The expectation that catcher Willson Contreras didn’t suffer a season-ending injury – combined with Alex Avila’s experience and Victor Caratini’s upside – means the Cubs will likely stand pat before the Aug. 31 trade deadline.
“We’re happy with those guys right now,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Monday at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs began a stretch of 13 straight games against last-place teams. “Hopefully, Willson continues to progress.”
The Cubs addressed their three biggest needs before the July 31 trade deadline without feeling like they mortgaged the future and bankrupted their farm system. The next day, team president Theo Epstein downplayed the possibility of making another deal during the August waiver period, saying how much the Cubs liked their 25-man roster with frontline starter Jose Quintana, lefty reliever Justin Wilson and Avila on top of the depth built up at Triple-A Iowa.
“We’re probably in the same place,” Hoyer said. “We’ll always look through who’s cleared waivers and those guys become potential targets.
“But right now, I think we’re happy with where we are. We probably won’t to look add significantly, though any day that can change based on injuries and poor performance.”
Where the front office kept tinkering with an emerging playoff team in late August 2015 – acquiring a former All-Star closer (Fernando Rodney) and a backup outfielder (Austin Jackson) in separate deals with the Seattle Mariners and signing a valuable reliever (Trevor Cahill) and a pinch-running specialist (Quintin Berry) to minor-league contracts – the defending World Series champs believe the solutions should come from within this time.
The Cubs still expect a drop-off, because Contreras had been one of the hottest hitters in the game and their most valuable player at that moment when he strained his right hamstring last week running out a groundball. A more conservative estimate from that four-to-six week timeline could put Contreras in play by the middle of September, when seven of their final 16 games will be against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Manager Joe Maddon described Avila as a backup catcher in name only when he came over from the Detroit Tigers. Avila is playoff-tested, only 30 years old, a left-handed hitter who crushes right-handed pitching and a receiver for Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer during Cy Young Award seasons.
Caratini already figured to be a September call-up after making his big-league debut this summer – thanks to Miguel Montero’s rant – and hitting .344 with a .944 OPS in 76 games with Iowa.
“We’re glad we acquired Alex at the deadline,” Hoyer said. “That helps lessen the blow of Willson’s injury a lot. Obviously, he was basically platooning for Detroit and catching a lot. He’ll continue to do that here.
“We’ve said all along that we’re very comfortable with Vic being here. We wanted to send him down so he could play. And now that we know he’ll get more playing time, I think we’re OK with having him up here.”