TODAY: The team has announced that Contreras is dealing with a moderate strain that will likely cost him four to six weeks of action (h/t Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com, via Twitter)
YESTERDAY: The Cubs avoided a “worst case scenario” with the hamstring injury catcher Willson Contreras suffered Wednesday, but he’s still likely to miss anywhere from two weeks to a month, reports Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com.
Fortunately for the Cubs, they acquired a quality fallback in former Tigers catcher Alex Avila prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Still, the loss of Contreras is a worrying development for a 59-54 club that’s clinging to a 1.5-game lead over both the Cardinals and Brewers in the National League Central. The Cubs have disappointed in the wake of last year’s World Series-winning campaign, but Contreras has carried his excellent 2016 offensive showing into this season. The 25-year-old has slashed .274/.342/.519 and belted 21 home runs over 374 plate appearances, and his .245 ISO leads all regular catchers. Defensively, Contreras has thrown out a league-average 28 percent of attempted base stealers, though Baseball Prospectus indicates that his framing work has regressed since last season.
Avila, meanwhile, has only totaled nine at-bats and one hit (a home run) as a Cub since they landed him last month. But the 30-year-old was in the midst of an offensive revival before the trade, thanks to an increase in fly balls and his signature plate discipline. The left-handed hitter has been a liability against southpaw pitchers, though, and he hasn’t fared well as a framer. It’s possible the Cubs will scour the August waiver market for a complement, then, with right-handed-hitting catchers Kurt Suzuki (Braves), Nick Hundley (Giants) and A.J. Ellis (Marlins) as potential movers. For at least the time being, Victor Caratini will return from Triple-A to back up Avila. The 23-year-old Caratini, MLB.com’s sixth-ranked Cubs prospect, debuted earlier this season in Chicago and picked up 28 PAs.