Colten Brewer’s Injury Latest in Series of Misfortunes During Trash Season

Leave it to a guy named Brewer to do something so dumb you’d think he was drunk. After being pulled from Saturday’s fiasco, Colten Brewer fractured his left hand when he punched the dugout wall in frustration. Whether it was simply giving up three runs on two hits and as many walks while retiring just two of the eight batters he faced in the process or the combined weight of the team’s suckitude, Brewer was all of us in that moment. Of course, he may have also cost himself a job.

The Cubs aren’t typically quick to put players on the standard IL, so placing Brewer immediately on the 60-day IL seems to indicate his time with the organization may only last another two months. Unless they’re in such dire straights when he’s eligible to come off, the Cubs could just DFA Brewer rather than parting with someone who didn’t injure themselves stupidly. Come to think of it, breaking his hand might have been a really good idea because at least he gets to keep collecting service time and an MLB paycheck.

Whatever happens with Brewer one way or the other, the Cubs should be playing out the string on a lost season after Jed Hoyer sells off what he can. Between bad luck and dumb choices, the pitching staff has been decimated by injuries and the offense isn’t nearly strong enough as a unit to overcome that adversity. Hell, it wouldn’t matter if everyone stayed healthy and they had multiple Cy Young contenders in the rotation.

All you can do at this point is throw up your hands — preferably not near a wall — and laugh about it. Just as cathartic as crying or yelling and won’t make anyone around you question your sanity. Except, yeah, they’re already doing that if you actively choose to watch the Cubs this year.

Brewer was only in the game so early because Kyle Hendricks departed after just two innings due to low back tightness that first popped up a day earlier. Definitely a good idea for a guy with no margin for error to go out there feeling like he did.

“It’s just a random thing,” Hendricks told Sahadev Sharma and other reporters after the game. “It just sucks with the timing. I’ve had it probably four, five times in my life. It was a spasm (Friday) where it just locks up my low back and it’s super tight. I thought 24 hours, get on it with heat and everything and it’d get better. Woke up this morning still super tight.”

The Professor went on to say he thinks the issue will clear up in two or three days, keeping him on track to pitch in St. Louis next weekend. Not that the Cubs have many other choices, with Ben Brown and Jordan Wicks still on the shelf until after the All-Star break. They may get good news on Javier Assad, whose forearm extensor strain was mild enough that he may be activated to face the Cardinals, though next Saturday’s doubleheader presents a bigger issue.

Even if Assad is still stretched out enough to handle his normal workload, we’re talking about a guy who hasn’t completed six innings since May 15. That lack of efficiency isn’t ideal when trying to cover 18 innings in a day, particularly with Hendricks’ status up in the air and a bullpen that hasn’t exactly been steady this season. Craig Counsell is going to need to pull all the right levers if he doesn’t get another complete game or two over the next few games.

Regardless of what happens, I keep coming back to the notion that this Cubs team isn’t very fun to watch. And I don’t just mean their poor play, it’s that there doesn’t seem to be much personality to them. I’ve seen plenty of bad teams that still possessed the kind of joie de vivre that made you want to follow every game. That’s typically because young players were coming up and you could watch them grow and learn in real time.

The Cubs, on the other hand, are leaning on Mets castoff Tomás Nido behind the plate as Miguel Amaya gets extended time off to work with coaches on his hitting. Once viewed as the franchise’s catcher of the future, Amaya is slashing .186/.249/.256 with a 46 wRC+ (54% worse than average) and -0.5 fWAR so far. His .070 ISO is tied with Cavan Biggio for 301st out of 317 MLB players with at least 150 plate appearances this season.

Players with even lower measures of raw power include Luis Arraez (.069), Sal Frelick (.066), Javier Báez (.065), and Tim Anderson (.013, worst in baseball).

Compounding matters is the fact that Amaya is out of minor league options and can’t just be sent down to get everyday reps against a lower level of competition. Were it not for that and the need to create a 40-man spot, I’d be clamoring for the Cubs to promote Moises Ballesteros. The 20-year-old backstop is still pretty rough around the edges as a catcher, but he’s raking at Triple-A since being promoted last month and would at least provide a little energy.

Same goes for Mo Baller’s Futures Game teammates, Owen Caissie and Matt Shaw. Even with the same 40-man issues at play, you can’t tell me one or both of those players couldn’t provide more than what the Cubs are currently getting. I’m a big Christopher Morel fan, but dude is literally the worst defensive player in MLB based on outs above average (-11) and he’s tied for third-worst in defensive runs saved (-8). Even with his power making up for some of that and boosting his wRC+ to 93, Morel is at -0.1 fWAR overall.

The counter-argument here is that a) the Cubs may not actually want to get better at this point because that just means lower chances at a higher draft pick, and b) there’s not much reason to bring prospects up to potential fail with no safety net. This team doesn’t have the kind of star players to provide protection for young guys, which is kind of ironic because the roster is populated by exactly the kind of complementary players we were clamoring for post-title.

Ed. note: Credit for that last notion goes to someone who tweeted at me recently, I just didn’t go back to look it up.

Oh wow, I’m more than a thousand words deep now and first pitch is less than two hours away. Anyway, the Cubs are a poorly constructed team that has been riddled with injuries and now has all manner of procedural issues in the way of making meaningful improvements prior to the offseason. Acceptance of that fact may make the next several weeks much easier to tolerate.

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