DETROIT -- The Tigers traded the most coveted prize of their Trade Deadline offerings, sending lefty reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila to the Cubs for top prospectJeimer Candelario, shortstop Isaac Paredes and a player to be named or cash, the club announced on Monday.
The trade was the last of the Tigers' dealings ahead of Monday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline. Like the deal that sent outfielder J.D. Martinez to the D-backs earlier this month, it restocks a Detroit farm system that has been lacking in top position prospects.
"We are happy with the return we got," general manager Al Avila said on Monday from Yankee Stadium. "But we're chipping away. We are chipping away with trades, by trading some of the guys and adding little by little when we can. And now we will continue to move forward in the process."
Though the Tigers were willing to entertain interest in several of their big names as they prepared to retool their roster, Wilson drew the most interest all month amid a market of relief arms. The 29-year-old had a 2.68 ERA and 13 saves in 42 appearances for Detroit this season, with 55 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings. His transition from setup man to closer in June raised his value after he drew little interest on the market last offseason.
Wilson is under team control through next season, but the Tigers believed they could maximize his trade value by dealing him now with relievers in demand. Their ability to pry the Cubs' remaining top prospect seems to have proven them right.
Although the Cubs were linked to the Tigers in trade speculation for Justin Verlander and Avila in the past couple weeks, their desire to bolster their bullpen was equally important. They had a scout watching Detroit this past homestand at Comerica Park, including games Avila started.
Though other teams expressed interest, including the Rockies and D-backs, the Cubs were the logical match for Avila for most of their July, with a need for a veteran left-handed-hitting complement to right-handed-hitting youngster Willson Contreras.
"Several clubs were interested in Justin Wilson and a few clubs in Alex," Avila said. "But at the end of the day, some of those clubs decided not to come forth with what we considered the best package that we liked. But the Cubs did at the end.
"We've been talking to the Cubs about Justin and Alex for six to eight weeks. They targeted those two, and they followed them. We liked Candelario. He was their No. 1 prospect, and Paredes was in the top 10. He's probably a little farther down the road, but he may end up being ranked even higher [than Candelario]."
The hard part was Avila trading his son, whom Detroit drafted and developed, but both father and son made it clear they understood it would be done if it improved the organization for the long-term. The catcher is also familiar with Chicago, having spent last season with the White Sox.
Though the Cubs have thinned out their once-deep farm system in trades during the past 12 months, they still had a piece that interested the Tigers in Candelario. The 23-year-old infielder ranks 92nd on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, and he topped the Cubs' rankings, and plays third and first base -- two positions blocked in Chicago for the foreseeable future by Kristopher Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
"We've known Candelario for a while," Avila said. "We know he can play first, but we view him as a third baseman first. Our guys feel he can play a very good third base, and we feel, obviously, he can hit."
Candelario batted .266 for Triple-A Iowa with 27 doubles, 12 homers, 52 RBIs and an .868 OPS. He went 5-for-33 with a home run and three RBIs in 11 games in two stints with the Cubs this season. He reported to Triple-A Toledo on Monday.
Candelario is the second third baseman the Tigers have acquired in two weeks; third baseman/shortstop Dawel Lugo was the top-ranked prospect Detroit received in the Martinez trade. For the Tigers, though, the positions weren't as important as the talent level. They want athletes, and they will shift and tweak positions as players move up the system.
"The main thing here is offensive production," Avila said, "and you want a guy that can play at least average defense. At this stage it's really too early to tell [where they'll play long-term]."
Like the Cubs, the Tigers could have trouble fitting Candelario into their lineup immediately with Nicholas Castellanos at third base, Jose Cabrera at first and Victor Martinez at designated hitter. Castellanos could shift positions long-term; he worked as an outfielder at Triple-A Toledo in 2013. Or, with Castellanos eligible for free agency after the 2019 season, the Tigers could gauge trade interest.
Paredes ranked 10th on MLBPipeline.com's Cubs prospect list. The 18-year-old batted .264 with 25 doubles, seven homers, 49 RBIs and a .744 OPS at Class A South Bend. He was the highest-ranked shortstop in the Cubs system, but could end up moving to another infield spot as he gets stronger.
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Wilson (2.68 ERA, 0.94 WHIP) should provide helpful ratios for National League-only owners out of a setup role, but he is unlikely to receive the necessary save chances down the stretch to stay on mixed-league rosters. Similarly, Avila can fall to waivers in mixed formats now that he is set for a reserve role behind hot-hitting Contreras (1.019 OPS in July). Meanwhile in Detroit, Shane Greene (2.74 ERA) should join mixed-league rosters as the ninth-inning replacement for Wilson. Although Greene has struggled with his control this season (4.9 BB/9 rate), he has been arguably the most reliable reliever in a Tigers bullpen that ranks last in baseball with a 5.29 ERA.