Tigers deal Justin Wilson, Alex Avila for 2 Cubs prospects
On the eve of baseball’s July trade deadline, the Tigers parted Sunday night with prime-time reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila in a deal that brings two strong prospects to a youth-starved Tigers system.
The Tigers got switch-hitting third baseman Jeimer Candelario and 18-year-old shortstop Isaac Paredes in a swap that sends Wilson and his lightning-bolt left arm to the Cubs. Additionally, the Tigers will receive either a player to be named later, or cash.
Avila also was included in a deal engineered by his dad, Al, the Tigers general manager who made a second July move in a bid to bring fresh position bats to some arid Tigers farm clubs.
Candelario is 23 and comes to the Tigers from Triple A Iowa, where he was batting .342 in his last 10 games, with two home runs. On the season at Triple A, he is hitting .266, with an impressive .361 on-base percentage and .868 OPS.
Candelario was ranked by MLB.com as the Cubs’ top prospect after two premier young talents were earlier traded to the White Sox in a deal for Jose Quintana.
Paredes, is 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, and for his age has impressive strength. Playing in the Midwest League, Paredes this season is batting .275, with eight home runs, 39 doubles, and three triples. He has a .345 on-base percentage.
His defense is regarded as an overall plus.
The players are on different timelines and offer the Tigers essential depth, as well as a likely new starter in 2018.
The Candelario-Paredes pickups also follow Avila’s earlier deal that sent J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks for three up-the-middle infield prospects, including Dawal Lugo, who before Sunday was considered a likely third-base candidate for Comerica Park.
Candelario’s primary position is third base. It carries the unmistakable message that the Tigers will relocate Nick Castellanos, whose defense and weakening throws have made his future at third tenuous, at best. Castellanos likely will be moving to first base or to shifts as a designated hitter in a potential shared-time arrangement that the Tigers haven’t yet disclosed or, more likely, haven’t finalized.
Sunday’s trade with the Cubs came at an enormous cost for the Tigers as it delivered to the Cubs a powerhouse bullpen upgrade.
Wilson, who turns 30 on Aug. 18, has been an epic answer to a long-beleaguered Tigers bullpen. He moved to closer in May and has been all but invincible of late as he has destroyed batters both right-handed and left-handed with a gouging fastball that can hit 98 mph. He has struck out 55 batters in 40⅓ innings in 2017.
Wilson, though, is a year from free agency and offered the Tigers their best chance to help a team, now on the rebuilding path, regain some vital position talent.
Alex Avila, likewise, was simply expendable, and marketable, although a brutal July might well have dropped his retail-trade price dramatically.
The Tigers have backup catchers at Triple A Toledo in John Hicks and Bryan Holaday and were in need of shedding Avila for any kind of gain, given that he is three months from free agency.
The Tigers might yet return to the trade mart ahead of Monday’s 4 p.m. close.
They have been open to dealing ace pitcher Justin Verlander, although clubs have recoiled at the $56 million Verlander is promised in 2018 and 2019. Verlander, though, looms as a potential target as playoff-bound teams gauge their rotations and perhaps ponder a Verlander jolt.
Tigers infielders Ian Kinsler and Jose Iglesias also are on the block, although interest in either player has reportedly been minimal.
Height/Weight: 6-1, 210
Team: Iowa Cubs (AAA)
Home: New York, N.Y
Notable: Ranked as No. 1 prospect in Cubs system by MLB.com
Height/Weight: 5-11, 175
Team: South Bend Cubs (A)
Home: Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico
Notable: Ranked as No. 10 prospect in Cubs system by MLB.com