How Chicago Cubs addressed needs, future at trade deadline
If there are things we've learned about Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, it's that they usually get their man and that they're thinking beyond today.
Such was the case late Sunday into early Monday, when they obtained left-handed reliever Justin Wilson and veteran catcher Alex Avila from the Detroit Tigers.
The Cubs gave up third-base prospect Jeimer Candelario, who has seen major-league time, and minor-league infielder Isaac Paredes along with a player to be named later or a cash consideration.
During the all-star break, Epstein and Hoyer pried left-handed starter Jose Quintana from the White Sox for prospects.
Both Wilson and Quintana figure to help the Cubs as they try to defend their world championship, and Avila will be an important backup to No. 1 catcher Willson Contreras.
Just as important, the Cubs have Wilson under control through the end of the 2018 season and Quintana locked up through 2020.
So forget about "winning July." The Cubs say they're looking to win again in October and beyond.
"First of all, I think that 'winning July' is similar to 'winning the off-season' as we always talk about in the winter," Hoyer said. "You try to make moves to set yourself up for October and hopefully to get to October, and you try to make moves to set yourselves up for your future as well.
"In that regard, I definitely feel like we're a stronger team now than we were before we got Quintana in the middle of the month. We've added three pieces to our team that can really help us try to win this division and hopefully beyond that. In the case of Quintana and Wilson, guys that can help us in the future."
Wilson, who turns 30 next month, will go to the back of the bullpen and set up closer Wade Davis, who is 22-for-22 in save opportunities. For the Tigers, Wilson had 13 saves, a 2.68 ERA and a WHIP of 0.94. He is effective against both lefties and righties, with left-handed batters hitting .220 against him and right-handers at .131.
He will join lefties Mike Montgomery and Brian Duensing in the bullpen. Montgomery has been a valuable swingman, and Duensing has been virtually flawless since late April.
Avila, 30, is batting .274 (60-for-219) with 11 doubles, 11 homers and 32 RBI in 77 games. He has posted a .394 on-base percentage and a .475 slugging percentage, good for a .869 OPS.
The Cubs have been looking for a veteran catcher since trading Miguel Montero to Toronto in early July. Young catcher Victor Caratini has been Contreras' backup.
"Really good makeup, really good left-handed bat," Hoyer said of Avila. "He has had a really good year. We felt like Caratini is a really good prospect. He's going to be a really good player. And I couldn't be more happy for him to hit the home run (Sunday) to win the game (at Milwaukee).
"But we felt the right thing to do for our pitching staff, for Willson, for the clubhouse, was to add a veteran guy. That way we have some depth at that position."
If there's any wistful nature to any of this, it's that the Cubs have traded several key prospects over the past calendar year. They traded Gleyber Torres to the Yankees to get closer Aroldis Chapman last year. In July, they dealt Eloy Jiminez and Dylan Cease for Quintana. And now they've sent Candelario away for Wilson and Avila.
On the other hand, the Cubs won last year's World Series, and many of the prospects from the "best system in baseball" are now at the major-league level, including Contreras, Kris Bryant, Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr. and Javier Baez.
"Certainly we've traded a number of prospects to go out and win a World Series and strengthen ourselves for the future," Hoyer said. "But I think prospect rankings are valuable in some ways. In a lot of ways, how good your prospects are is in some ways a good view into your organizational health.
"But, in another way, we're unusual that way. When we go play other teams, I'm still struck by how we're always the youngest team on the field. We have this young core of position players at basically every position who are guys who were all top 10, top 15 prospects in baseball who are wearing rings on their fingers from last year.
"I do think it's very difficult or challenging to look at our organization in that way because on the one hand, yes, we've traded a number of prospects. But on the other hand, we've really protected that core of players that are in the big leagues, a deep core of super-talented players who are young and who we control for a long time.
"We're an incredibly healthy organization from a young-talent standpoint. Unfortunately, those rankings only rank guys who are in the minor leagues."
Scouting reportCubs vs. Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field
TV: Comcast SportsNet Tuesday and Thursday; WGN Wednesday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Jon Lester (8-6) vs. Patrick Corbin (8-9) Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.; Jake Arrieta (10-7) vs. Zack Godley (4-4) Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.; Jose Quintana (2-1 with Cubs) vs. Zack Greinke (13-4) Thursday at 1:20 p.m.
At a glance: This is the first meeting of the season between the clubs. The Diamondbacks (60-45) are second in the NL West, and they hold the first wild-card spot. They've recently added outfielder J.D. Martinez, infielder Adam Rosales and pitcher David Hernandez via trades. Paul Goldschmidt is at .316/.437/.570 with 22 homers and 78 RBI. Jake Lamb has 23 homers and 80 RBI. The Cubs (56-48) lead the NL Central. Their starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.53 since the all-star break. They have just added reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila in a trade with the Tigers.
Next: Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field, Friday-Sunday
-- Bruce Miles