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Sources: Cubs interested in Verlander, Avila

MLB.com @jonmorosi

The Cubs have inquired to the Tigers about the availability of Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and catcher Alex Avila, sources told MLB.com Monday.

The Tigers are willing to engage in trade discussions involving Verlander and Avila, according to sources with knowledge of the team's thinking, but the Tigers and Cubs have yet to begin formal negotiations.

The Cubs have inquired to the Tigers about the availability of Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and catcher Alex Avila, sources told MLB.com Monday.

The Tigers are willing to engage in trade discussions involving Verlander and Avila, according to sources with knowledge of the team's thinking, but the Tigers and Cubs have yet to begin formal negotiations.

The Cubs had a scout in attendance Sunday at Comerica Park, when Verlander started for Detroit with Avila behind the plate. Verlander struggled, allowing seven earned runs over 3 1/3 innings, his second-shortest outing of the season. It also was his first start without a strikeout in more than 10 years.

Still, it's easy to see why Verlander holds appeal for the Cubs: He finished second in last year's American League Cy Young Award balloting, and he has a strong postseason track record: 7-5 with a 3.39 ERA in 16 starts. The Cubs are seeking greater reliability in their rotation, with Kyle Hendricks and Brett Anderson on the disabled list and veteran John Lackey struggling lately.

Lackey and Jake Arrieta have contracts that expire after this season, amplifying the Cubs' need to trade for starters who will be with the club beyond 2017. Verlander is under contract for 2018 and 2019, on a $28 million base salary each year.

With Verlander's ERA at 4.96, the Tigers likely would need to include cash in order to facilitate a trade with the Cubs. Verlander has a full no-trade clause.

Avila has been described by Tigers manager Brad Ausmus as the team's most consistent hitter in 2017, after signing a one-year, $2 million contract last winter. He has flourished in a platoon role, posting a 1.003 OPS while making 35 starts behind the plate and nine more at first base.

The Cubs have been pleased with Willson Contreras as their No. 1 catcher, but Avila is a respected handler of pitchers who could fill the backup role vacated by Miguel Montero when the team designated his contract for assignment.

Jon Paul Morosi is a columnist for MLB.com.

Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Alex Avila, Justin Verlander