Alex Avila was acquired by the Cubs at the non-waiver trading deadline, along with Justin Wilson, from the Tigers for Jeimer Candelario, minor leaguer Isaac Paredes, and a player to be named later or cash. (I’m assuming the Cubs probably sent, or will soon, a small amount of cash to complete this deal.)
Wilson, so far, has been a bust, though there’s still hope that new pitching coach Jim Hickey and special assistant Jim Benedict can help straighten him out.
Avila played very well for the Cubs. He didn’t hit quite as well as he did in Detroit (.274/.394/.495 with 11 home runs in 77 games), but his .239/.369/.380 mark (three home runs in 112 at-bats) was perfectly suitable for a backup catcher. Avila played good defense as well, throwing out 27 percent of runners trying to steal off him (six of 22), and was a good veteran mentor for Willson Contreras.
One of his biggest hits was this walkoff single against the Blue Jays last August 20. I never get tired of watching this one, one of the best wins of the year:
Wednesday, Avila said he’d love to repeat that sort of backup role:
Free Agent Alex Avila is open to being a backup catcher on a winning team pic.twitter.com/Wp5jq6Jjnb— MLB Network Radio Sirius 209, XM 89 (@MLBNetworkRadio) November 29, 2017
I mean... if that statement isn’t just begging Theo & Co. to re-sign him, I don’t know what is. The Cubs certainly are well-positioned to contend in 2018; Avila could likely go somewhere and start, but based on this statement, winning’s the most important thing for him. Refreshing, I’d say.
Obviously this wouldn’t be a straight platoon situation, as in that scenario the lefthanded-hitting Avila would get the bulk of the playing time and the Cubs obviously don’t want that. But he was certainly quite valuable when Contreras suffered that hamstring injury just nine days after he was acquired; he wound up starting 24 of the Cubs’ last 58 games.
It likely wouldn’t take too much money to sign him, either. He made $2 million in 2017 and I’d bet a two-year, $7 million deal would probably do it for him. He turns 31 in January, so he could easily be productive for two more years.
You’re asking: What about Victor Caratini? It’s clear that Caratini is ready to hit at the big-league level, and he’s a switch-hitter. But Caratini’s defense behind the plate needs work still, and a playoff contender like the Cubs doesn’t really have the time to spend on that. Caratini would be a really nice trade chip for the Cubs to acquire some starting pitching (obviously in conjunction with someone else), or maybe in a one-for-one deal for a middle relief type.
I’d like to see Alex Avila in a Cubs uniform again for the next couple of years. It’s been a really quiet offseason everywhere so far. Perhaps the Cubs can make some news over the next few days by re-upping Avila for two more seasons.