Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant shoulder injury hardly spells doom for team

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs are one of only a handful of big league teams capable of winning without one of the biggest superstars on their roster.

For the second time in as many months, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is headed to the 10-day disabled list. The cause? Well, it’s the same as it was in June – issues with a sore left shoulder.

In the last week, Bryant hit just .227 with a .320 on-base percentage, hardly what we’ve come to expect from the former National League MVP. When asked about his star, manager Joe Maddon didn’t have a lot of answers. It’s anybody’s guess as to when KB will get back to mashing in the middle of the Cubs order.

Year-over-year, his OPS is down nearly 100 points – due largely to that absence of power in his game. This season, he has hit just 11 long balls, down from a career-high 39 two years ago and 29 in 151 games in 2017. But, if this shoulder has been nagging him, it’s not hard to understand why he might be hitting for less power.

"“He was attempting to control his finish differently,” Maddon said. “He may have been doing things subconsciously prior to us putting him on the DL, but then he intentionally tried to restructure a bit after it became more noticeable to him. Moving forward — you know how he finishes so long with the one-arm finish — there was some concern that was part of the issue. “"

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Obviously, losing Bryant is a big blow to a team hoping to pick up a third consecutive NL Central title in the coming months. But, unlike most Major League teams, the Cubs are uniquely positioned to fill such a void internally.

In recent weeks, we saw the Los Angeles Dodgers trade for slugging infielder Manny Machado. That move, largely spurred by the season-ending injury to young shortstop Corey Seager, put the Dodgers right back on top of most projections over the final two months of the season.

But the Cubs have no plans of making such a move. And, even if they did, they don’t have the pieces in the farm system to pull off a comparable trade – nor does such a corner infield exist. Bryant is a generational talent – and one the Cubs can, and likely will, win without.

That part’s important.

This time of year, everyone is just a bit more sensitive when it comes to their favorite ball club. Cubs fans, of course, are no exception to such a trend. Chicago entered Thursday’s matinee action 2 1/2 games up on Milwaukee, badly needing some consistency from the pitching staff. Not to mention, the offense has been icy cold this week, which isn’t exactly helping folks calm down.

But here’s some perspective.

The Cubs have had a playing time problem in center field. Both Ian Happ and Albert Almora have earned the right to play, in their own ways. Almora leads the NL in hitting while Happ continues to impress with the bat after a rough start to the season.

Happ will see the lion’s share of time at third with Bryant out. And, given how little ‘thump’ Bryant has added, the lineup won’t see much of a dip. In fact, it may get a boost. Over the last 30 days, Happ leads all Cubs position players with a .949 OPS. Bryant, meanwhile, carried a .787 OPS over that same span.

What I’m trying to say is it’s far from time to panic. Everyone clamoring for this team to deal Happ, Addison Russell and more to land Jacob deGrom should take note: the Cubs’ depth is their biggest asset – and without it, a loss of Kris Bryant could spell doom.

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Instead, it just opens another door for a worthy guy to get more at-bats and prove himself further.