Jorge Soler strained his hamstring on June 6, and he’s been out of big league action ever since. The Cubs were non-specific about his injury, and, having had multiple hamstrings earlier in his career, it was always the case that he was going to be out for a while.
Two months, though? Well, I’ll concede I wasn’t expecting it at the time, but I don’t pretend to be a doctor, and that’s where things stand today. The timing was unfortunate, given the games Soler has missed in his career already and the corner he seemed to be turning in May and early June offensively and defensively. Hopefully, though, he’ll be back soon, and somehow contributing to the Cubs down the stretch.
Well, it’s still a little amorphous, but Soler could be close to returning, according to the Tribune, which reports he flew to Chicago yesterday to be examined. In theory, it’s possible that’s a precursor to Soler returning to the Cubs.
Soler has been playing rehab games at AAA and AA over the past couple weeks, and, while the results have been downright crummy, that matters much less than his health and his sense of timing at the plate. In other words, I wouldn’t really lean on results in making a determination of when he’s ready to return to the big leagues.
It is interesting to note that the Cubs are headed to an American League park tonight, which means they’ll be able to employ a designated hitter. With nine relievers currently on the roster, it would be easy enough – from a logistical perspective – to bring Soler back and swap him out for a reliever.
Of course, the logistics would get complicated again rather quickly, with Jason Hammel due to return from the bereavement list early next week.
Whenever it happens, though, the Cubs will have to confront the difficult roster decision of how to accommodate Soler’s return, and how he’ll factor into the lineup. On the latter question, it seems simple enough to say that Soler would start in left field against all lefties, platooning with Chris Coghlan, but then, those starts had already been gobbled up by a combination of Willson Contreras and Ben Zobrist (which allows Javy Baez to play more regularly). Soler would figure to rotate into the mix somehow, but clear starting opportunities are not necessarily going to be obvious.
As for the roster in August when everyone is healthy and ready to go, there is no “simple enough.” Either the Cubs go down to seven relievers for the rest of August (might be doable if they rotation the optionable guys throughout the month to keep them rested), option someone like Soler or Contreras, or lose Coghlan or Matt Szczur entirely. Absent another injury, I don’t see the easy answer. Seven relievers, I guess?
As it was with Tommy La Stella (and Trevor Cahill, whenever he’s ready), the silver lining – aside from this being a “good problem” – is that everyone can be back on September 1 with no problems whatsoever. Rosters expand in September to include the full 40-man roster, at which the Cubs are going to be so deeply loaded it’ll be nuts.
… and then we can start wondering how the Cubs will choose only 25 for a playoff roster. But, hey, we’ll get there when we get there.