The Cubs only made one change to their NLCS roster on Saturday, removing left-handed reliever Justin Wilson for right-hander Hector Rondon. The change doesn’t appear to be dependent on the southpaw’s postseason track record — he closed out a Game 4 loss with a scoreless ninth inning last Wednesday — but on his abysmal performance during the regular season.
Wilson, 30, started the year strong with the Tigers. He recorded 13 saves with a 2.68 ERA in 40 1/3 innings and was dealt to the Cubs at the deadline for Jeimer Candelario, Isaac Paredes and a player to be named later. Following the trade, however, he immediately began to tank, finishing the year with a 5.09 ERA, 9.7 BB/9 and 12.7 SO/9 through 17 2/3 innings.
That, more than anything, made Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon wary of using the lefty in the upcoming Championship Series. With Jose Quintana working on one day of rest and fellow reliever Wade Davis maxed out after a 2 1/3-inning outing on Thursday, the Cubs are expected to go to the bullpen early and often as they look for an advantage over the Dodgers. In Wilson’s absence, they’ll turn to right-hander Hector Rondon, who exited the regular season with a 4.24 ERA and made seven postseason appearances for the club in 2016, earning one win and one hold with eight hits, three runs and five strikeouts over six innings.
The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.
Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.
Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.