Chicago Cubs’ loss of Jorge Soler is not a death sentence
By Jake Misener
The loss of outfielder Jorge Soler is a big one, but it is far from a death sentence for the playoff-hopeful Chicago Cubs.
Per usual, the array of emotions Cubs fans have gone through in the past 24 hours is vast.
First, the high. Chicago completed its fourth four-game sweep of the season Sunday, throttling the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field in thrilling fashion. After we all came down off that high, we awoke to a Monday, coupled with the announcement that both Soler and Jason Motte are both headed to the disabled list with injuries.
Naturally, Cubs’ fans first reaction to such news, especially when it includes one of the team’s premier young talents, is to erupt in panic.
While that’s understandable, it’s also wrong.
There’s no reason to believe that subtracting Soler from the lineup card over the next few weeks is going to be the Cubs’ undoing. It’s no doubt unnerving given the plethora of injuries he’s already sustained so early on in his career, but it’s not a death blow for a team that has a 6-game lead in the NL Wild Card race.
Following Sunday’s win, the 23-year-old outfielder carried a .265/.325/.385 slash-line in 90 games. Those aren’t exactly Rookie of the Year-caliber numbers, but he’s been solid for Chicago, a recent cold spell not withstanding.
The biggest absence from his game this season has been his power stroke. Last year, in just two dozen contests, he belted five homers, including one in his first big league game. But this season, he’s hit just seven, despite approaching the 100-game mark.
When you go back and look at his numbers from the past couple weeks, it makes one wonder if this is something he’s been dealing with for some time now. Over the last 14 days, Soler has an OPS of just .679. In his last six games, he’s batting just .190, with just four hits in his last 21 at-bats.
Even taking his recent struggles into account, Soler was enjoying the best month of his season before heading to the DL – he’s batting .284/.372/.388 in the month of August and he’s driven in 14 runs – a single-season high.
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So where do the Cubs go from here?
It’s simple, really.
In a corresponding move Monday morning, Tommy La Stella rejoined Chicago from Triple-A Iowa. You’ve got roughly a week until rosters expand for September, so I imagine La Stella will see time at second, while Chris Coghlan shifts to the outfield, filling Soler’s usual spot.
Whether we see Coghlan will obviously depend on the pitching matchup for that given day. The veteran, who is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career, has an .834 OPS against righties and a .349 OPS against southpaws.
On days when left-handers take the hill, expect another veteran, Chris Denorfia to take some reps out there. His career splits are contrary to those of Coghlan, with him performing better against left-handers than righties.
Even this solution, which I personally think is more than adequate for a few weeks, can be adjusted in a week when rosters expand. You’ll have some key additions for the season’s final month, allowing Soler to come back for what could be a deep postseason run for a very young, albeit talented, Chicago Cubs team.