Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler has been out since June 6 with a hamstring injury, but he’s back and in the lineup tonight for the Cubs as the designated hitter.
We wrote earlier today about Soler’s possible return soon, and about the roster-related implications. I won’t repeat it all here – suffice it to say, it’s complicated.
We are awaiting a corresponding roster move. [UPDATE: It’s Joe Nathan. See below.]
You can trust that Soler’s numbers from his rehab assignment are terrible. Not really even any need to look at them. They’re bad. But, as I said earlier, it doesn’t really mean a whole lot for a big league player working his way back from injury and trying to get to a very specific place in his timing and readiness (and it’s only 49 plate appearances). He wasn’t down there to get results, and, even if he’d been destroying the ball, I’d be sure to caveat you that (1) it’s super small sample, (2) it’s not the same as what he’ll be doing up in the big leagues, and (3) it doesn’t tell us how the switch will flip when he’s in real big league games again. It’s just different in the bigs.
So, then, no, his numbers from a couple weeks in the minor leagues getting his feet back under him don’t worry me in the least. Instead, I’d just like to see him look like the guy he was before the injury – a guy who was earning more and more starts out there and starting to show the promise of his massive offensive upside (and was starting to play average defense in left field, too). It might take a little time to get back in the groove – though time is something Soler might not have. It’s not at all clear, after this AL series, what starting opportunities will be available to him, given the rest of the roster.
We’re just going to have to see where things stand on Monday.
UPDATE: The corresponding move, as expected, is one of the nine relievers going out, but rather than optioning someone down to AAA, the Cubs are designating Joe Nathan for assignment (per Jesse Rogers). It’s an unfortunate move for a guy who worked his way back from a second Tommy John surgery in his early-40s, and actually did show flashes of being a useful bullpen arm.
But here’s the reality: the Cubs are already so roster-crunched that they’ve got Tommy La Stella in the minors, Trevor Cahill on a very long rehab stint, and Jason Hammel is going to be coming back from the bereavement list early next week. With Soler back, two players were going to have to go out even before considering the eventual returns of La Stella and Cahill (if they came before September 1). If Nathan was not going to be one of the best eight arms in a suddenly crowded bullpen, then this was going to happen eventually.
The Cubs will have 10 days to trade, waive, or release Nathan, and it’s hard to say exactly what will happen on that front. He’s on a big league deal, but making only the minimum. It’s possible another team out there will want to give him a look, even in the big leagues. It’s also possible he could stay in the Cubs’ organization until September, at which point he could be added back to the 40-man roster and brought back up as rosters expand to include the full 40.
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