Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs placed Jorge Soler on the disabled list with a sprained ankle after he hurt it running out a grounder on Monday. Soler got an MRI on Tuesday, was examined back in Chicago on Wednesday, and now he’ll be out for at least two to three weeks, according to Joe Maddon (Cubs.com).
While Soler’s present production might be replaceable – he’d essentially been a league average bat – it’s the upside that is considerably harder to find. It seemed like Soler was starting to turn a corner in his approach, laying off the low-and-away sliders, and you just feel better about the lineup with his presence in the middle. Hopefully he’s able to return on the early end of estimates, and doesn’t miss too much more time than is required by his 15-day DL stint.
In the meantime, don’t look for the Cubs to go outside of the organization to replace Soler, even as their internal, upper-level depth in the outfield is spotty. Although Mike Baxter was the immediate replacement for Soler’s roster spot, it’s possible the Cubs may want to supplement the roster in other ways before Soler returns. Yes, there is the Javier Baez route, and it’s almost certainly not a coincidence that Baez is seeing time at third base at Iowa right now. He could come up and play third, and Kris Bryant could play in the outfield until Soler returns, and things are re-evaluated at that time.
If the Cubs want Baez to get a lot of time at third before he’s called up, or if they decide that’s not the best route for whatever reason (perhaps he needs more development time offensively), there’s also Arismendy Alcantara, who is hitting very well at Iowa right now. He could play pretty much anywhere, including, for example, either center or right field, with Dexter Fowler playing in the other spot.
There’s also Christian Villanueva, who is playing well at Iowa, and is a top glove man at third. Once again, in that scenario, Bryant would shift to the outfield on days that Villanueva played.
Of course, there’s also the guy who’s been getting the starts for Soler already, Junior Lake. In the very near-term, that’s the guy you should be looking for to pick up the starts in right field.
After a few days, we’ll see if the Cubs decide to get more creative.
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