When the keystone of your baseball card collection is built around the all-time roster of your favorite team, there are a few key dates on the MLB calendar which necessitate your vigilant attention: the end of World Series play (players can officially file for free agency), September 1st (the playoff roster cut-off) and July 31st (the non-waiver trade deadline). In reference to the latter, here we stand on the day after with the Major League landscape looking quite different than it did 24-hours previously. Sonny Gray finally swapped hands after what felt like years of rumors, the Dodgers managed to pry away Yu Darvish at the buzzer, and relievers bounced around like Illinois lottery ping-pong balls.
In the midst of all that craziness, Theo Epstein quite literally demanded the first born son of Tigers' General Manager, Al Avila:
That Epstein - he's one ruthless dude, huh?
Throughout the late night hours of Sunday night, bleeding into Monday morning, rumors swirled that a deal was about to be consummated between the Motor City and the Windy City. Al's son, Alex, had long been mentioned as a trade target for the Northsiders, especially since Miggy Montero went postal back in late June and earned a one-way ticket to Toronto. In need of some veteran leadership behind the dish, Alex's modest, one-year contract fit the mercenary bill while also putting a potent bat to the table, as well. In short, it was the perfect match.
Will it make Christmas a little awkward in the Avila household? Maybe - but, then again, pops did give his son a chance to punch a ticket to the playoffs. However, when word of the potential deal began to trickle out, it wasn't Alex's name which was originally attached to the trade:
Justin Wilson was the man the rumor mill was swirling around that night, another oft-mentioned target of the Cubs. Of course, as a reliable, lefty reliever, with closing experience, and an extra year of team control, Wilson perked the ears of just about every club within sniffing distance of postseason slot. Not to mention, the recently anointed closer had already posted 13 saves to go along with a 2.68 ERA and 12.3 K's per nine innings. In short, he's looked damn good in 2017.
That said, ultimately, it was the Cubs who came out on top of the Wilson (and Avila) sweepstakes, with their offer of corner-infield prospect Jeimer Candelario, A-ball shortstop Isaac Paredes, the ubiquitous player to be named later getting the Tigers to bite.
"The Candy Man" has already had a couple whacks at the Major League roster in Chicago, but was unable to capitalize on his opportunities, slashing an anemic .136/.240/.250 across 50 PA's, this year and last. However, the Cubs' number one prospect was very much blocked in Chicago, seeing as he was playing behind Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, who won't be going anywhere anytime soon. Simply put, he just didn't have a spot on this team's roster anywhere down the line; thus, it makes all the sense in the world that he was dangled as trade bait. If Jeimer is afforded a lengthy trial in Detroit, I do believe the massive power potential and plus-defense that he showed in the minors will shine through on the Tigers roster.
As for Paredes, he was a crown jewel signing from last year's IFA signing period. While he's shown some promise and quick progression so far, A-ball prospects are pretty much a crapshoot. We'll have to check back in a few years to see how this part of the deal works out.
Of course, every move in roster jenga has an equal an opposite reaction - it's the first rule of roster construction physics. In this case, while the 40-man roster did have one extra spot open for Avila, somebody was going to have to make way for the addition of Mr. Wilson. As it turns out, the odd man out this time around happens to be Dylan Floro, who had been constantly buying bus tickets back and forth from Iowa and Chicago, rotating through that final bullpen spot with a whole host of others. All told, the offseason minor-league depth signing ended up getting into three games (though he sat around A LOT), giving up 7 ER in 9.2 innings, leading to his eventual DFA - I don't think he'll be missed that much.
Although, I suppose Floro could clear waivers and be optioned to the minor leagues... in fact, that actually seems quite likely. That said, I feel fairly confident that even if that should come to pass, Floro can stop worrying about bus fare.
While not entirely related to the trade deadline maneuverings, I do feel compelled to mention that another short-term Cubs hurler was sent packing a few days prior. Brett Anderson, brought into to provide some production out of the fifth slot in the starting rotation, was also designated for assignment as part of a roster crunch.
Anderson was ineffective in a trial run early in the 2017 season, with his ERA rising above eight. Then, the already injury prone hurler suffered a back injury, which required a lengthy stint on the disabled list. In his absence, Mike Montgomery stepped in and proved to be an adept starter while the Cubs also made their major splash of the trade season in acquiring Jose Quintana. Thus, when it came time to activate the erstwhile starter, there was simply no place to put him. Here's hoping that the entertaining Tweeter lands on his feet somewhere and finally gets healthy enough to reclaim his 2015 form.
|The Cubs big acquisition of 2017 was made a few weeks prior.|
So, there you have it - the Major League Baseball non-waiver trading deadline, as told from the perspective of the Chicago Cubs. Going into the swapping season, the Cubs had a few glaring needs: A) at least one, cost and team controlled starter, B) a veteran receiver to spell Willson Contreras, and C) some bullpen reinforcement (like pretty much every baseball club). In acquiring Jose Quintana, Alex Avila, and Justin Wilson, Theo and Co. check off every single box on their "to-get" list - a feet I can't even seem to accomplish when grocery shopping.
With the team having already flipped the script on the 2017 season, coming out of the gates, guns a'blazing after the All-Star break, I'm excited to see how these new reinforcements blend in with the team. If all goes according to plan, the Brewers might just have to wait 'til next year and the Dodgers and the Nationals could have to share a little bit of the spotlight with the re-emerging Cubbies. These moves came with a high prospect cost, but in order to get quality, you have to get quality - that's the price of doing business in Major League Baseball.
Thankfully for GM's across the league, that price doesn't ALWAYS include your first born son.