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REPORT: Cubs Checked With Tigers on Availability of Justin Verlander and Alex Avila

Chicago Cubs Rumors

Well, then. You can’t say the Cubs aren’t seeing what’s out there.


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Last week, immediately after the Cubs designated catcher Miguel Montero for assignment, Jon Morosi tweeted that Tigers catcher Alex Avila would be an “ideal fit” for the Cubs.

Setting aside for a moment whether that’s true or not (Avila’s price tag would seem to be high, particularly given that, on the Cubs, he’d be only a platoon catcher with Willson Contreras – but that bat sure would be nice), we kinda figured it was unlikely that Morosi was just throwing that out there apropos of nothing at all.

And, what do you know, the Cubs have reached on Avila, according to Morosi. But that’s not all:

Hello.

We talked about Verlander’s availability on Friday, and the should-have-been-2016-Cy-Young-winner is working on his worst ever by a number of measures, and is now 34. Verlander’s velocity appears to be fine this year, but he’s sporting a 4.96 ERA and 4.36 FIP thanks to a shrunken strikeout rate (just 21.1%, compared to 28.1% last year), and a massively bloated walk rate (10.8%, compared to 6.3% last year).

Given the apparent command troubles there, you might be unsurprised to learn, then, that Verlander’s hard contact rate is way up this year, and his soft contact rate is way down.


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Until that disastrous outing against the Indians referenced by Morosi, though, Verlander had a solid 3.74/2.85/3.94 ERA/FIP/xFIP line through the six previous starts. Working some things out, perhaps?

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

In any case, even if you buy Verlander as a midseason bounceback candidate and a good bet to be productive in future years – which the Cubs do need – his contract presents a couple hurdles. He’s got no-trade rights, so he doesn’t have to go anywhere he doesn’t want to.

Moreover, he’s making $28 million this year, and $28 million each of the next two years, plus has a 2020 vesting option worth $22 million. The AAV of his deal is close to $26 million, which would make him a significant addition for a team like the Cubs, who are not going to want to go over the luxury tax cap this year. That would mean the Tigers would probably have to include money in the deal, which they might be unwilling to do if there are other suitors. (Though, to be fair, given the new CBA, other big market teams might want to stay under the luxury tax cap as well.)


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Of course, given Verlander’s contract situation, it’s likely that the acquisition cost would not be as dramatic as younger, cheaper, cost-controlled starting pitching. So there’s that.

I don’t want to get too far down the analytical wormhole until there’s something more solid here. We do know that the Cubs are looking for pitching they can control beyond this year, and Verlander has recently been very good. We also know that the Tigers may very well sell, and know we know that the Cubs have at least checked in on Verlander and Avila.

As Morosi says, there haven’t yet been trade talks, which makes sense. At this stage of the month, the Cubs might simply be putting out the “hey, don’t do anything before you talk to us” feelers.

But this is definitely something to watch.


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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.