The Detroit Tigers agreed Sunday to trade relief pitcher Justin Wilson and Alex Avila to the Chicago Cubs for Jeimer Candelario, Isaac Paredes and a player to be named later or cash, according to Jon Heyman of FanRang Sports.
Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press first reported the details of the trade, and Jon Morosi of the MLB Network later reported the trade was complete after medical reviews.
Morosi offered up an interesting stat regarding Avila:
Avila is coming off a few down years but has performed well in 2017, posting a .271/.392/.472 slash line. The left-handed hitter could provide valuable depth behind Willson Contreras, which has been a problem for the Cubs since trading Miguel Montero.
With 34 games of playoff experience, he should also fit in well as the Cubs try to defend their World Series title.
Of course, Wilson is the biggest highlight of the trade after accumulating a 2.68 ERA and 0.94 WHIP across 42 appearances so far this season.
His initial year in Detroit wasn't quite as strong. The 29-year-old reliever posted a 4.14 ERA and 1.33 WHIP across 66 appearances in 2016. His career numbers entering the year were a bit more favorable with a 3.28 ERA and 1.23 WHIP across his first five years in the majors.
Despite the lack of shutdown statistics, the California native still became a hot commodity during the offseason as contenders around MLB scoured both the free-agent and trade markets searching for ways to upgrade their bullpen.
Wilson became more valuable through that supply-and-demand lens because he's a lefty with the ability to throw his fastball in the mid-90s. Add in the fact he struck out 258 batters in the same number of career innings entering 2017, and his high trade stock was more understandable.
It wasn't just rumors about his status, either. Evan Woodbery of MLive.com noted Tigers general manager Al Avila confirmed the widespread buzz in early December.
"The highest level of interest has been on Justin Wilson," he said.
That was quite a statement considering some of the marquee players on Detroit's roster. In addition, it further illustrated the effort around baseball to bolster the relief corps after a 2016 postseason where the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians used their bullpens extensively to reach the World Series.
Now Wilson is slated to join the reigning champions as Theo Epstein and his staff attempt to strike gold on another talented arm that hasn't peaked quite yet. He'll join the back end of a Cubs bullpen that already features Wade Davis, Koji Uehara and Carl Edwards Jr.
It's hard to say exactly how manager Joe Maddon will utilize the group because Wilson isn't a typical lefty. He utilizes a cutter, which helps explain why left-handed hitters registered a .772 OPS against him in 2016 compared to a .667 mark by righties, a trend that's continued this year.
The Cubs may end up using Davis as a traditional closer, while they rely on Uehara, Edwards and Wilson interchangeably in other high-leverage situations. Perhaps there will be more multi-inning outings paired with additional rest thanks to the depth as well.
Ultimately, Wilson doesn't have the same track record as some of the high-profile relievers around the league. But he won't cost nearly as much and still has some untapped potential at age 29.
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