Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

MLB News

Cubs have depth to cover for Schwarber

Epstein and Co. have assembled intriguing options, starting with Soler
April 8, 2016

Go ahead, if it helps. Slam a door, cry a few tears. Hang around in sweatpants eating ice cream if it makes you feel better. Then get over it. Fast.Kyle Schwarber's blown left knee is a loss for baseball fans, especially those who are fervently hoping that the Cubs complete

Go ahead, if it helps. Slam a door, cry a few tears. Hang around in sweatpants eating ice cream if it makes you feel better. Then get over it. Fast.
Kyle Schwarber's blown left knee is a loss for baseball fans, especially those who are fervently hoping that the Cubs complete their quest for the Holy Grail. His combination of raw light-tower power and plate discipline doesn't come around often.
Schwarber has torn ACL, LCL; out for year

The kid waits for his pitch like it's his dog coming home. The only thing that matters is it shows up and Schwarber still has his arms open when it does. And as a bonus, he's as humble as he is talented, and we know because we got to see him handle success last October. Schwarber hit five postseason home runs, one of which flew into the Allegheny River and another that lodged atop a video board beyond the right-field bleachers at Wrigley Field.
This guy's special. Schwarber is awfully easy to like. But he's not irreplaceable, especially not by a Cubs organization that has hoarded its young hitters, many of whom are outfielders.
It's true, Schwarber will be badly missed if the Cubs do get back into the postseason. His left-handed bat works on either side of the Anthony Rizzo-Kris Bryant axis that makes manager Joe Maddon's team so dangerous.
But losing Schwarber shouldn't be a reason for the Cubs to miss the postseason. Because the brain trust of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod has held onto its inventory of young outfielders, the Cubs should be able to replace Schwarber's projected 500-600 plate appearances without much drama.
Teammates rally behind Schwarber
Jorge Soler, who stepped into left field on Friday night in Arizona, is the guy scouts were talking about at Cubs camp three and four years ago, before Bryant and Schwarber had even been drafted. Soler's signing from Cuba was at the top of the list of Epstein's early acquisitions in Chicago, even ahead of the trade that reconnected him with Rizzo.
Maddon fell in love with Soler last season, but an expanded strike zone, a sprained ankle and a strained oblique -- along with Schwarber's arrival -- turned his official rookie season into a disappointment (.262/.324/.399). Then came October, when Soler seized the moment alongside Schwarber.

The guy Maddon calls "Georgie" was a spectator in the National League Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh, but Soler came out swinging against the Cardinals. He wound up with three home runs and a 9-for-19 showing at the plate. Oh, Soler also had six walks against only five strikeouts, and you can bet that wasn't missed by Epstein and the front office.
Excitement over Soler and fellow prospect Javier Baez did not stop the Cubs from re-signing Dexter Fowler, but the Cubs have never been close to giving up on either of them. They would have traded them long ago if they didn't believe they could join Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber and Addison Russell in their cast of young stars. Baez, who is currently in Arizona working to get healthy after injuring his thumb late in Spring Training, could become Plan B as Schwarber's replacement if Soler doesn't step up. And please don't forget Matt Szczur.
Szczur is as solid as it gets in the outfield and has flashed an interesting bat when he's gotten chances to play the past two seasons. He was second on the team to Bryant with five Cactus League homers in 2015, and he blasted one on Tuesday at Arizona. Maddon said he started the Villanova product in honor of the Wildcats' victory in the NCAA basketball final, but if anything, it was an acknowledgement of his easily overlooked talent.

Then there's the versatility of Bryant and Ben Zobrist. Both of those guys could move to left field on either an occasional basis or for an extended stretch with Baez or someone else, say switch-hitting third-base prospect Jeimer Candelario, stepping into the infield.
Other internal options include Matt Murton, who won a batting title in Japan only two years ago; 2012 first-round Draft pick Albert Almora; Billy McKinney, another former first-rounder acquired from Oakland, and maybe even John Andreoli, a .374 career OBP guy in the Minors who introduced himself to Maddon this spring (four homers, two stolen bases).
McKinney is the only left-handed hitter among these guys, so the Cubs would seem to lose some balance without Schwarber. They also lose a little bit of their innocence.
One of the least-written storylines of the Cubs' 2015 season is that this has been a blessed team. There were no major injuries or hardships last season, with the major health issues falling to Neil Ramirez and Jason Motte and, in the end, Russell for the NL Championship Series.
Losing a regular is different, especially when it's a guy with the potential to lead the league in home runs. But as they're currently constituted, the Cubs should recover well.
Maddon: Cubs' flexibility will be tested early
Schwarber will get better, too. It's going to take him some time to recover from two torn ligaments in his left knee and a severe ankle sprain, but at 23, the former linebacker has time on his side.
Ditto his team. It's one of the few in the Major Leagues that can lose a hitter like Schwarber and keep rolling.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for