Much of the Cubs’ trade attention has been placed on their three-year mission to acquire impact starting pitching.
But they also have a short-term focus on catching help, especially in the left-handed hitting market since they’re batting only .234 against right-handers as a team.
A major-league source confirmed Tuesday the Cubs have been looking at Alex Avila of the Tigers, who is batting .308 with 11 home runs and 29 RBIs in 59 games. Tigers scouts have attended the Cubs’ past two series.
Starting catcher Willson Contreras has started two games in left field in the past two weeks, and manager Joe Maddon hasn’t been afraid to use him there as a part of a double-switch. A more experienced backup could provide the Cubs with more comfort after the trade of Miguel Montero to the Blue Jays.
Jonathan Lucroy of the Rangers is another possible target.
Lefty help: The activation of outfielder Jason Heyward from the 10-day disabled list wasn’t as surprising as the promotion of left-handed reliever Jack Leathersich from Triple-A Iowa.
Maddon cited the left-handed hitting depth possessed by the Rays, as well as key left-handed hitters against the Brewers and Pirates — the Cubs’ next two opponents.
“He has been killing it down there,” Maddon said of Leathersich, 26, who has an 0.64 ERA with 26 strikeouts and five walks in his last 14 innings at Iowa. Leathersich had a 2.31 ERA in 17 appearances with the Mets in 2015 before undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The Cubs optioned reliever Felix Pena and infielder Jeimer Candelario to Iowa.
Extra innings: Right-handed pitcher Alex Lange, the Cubs’ second first-round pick in the June draft, underwent a physical and all indications are he will agree to terms before Friday’s signing deadline. The assigned slot value for the 30th overall pick is $2,184,300, or $15,700 less than what the Cubs gave left-hander Brendan Little, whom they picked 27th. … Pitcher Kyle Hendricks reported his right hand felt well after he threw 25 pitches during his first bullpen session. … Tuesday’s announced crowd of 42,046 was the first time the Cubs attracted a regular-season crowd of more than 42,000 since July 13, 2013, against the Cardinals.