When the Cubs swung a deal with Detroit Tigers executive vice president and general manager Al Avila for pitcher Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila (yes, the GM traded his son) Sunday night/Monday morning, the instant reaction was how this move affects the 2017 squad.
And that's accurate. The 2017 Cubs are a significantly better team with Wilson and Avila in tow and the cost was Jeimer Candelario — a swith-hitting corner infielder who had nowhere to play in Chicago — and Isaac Paredes, a Class-A infielder.
So the Cubs acquired a 30-year-old, left-handed hitting catcher who has an .869 OPS and is a top-flight defender plus a 29-year-old left-handed pitcher who has posted a 2.68 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 13 saves and 12.3 K/9 this season from Tigers.
Avila is the perfect option to help give Willson Contreras a rest behind the plate against a tough right-handed pitcher while also providing solid defense. Avila has the seventh-highest WAR (FanGraphs) among catchers this season at 1.9, coming in not far from Contreras' 2.4 mark.
Wilson ranks 40th on FanGraphs leaderboard with a 0.9 WAR among relievers, sitting behind only Wade Davis among Cubs pitchers. (For reference, Carl Edwards Jr. has 0.6 WAR.)
But the hidden reason why this move was so impressive for Theo Epstein's front office is how it impacts 2018.
The Cubs did not give up Candelario — their best prospect after dealing Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease for Jose Quintana a couple weeks ago — for a pair of rentals.
Wilson is under team control through the 2018 season and his presence gives the Cubs another experienced option at closer for next year. Davis is set to become a free agent in a few months and with the megadeals closers are getting on the open market lately, Davis figures to cash in big time.
Epstein's history has never been to commit a lot of money or years to closers on the free agent market or with extensions, so a reunion with Davis would be difficult.
Wilson represents the third closer the Cubs have traded for in the last 53 weeks, but he's also the only one under team control for more than a season.
The Cubs do not have to enter this winter with only Hector Rondon, Carl Edwards Jr. and Pedro Strop as closer options. When the Tigers parted ways with Francisco Rodriguez this spring, they turned to Wilson, who has converted 13-of-15 saves since.
Wilson had only one career save prior to 2017, but he does have 92 career holds to go along with a 3.20 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 318 games.
At the very least, Wilson can provide another left-handed option in Joe Maddon's bullpen for this season and next. If Wilson can continue his breakout season, it gives the Cubs another late-inning, high-leverage option as they make a push for a second straight championship.
Best case scenario? Wilson helps the Cubs win it all again in 2017 and then becomes the team's closer in 2018.