long-term deal after this season, sources insist.
Darvish is of interest to other contenders such as the Astros and Yankees as well. He’s 6-8 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 131 strikeouts in 125 1/3 innings this season.
The Athletics’ Gray, 27, has been watched by Cubs scouts for the last few months. He’s under club control through 2019 and is arbitration eligible these next two offseasons. The Astros, Dodgers and Brewers have also closely followed Gray, who has a 3.66 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.
The Cubs are also considering acquiring a veteran catcher, as rookie Victor Caratini is backing up starter Willson Contreras right now. Chicago’s interest in Detroit’s Avila has been previously noted. He’d be a quality fit before hitting free agency this offseason.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.