CLEVELAND – Bobby Wilson believed in March that his major league career might be over. Now he is hoping to finish this season playing for a potential World Series team, “kind of the last thing that’s on the bucket list.”
The Twins gave him that chance Thursday, trading Wilson to the Cubs in exchange for his predecessor as a Twins backup catcher: Chris Gimenez. The Twins might also receive a player to be named later or cash.
The trade has more to do with giving Wilson a shot at experiencing a pennant race and the postseason for the first time in his career than receiving anything back, said Derek Falvey, the Twins chief baseball officer, though reacquiring Gimenez was an appealing sweetener.
“The Cubs reached out. Once there was a potential opportunity for him to pursue a playoff run down the stretch, we wanted to chat with him about it,” Falvey said. “For who he is and what he means to the guys in the clubhouse, we felt we could afford him that opportunity. … It’s more out of respect for who he is.”
As for Gimenez, whom Falvey has now acquired four times during his career in the Indians and Twins front offices, “I remember having a lot of conversations last year about what Chris was and what Chris meant to this clubhouse. I see why [Wilson and Gimenez are] viewed similarly in many ways. They have different skills, they’re very different guys, but it was an opportunity for us to get back someone with familiarity and perhaps some leadership in the clubhouse.”
Wilson is on the disabled list because of a sprained right ankle, but he has been working out and should be ready to be activated in the next few days. Gimenez, who batted .220 in 74 games for the Twins last year and then signed with the Cubs during the winter, was waived in July, and has been playing for Class AAA Iowa, where he is batting .204 in 68 games.
Wilson, 35, was sent to Class AAA Rochester during spring training, and told bullpen coach Eddie Guardado that “I don’t know if I really want to keep going. But talking to [manager Paul Molitor] and Eddie, they said, ‘You can still play. You need to keep pursuing this,’ ” Wilson said.
When Jason Castro underwent season-ending knee surgery in May, Wilson was called up and quickly won the confidence of the pitching staff. Though he only hit .178 with two homers, Molitor played Wilson in 47 games.
“He was a nice addition. If somebody wants you in playoff contention, that’s a good sign of what he can do with a team and its pitchers,” Molitor said. “Offensively, he has his moments. But defense is the most attractive piece.”
The Twins will get an extended look at two of their newest prospects this fall. Class AA Chattanooga outfielder Luke Rally and reliever Devin Smeltzer, acquired from the Dodgers in the Brian Dozier deal last month, are both among the eight Twins selected Thursday to play for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League.
Raley’s teammates in the Chattanooga outfield, Brent Rooker and Jaylin Davis, will also play for the Rafters, who will be managed by Lookouts skipper Tommy Watkins. Rooker, a second-round pick of the Twins in 2017, has 58 extra-base hits, including 22 home runs, this year.
Also selected to the AFL, which begins play Oct. 9: Chattanooga lefthander Alex Robinson, plus Class A Fort Myers righthanders Hector Lujan and Griffin Jax and infielder Travis Blankenhorn.