Jonah Keri: Cubs Still Strongest Team In Baseball

After advancing to the NLCS last season, the Chicago Cubs improved their offense, defense and pitching staff – so much so that they entered 2016 as the Las Vegas favorites to win the World Series.

All was good. Great, even.

Then Kyle Schwarber happened.

Yes, The 23-year-old tore two ligaments in his left knee during an outfield collision with teammate Dexter Fowler last Thursday. He will miss the rest of the season.

Just how big of a loss is this? After all, Schwarber hit 16 home runs in 69 games last season before belting five homers in the playoffs. Doug Gottlieb believes this is a player with 40-homer power – and, just like that, he’s gone.

This is a big loss, no?

“I think projecting Schwarber for 40 might be a little strong, but he is a good hitter certainly with a pretty good batting eye,” CBSSports.com MLB writer Jonah Keri said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “He strikes out a bunch, but he can draw a walk. That’s always a good thing. Really, what it comes down to is they just have fewer options when it comes to mix and match. Schwarber was never going to play every day because he’s a little defensively challenged. He’s not as good against left-handers. So all of a sudden that means that (Jorge) Soler might get exposed against some tough righties, maybe (Dexter) Fowler doesn’t get as many days off as they might like. Before, they just had options and options and options. It’s sort of like they have an appropriate lineup now as opposed to almost too many outfielders, if that’s possible.”

“So we’ll see how that goes,” Keri continued. “The question is (whether they) go out (and get someone) at the deadline – (not someone of Schwarber’s caliber), but just kind of a rental left-handed bat that can do some things in that lineup to complement Anthony Rizzo and (Kris) Bryant and everybody else.”

Yes, even without Schwarber, the Cubs – with Rizzo, Bryant, Fowler, Soler, Jason Heyward, Addison Russell and others – might still have the most power in baseball. Then you throw in Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, and you’ve got something special.

“To me, this is still the strongest team in baseball,” Keri said. “They’re off to a great start, yes, but if you look at personnel, they’re so good. The addition of Zobrist, Lackey and Heyward, they’ve got a very good bullpen, they’ve got a great manager, and they’re very young, which I really like. Young guys tend to improve, whereas guys in their 30s tend to go down. This is still, to me, the strongest team in the game – and that’s with or without Schwarber.”

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