Cubs ac­quire LHP Wil­son, C Avila in trade with Tigers

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The rolling Chicago Cubs got a big lift Mon­day when they ac­quired re­liever Justin Wil­son and catcher Alex Avila in a trade with the Detroit Tigers, bol­ster­ing their chance for an­other long play­off run. The ad­di­tion of Wil­son gives man­ager Joe Mad­don an­other latein­ning op­tion in front of All-Star closer Wade Davis. The World Se­ries cham­pi­ons had been search­ing for a vet­eran to back up catcher Will­son Con­tr­eras since they cut Miguel Mon­tero a month ago, and Avila is hav­ing one of the best sea­sons of his ca­reer at the plate.

Tigers general man­ager Al Avila traded away his son, but his club re­ceived mi­nor league in­field­ers Jeimer Can­de­lario and Isaac Pare­des and a player to be named or cash. The 23-year-old Can­de­lario was con­sid­ered one of Chicago’s top prospects, but he was blocked at the ma­jor league level by NL MVP Kris Bryant and first base­man An­thony Rizzo. Just three weeks ago, the Cubs hit the All-Star break with a 43-45 record after an em­bar­rass­ing 14-3 loss to Pitts­burgh at Wrigley Field. They trailed Mil­wau­kee by 5 1/2 games in the NL Cen­tral, and there was no sign of a turn­around on the hori­zon.

But Chicago got left-han­der Jose Quin­tana in a block­buster trade with the crosstown White Sox on July 13, and took off from there. The Cubs won two of three in Mil­wau­kee over the week­end to im­prove to 13-3 since the break and open a 2 1/2-game lead over the Brew­ers in the di­vi­sion. St. Louis was 4 1/2 back, with Pitts­burgh 5 1/2 be­hind Chicago.

“The sec­ond half, we’ve played re­ally well,” Cubs general man­ager Jed Hoyer said. “But we’ve got three teams we have to hold off to win our di­vi­sion, and that’s our fo­cus is. A team that was two games un­der .500 two weeks ago can’t be look­ing ahead. We’ve got to take care of busi­ness in our di­vi­sion. That’s where all of our fo­cus is now.”

While Chicago has ben­e­fited from solid re­lief all sea­son, the ac­qui­si­tion of Wil­son will lessen the load on pri­mary setup men Carl Ed­wards Jr., Koji Ue­hara, Hec­tor Ron­don and Pe­dro Strop. It also puts a third left-han­der in the bullpen along­side Mike Mont­gomery and Brian Duensing. “I think it re­ally takes a bur­den off of a bunch of dif­fer­ent guys, which I think is re­ally help­ful for Joe,” Hoyer said.

Wil­son, who turns 30 on Aug. 18, is 3-4 with 13 saves and a 2.68 ERA in 42 ap­pear­ances in 2017. He also is un­der con­trac­tual con­trol through next year, an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion for the Cubs since Davis, Ue­hara and Duensing are el­i­gi­ble for free agency after this sea­son. Avila re­turns to Chicago after he played for the White Sox last year. The 30-year-old Avila is bat­ting .274 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in 77 games. Con­tr­eras is the mid­dle of a break­out sea­son and Vic­tor Cara­tini hit a tiebreak­ing homer in the sev­enth in­ning of Sun­day’s 4-2 win at Mil­wau­kee. But Cara­tini has just 26 ma­jor league at-bats, leav­ing the Cubs on the look­out for a vet­eran back­stop to help keep Con­tr­eras fresh.

“Will­son plays like the En­er­gizer Bunny,” Hoyer said. “I think we all know that. Ev­ery­one has their lim­its, and I do think we have to be very care­ful not to wear him down, to make sure he’s still fresh dur­ing the pen­nant race. We risked him play­ing too much with­out go­ing out and mak­ing moves like this.” Right-han­der Dy­lan Floro was des­ig­nated for as­sign­ment to cre­ate a spot on Chicago’s 40-man ros­ter. The Cubs will have to make two more moves to add Wil­son and Avila to their ac­tive ros­ter be­fore Tues­day night’s se­ries opener against Ari­zona.

The Tigers are fourth in the AL Cen­tral, mak­ing them sell­ers at the non­waiver dead­line. They traded out­fielder J.D. Martinez to Ari­zona for three prospects on July 18. To re­place Wil­son and Avila on the ros­ter, Detroit re­called right-han­der Joe Jimenez and catcher John Hicks from Triple-A Toledo be­fore Mon­day night’s game at the New York Yan­kees. Can­de­lario, who made his ma­jor league de­but last sea­son, hit .152 with a homer and three RBIs in 11 games with the Cubs this year. The switch-hit­ting third base­man bat­ted .266 with 12 homers and 52 RBIs in 81 games with Triple-A Iowa.

The 18-year-old Pare­des, who signed with the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in 2015, hit .264 with seven homers and 49 RBIs in 92 games with Class A South Bend.— AP

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