With a 19-4 record since late July the Cubs are surging, but now they’ve lost a pair of key players to the disabled list in right fielder Jorge Soler and reliever Jason Motte.
Soler has a strained oblique muscle, which figures to sideline him until at least mid-September and could knock him out for the remainder of the regular season. He’s had a disappointing season relative to his excellent 24-game debut last year, hitting .265 with seven homers and a .710 OPS in 90 games. Expect to see Chris Coghlan shift back to the outfield, with Starlin Castro and Tommy La Stella playing second base.
Motte has a strained shoulder, which is expected to keep him out for at least 3-4 weeks. Thanks to injuries Motte is a shell of his former bat-missing self, striking out just 34 hitters in 48 innings, but he has a 3.91 ERA in 57 appearances and has worked a lot of high-leverage spots for the Cubs.
Robert Murray and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier, respectively, that the Phillies signed pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Neil Walker to minor league contracts. If he makes the major league roster, Liriano will earn a salary of $1.5 million with an additional $1.25 million available through performance incentives. Walker’s contract information is not yet known.
Liriano, 36, struggled from 2016-18 but enjoyed a productive year out of the bullpen for the Pirates this past season. He posted a 3.47 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 35 walks over 70 innings. The lefty was quite effective against same-handed batters, limiting fellow lefties to a .659 OPS. That would figure to be a key component if Liriano makes the Phillies’ Opening Day roster.
Walker, 34, hit .261/.344/.395 with eight home runs and 38 RBI over 381 plate appearances with the Marlins last year. The veteran is versastile, having played first, second, and third base along with both corner outfield spots in recent seasons. Despite Walker’s versatility, it is tough to see room on the Phillies’ roster for him, barring injuries to other players. It never hurts to have depth.