Alex Avila has been behind the plate for every Tigers playoff game despite injuring his knee stepping on Robinson Cano’s foot in Game 3 of the ALDS, but his limp has becoming increasingly obvious of late and his production at the plate has been non-existent.
Avila hit .295 with 19 homers and an .895 OPS during the regular season, but is just 2-for-33 (.061) with 14 strikeouts in nine playoff games and manager Jim Leyland demoted him to the No. 8 spot in the lineup for today’s must-win Game 5.
Avila has downplayed the severity of the injury, but Leyland admitted to Jason Beck of MLB.com that “Alex is banged up pretty good” and there’s been plenty of speculation that he’s playing through something significant because Victor Martinez is unable to catch due to his own knee problems and Leyland certainly doesn’t want Omir Santos in the lineup.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”