Wilson joins Brian Duensing and Mike Montgomery as the only lefties in the Cubs bullpen. He’ll likely be the primary setup man in front of closer Wade Davis, a role that had previously been mostly by committee.
The erstwhile Detroit hurler is in his fifth full season in the big leagues and was enjoying a career year in his first stint as Tigers closer. Wilson has posted a 2.68 ERA with 13 saves, while striking out a career-best 35 percent of opposing hitters. His previous high in that category was 27.1 percent with the Yankees in 2014.
The newest Cub throws mostly a fastball and cutter, although he’ll mix in a slider on occasion. The fastball is a good one, averaging nearly 97 mph, while his slider clocks in at just 85. The three-pitch mix produces plenty of soft contact, as opponents have managed just a .210 BABIP this season.
Wilson will surely shore up the bullpen for the stretch run, but it’s obvious Theo and Co. have the playoffs in mind with this move. If the current standings hold, the Cubs would take on Washington in the NLDS and the Dodgers in the NLCS. The trade for Wilson gives the Cubs another left-hander to take on Harper, Murphy, Seager, Bellinger, et al. in late October innings.
The Cubs also acquired 30-year-old catcher Alex Avila in the deal. Willson Contreras has been exceptionally good since the Cubs DFA’d Miguel Montero, but the young backstop has played nearly every game behind the plate. It behooves the North-Siders to give him periodic rest so he’s fresh for the playoffs.
Avila will do just fine as a backup. He was the starter in Detroit and is having his best season since 2011 at the plate. The left-handed hitter has posted a .274/.394/.475 line that translates into a 134 wRC+. Those stats are likely inflated somewhat by a .380 BABIP, but Avila is running a whopping 50.7 hard-hit percentage, so he hasn’t simply been getting by on dinks and dunks.
The catcher is in his eighth big-league season and has become one of the game’s premier three true outcomes hitters. He draws walks in bunches (16.3 percent of plate appearances this season), but also strikes out a ton (30.3 percent in 2017). He’s not as powerful as other TTO hitters like Miguel Sano, but he has a little pop with 11 home runs this season.
Here he is going yard in 2014:
In order to acquire some big league talent from the Tigers, the Cubs had to dip again into their ever-shrinking prospect pool. This time, the defending champs dealt AAA third baseman Jeimer Candelario and A-ball shortstop Isaac Paredes. The two minor league infielders ranked No. 4 and No. 17, respectively, on the Cubs’ preseason prospect list, according to Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen.
Candelario was always likely to be traded as he’s blocked by Kris Bryant at the big-league level. He’s already 23 and has taken something of a step back at AAA this year, posting a solid-but-unspectacular 120 wRC+, compared to the 155 figure he posted last season at the same level. He’s also struggled in his first 50 MLB plate appearances, slashing .136/.240/.250. His only home run was a significant one, however.
So long, Candy Man.
Paredes, on the other hand, is something of Candelario’s opposite. Whereas the latter is likely a low-ceiling, high-floor player at this point, Paredes could end up being an All-Star or never making the majors.
It’s difficult to know because Paredes is only 18 years old. He’s nominally a shortstop, but most scouts think he isn’t athletic enough to remain there defensively, so he’ll probably end up at second or third. His bat is intriguing though, as he’s very young for his level, but has held his own with a .264/.343/.401 line. Still, he’s at least three or four years away from making his debut, so he’s far more valuable to a rebuilding team like Detroit than the Cubs.
It’s difficult to fault either team for this move. Much like the Jose Quintana trade several weeks ago, it’s simply a case of each team valuing the other’s players more. The Cubs are in win-now mode and this is the type of move win-now teams make.