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Cubs’ Willson Contreras to miss four weeks with hamstring strain

It’s been an unlucky second half for Chicago’s All-Star catcher.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs Photo by Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras will miss four weeks with a strained right hamstring that he sustained running to first base during Saturday’s win over the Brewers. The club announced the news to reporters prior to Monday night’s interleague matchup with the A’s:

This injury is the latest unfortunate development in what has been a tough second half for Contreras, the starting catcher for the NL in this year’s All-Star game. After posting a .937 OPS before the All-Star break (.286/.381/.556 with 18 homers), Contreras has hit .194/.237/.306 in 10 second-half games and missed 10 days last month with a right foot strain. Even with his recent struggles, this is obviously very unfortunate news for a Cubs team that is clinging to first place in the NL Central by the thinnest of margins and is facing legitimate competition from the Cardinals and Brewers.

With Contreras out, the Cubs are handing the reins to 25-year-old backup Victor Caratini, who has broken out in 2019 and has a .264/.357/.446 slash line with five homers in 140 PAs this year. But beyond Caratini, their depth is much more suspect. With Contreras on the injured list, they’ve entrusted the backup spot to 29-year-old Taylor Davis, who has grinded his way into 36 major-league plate appearances despite embodying most of the characteristics of a career minor-league backup. Davis hasn’t been especially impressive this season, posting a .200/.294/.400 slash line with a homer over 17 major-league plate appearances this year, and at Triple-A Iowa — even in a Pacific Coast League that has become unbelievably hitter-friendly this season thanks to the introduction of the major-league (juiced) ball and a host of high-altitude ballparks — has posted a disappointing .250/.358/.350 slash line with five homers this year. It’s worth wondering whether they might seek a reunion with former Cub René Rivera, who has hit 19 homers with a .777 OPS for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate this season and is eligible to be traded this month because he hasn’t yet appeared in a major-league game this season and is not on the Mets’ 40-man roster.

At least from an offensive standpoint, Caratini is solid enough to be an everday member of the lineup and not hurt the team, so it’s not like the Cubs should be totally second-guessing themselves. But it is reasonable to wonder whether they might regret trading veteran catcher Martín Maldonado, who they acquired to help fill in for Contreras when he got hurt last month, to the Astros for utility man Tony Kemp at last week’s trade deadline.