This just isn’t Kris Bryant’s year and his latest setback could keep him out for at least the remainder of the regular season. After being hampered by a hyperextended elbow, then torn ligaments in his left ring finger and a significant wrist injury that required a painkilling injection, he was already playing at significantly less than full strength.
That was evident from a swing that lacked elite velocity and proper plane, leading to a .584 OPS and 62 wRC+ over 138 plate appearances. The existing injuries may have contributed to this latest issue as Bryant’s body compensated to avoid discomfort. The third baseman grimaced after a swing in the 2nd inning, but stayed in the game after a visit from David Ross and trainer Nick Frangella and eventually grounded to third. He was then lifted for David Bote in the bottom of the 3rd.
Man, KB’s snakebit. Whether it’s the shoulder or maybe even oblique, the body is a compensation machine and will put extra pressure on other muscles/joints to alleviate pain in other areas. The wrist and finger aren’t right, may have led to this latest malady.
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) September 22, 2020
What broadcasters initially assumed was an issue with Bryant’s right shoulder ended up being lower right oblique tightness, not exactly good news. We may hear more from the Cubs at some point, but this could be one of those amorphous injuries about which they can’t or won’t disclose additional info. Suffice to say that after already dealing with a significant wrist injury, having anything wrong with his core musculature might end Bryant’s season.
When or whether he’s able to return this year is the most important topic, but the Cubs are going to have a serious decision to make at the end of the season. We’ve already heard the trade rumors, though dealing Bryant this winter after the season he’s endured would yield little more than salary relief. Tendering him a contract in his final year of arbitration would mean giving him a raise on his $18.6 million salary, not exactly a no-brainer for a team that has already spoken about being on a tight budget.
As wild a concept as it might have been a couple months ago, this leaves a non-tender as at least a believable possibility. There’s also the possibility that the Cubs find a way to work out a short-term extension that lowers Bryant’s payroll hit while allowing him to rebuild his value. That’s a conversation for another time, so I’ll set it aside and dust it off later in the fall or winter.
For now, the best thing for Bryant and the Cubs is that he takes time to rest up and get right.