Chicago Cubs: Willson Contreras to miss at least four weeks with injury

Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Willson Contreras, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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If the Chicago Cubs are going to pull away from the pack, they’ll do so without catcher Willson Contreras, who will miss at least four weeks due to injury.

Well, it’s not good news – but for anyone who witnessed Willson Contreras pull up lame this weekend while running down the first base line likely isn’t surprised, either. The Chicago Cubs backstop is expected to miss at least four weeks due to a right hamstring injury.

That pegs the earliest possible return in the first week of September – and I personally think that might be a tad optimistic. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this become more of a four-to-six week type IL stint, meaning the Cubs have their work cut out for them as we head into the dog days of August.

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Literally less than a week after the team swapped third-string catcher Martin Maldonado for utilityman Tony Kemp, of course their starting catcher hits the shelf. Expect Victor Caratini to get the lion’s share of reps behind the dish now, with Taylor Davis spelling him as needed. You also can’t rule out the team going out and adding some depth via the open market, either.

Caratini, at least defensively, has been fairly solid behind the plate. According to Fangraphs, he’s been worth 1.3 Catcher Framing Runs Above Average. That being said, he’s caught just 17 percent of would-be base stealers, though, a full 10 percent below league average. Contreras, by comparison, has gunned 29 percent of baserunners.

I’m not as worried about Caratini defensively as I am the impact on the Chicago offense. The move to go out and acquire Nicholas Castellanos looms larger than ever, because to this point, Contreras had been one of the Cubs’ best hitters against left-handed pitching.

On the year, he amassed a .925 OPS against southpaws, slugging .547 in 74 plate appearances. Caratini has fared pretty well against lefties, as well, but in a much smaller sample size (1.125 OPS in 20 plate appearances).

It definitely doesn’t hurt matterrs that Caratini is a switch-hitter, but there’s little doubt that the Cubs will have to come together collectively to get past losing such a key part of the offense. We know all too well the kind of impact losing a bat like this can have (Contreras two years ago, Bryant last season) – and given the team’s inconsistent play, especially on the road, there’s definitely cause for concern.

As far as the lineup goes, I expect to see Caratini filling the seven hole more often than not, following the likes of leadoff hitter Jason Heyward, Castellanos – some combination of Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant – and Kyle Schwarber. That’s still an incredibly deep lineup, but the group will have to step up against lefties – entering play Monday, the Cubs have the fifth-worst OPS in the league against them.

Next. Hamels makes a triumphant return from the IL. dark

This one hurts. But the Castellanos acquisition might be enough to keep the offense rolling in the absence of Contreras. Will Ben Zobrist return to help push the team over the top? We’ll know soon ehough.

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