What does Kyle Schwarber’s injury mean for the Cubs?

Well, a lot changes in 24 hours. Following the injury Kyle Schwarber suffered Thursday night, reports were a little fuzzy. While Schwarber had to be carted off the field after colliding with Dexter Fowler in the outfield as the Chicago Cubs faced the Arizona Diamondbacks, no one really knew how serious it was.

Many would have said that the worst-case scenario would be Schwarber spending 15 days on the disabled list. X-rays taken Thursday were negative, leaving Cubs Nation to wait until the MRI results were announced Friday. The verdict is not good.

In addition to the ligament tears, Schwarber also has a severely sprained ankle. Sure, this gives Cubs fans the excuse they need to cry about their team’s misfortune, and sure, this is a big loss for the World Series favorite. But how bad is this really for the Cubs? Does the loss of Schwarber doom the Cubs for season-long mediocrity or do the North Side fans need to take a chill pill?

In Schwarber’s 69 games last season, he was a revelation and a huge reason the Cubs made the playoffs. He hit 16 homers, knocked in 43 runs and posted a .842 OPS. In October, the rookie became a household name. During the Cubs’ postseason run which resulted in a NLCS sweep by the Mets, Schwarber slugged five homers in nine games.

This spring, he worked more on being a catcher (his natural position), which the Cubs thought would help their depth and more importantly get his bat into the lineup as much as possible. After re-signing Fowler late in the offseason, the team had plenty of outfield depth with free agent signee Jason Heyward and Jorge Soler, reserve Matt Szczur, in addition to Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and even Ben Zobrist able to help out, if necessary.

The outfield was certainly the strong point of the Cubs roster. Losing Schwarber throws a wrench into things, for sure, but the team’s depth could be the saving grace in this whole thing.

Prior to the Cubs’ game Friday night against the Diamondbacks, manager Joe Maddon reminded everyone of the other options his team has in the outfield. The Cubs certainly are in a better position to replace a player like Schwarber than the D-Backs were following the injury to A.J. Pollock.

Maddon’s team also shouldn’t be hurting for runs. Led by Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the lineup will score runs even without Schwarber. The Cubs finished sixth in the NL last season in runs scored and the majority of the year was played without the assistance of Schwarber.

In general, major league teams aren’t bound to a single player. The Cubs, least of all. Of course, there are certainly legitimate concerns due to this injury. Schwarber was a valuable left-handed presence in the lineup and now in his absence, the replacements are all right-handed, with Fowler being a switch-hitter. The Cubs also parted ways with lefty Chris Coghlan in order to retain Fowler.

Maybe the biggest ramification of this injury is the depth at catcher. Miguel Montero is serviceable and David Ross is a veteran backup, emphasis on “veteran,” however. Ross is 39 years old and expected to retire at the end of the season. Any injury to one of those guys and the Cubs will need to rely on prospect Willson Contreras, who began the season at Triple-A Iowa.

Overall, the Cubs should be fine. Schwarber is certainly a big loss, but it shouldn’t change the fact that the Cubs are the best team in the NL Central and probably the league. It’s tough to watch young players go through things like this and hopefully, Schwarber comes back fully recovered next season.

All Cubs fans can think about now, however, is what might happen the rest of this season, particularly if they will need to use the phrase “wait till next year” by October.

About Cordell Oberholtzer

Cordell has been a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies since Joe Carter happened and is gearing up for another decade of losing baseball. He has an appreciation for the history of the game, but tries not be totally closed to innovation and change. He works at a software company and resides in Pottstown, PA.