The Chicago Cubs are on a roll, but it seems that they’re not done trying to add pieces and bolster their roster some more, eyeing another World Series bid. Their current targets? Detroit Tigers Alex Avila and Justin Verlander.
The Cubs, not too long ago struggling and a bit under .500 with problems all over the place, are suddenly in control of their own destiny in the NL Central. Their trade for Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox has paid off (2 starts, 2.08 ERA, 19Ks, 2BB), and they’ve won 8 of their last 9 games, sweeping the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves, while taking 2 of 3 from the St. Louis Cardinals. Those aren’t the highest caliber of opponents, but 1st place is still 1st place.
As we mentioned, they’re not done. Links to Verlander have been popping up for quite some time, and not just from Chicago. Sources suggest the Cubs and Tigers are in discussions about both Avila and Verlander, but no one is certain just how far the negotiations have come. One thing worth remembering: The Cubs might not have to give up too much to get a deal done, especially when it comes to Verlander; the Tigers have been trying to dump salaries for almost a year.
Avila is a free agent at the end of the season. The 30-year old who has mostly played catcher this season but can also work at 1B is batting extremely well, hitting .281, hitting 11 home runs in 251 plate appearances and generally playing his best baseball since his 2011 All-Star season. He has less than $1 million left on his deal this season, so taking him on isn’t an expensive ordeal.
Verlander is a different case. He is owed $56 million over the next two seasons, and there’s a 2020 option worth $22 million if he finished in the top 5 of the Cy Young vote in 2019. He hasn’t been playing all that well this season, posting a 4.54 ERA through 20 starts and 117 innings, while striking out just 2.02 batters per walk. But he has had bad seasons and bounced back before (last season as an example) and usually, a good AL pitcher moving to the NL has an easier time, just like Quintana, who was also having a bad season with the White Sox.
The Cubs aren’t just thinking about short-term moves, which means this season only. They’re trying to extend their window of dominance and looking towards the World Series as long as possible. Their roster of prospects is very thin at this point, but it might not cost them too much to land both players, or at least Verlander. With money not being an issue, it just might be a shot worth taking.