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Cubs dealing from strength in trade for Wilson

MLB.com @philgrogers

CHICAGO -- Who wouldn't want to go back to the World Series?

The Cubs sure do. They traded their top-ranked prospect for the third time in a little more than a year on Monday, sending switch-hitting third baseman Jeimer Candelario to the Tigers in a deal for left-hander Justin Wilson, who has been Brad Ausmus' closer since June.

CHICAGO -- Who wouldn't want to go back to the World Series?

The Cubs sure do. They traded their top-ranked prospect for the third time in a little more than a year on Monday, sending switch-hitting third baseman Jeimer Candelario to the Tigers in a deal for left-hander Justin Wilson, who has been Brad Ausmus' closer since June.

As expected, the deal was a 2-for-2, also sending veteran catcher Alex Avila to the Cubs, with shortstop Isaac Paredes going to the Tigers.

Cubs add LHP Wilson, C Avila from Tigers

The 18-year-old Paredes was ranked the Cubs' No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline, so that's a solid return for Detroit. Chicago is also on the hook for a player to be named later or cash.

Video: DET@MIN: Wilson K's Grossman to secure the win

The Cubs had kicked the tires on a much bigger deal with the Tigers, exploring the possibility of adding Detroit ace Justin Verlander. But it appears Chicago would have had to give up players off its Major League roster and take on almost $60 million in salary to add Verlander, who is under contract through 2019 with a vesting option for '20, and it seems unlikely that deal will come together.

The Wilson move is a good one for the Cubs and and totally unlike the ones in which they traded Gleyber Torres to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman or Eloy Jimenez to the White Sox for Jose Quintana.

The Cubs were driven by a sense of urgency when they made those deals, trying to end a 108-year championship drought when they acquired Chapman, and to bounce back from a 43-45 record when they added Quintana. But this one was more a case of dealing from strength, adding a piece onto a bullpen that was already great.

Will it be like the Indians' trade for Andrew Miller a year ago? Let's see.

With Wade Davis as the anchor, working behind arms like Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, Pedro Strop and the unsung Brian Duensing, the addition of Wilson gives Chicago a bullpen that should match up to any in the National League.

Wilson, available because the Tigers have gone into rebuild mode, was on the radar for other contenders, most notably the Dodgers (who continue efforts to land Zach Britton), Astros and Nationals.

Wilson coming off the board may add to the value attached to the top bullpen arms still available, with Britton and the Mets' Addison Reed at the top of the list.

The 23-year-old Candelario is an intriguing prospect who could thrive with Detroit. He's hit .298 with 21 homers, 106 RBIs and a .912 OPS in 157 games in Triple-A, but he was blocked by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, which made him expendable.

Earlier this week, manager Joe Maddon insisted he did not believe the Cubs needed to add another starting pitcher to a rotation that has rounded into shape since Quintana was acquired from the White Sox on July 13.

"If you were to bring somebody else in, there's really a lot of moving parts [that] would have to occur for something like that [to happen]," Maddon said.

Maddon didn't name John Lackey, but he seemed to be speaking about him. And since then, the guy who was Chicago's No. 4 starter a year ago and has slipped to No. 5 with Quintana in the mix has won two starts, including a 4-2 victory in Milwaukee on Sunday.

Video: CHC@MIL: Lackey fans seven over six innings

Rather than add another starter to work alongside Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Quintana, Kyle Hendricks and Lackey, Theo Epstein is adding Wilson to be the third lefty in a bullpen that already included Montgomery (who is also the sixth starter) and Duensing. But Wilson uses his 96- to 97-mph four-seam fastball and 92-mph cutter to work effectively against hitters from both sides of the plate.

The numbers say Wilson is technically what Maddon calls a "reverse-split" type of pitcher, one who is slightly more effective against right-handed hitters than lefties. He's likely to become the primary eighth-inning reliever and could get some save situations as Maddon endeavors to keep Davis fresh for September and October.

Avila, who is having a career year in his second stint with the Tigers (whose executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager is his father, Al Avila), provides an experienced backup to Willson Contreras. The Cubs promoted Victor Caratini after trading Miguel Montero to the Blue Jays and have been encouraged by how he's played, but they see Avila as a guy who could replace Contreras for a long stretch if he was injured.

Video: KC@DET: Avila singles home two with the bases loaded

Avila has played 34 postseason games, including two in the 2012 World Series. He replaces Montero's left-handed threat, having hit 11 home runs and recording an .864 OPS this season.

The Cubs filled their only real needs with this trade. They're always looking to get better, as Maddon points out, but right now they're positioned to defend their NL Central title and be a tough out in October, for anyone they play.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

Chicago Cubs, Alex Avila, Justin Wilson