PHOENIX -- After Kyle Schwarber found out his season was over because of a severe knee injury, he exchanged text messages with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. There were two things Schwarber wanted: To win and make sure he could be with the team during his rehab.
"That tells you all you need to know about a 23-year-old who is going through the first significant injury of his life and the only thing that matters to him right now is winning and staying a part of this team," Epstein said Friday. "That says a lot."
Schwarber injured his left knee and sprained his left ankle in a freak collision Thursday night with teammate Dexter Fowler. An MRI on Friday revealed that Schwarber has both a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee.
"Twenty-four hours ago, I thought we were really well-positioned to win in large part because of Kyle's presence on the team," Epstein said, "and now we're really well-positioned to win for Kyle. I think that's how his teammates are responding and will respond going forward."
In the second inning Thursday night, Schwarber collided with Fowler in left-center field while chasing Jean Segura's fly ball. The ball was headed to "no man's land," and Schwarber's left leg got tangled with Fowler. Both fell onto the ground, and Segura kept running, getting an inside-the-park home run.
"It had bad things written all over it," manager Joe Maddon said of the Schwarber play.
Schwarber lay on the track on his stomach for a few minutes as Maddon, the Cubs' medical staff and players ran out to check on him. Schwarber was finally able to sit up and eventually got to his feet, but he needed to lean on athletic trainers PJ Mainville and Ed Halbur for support. Schwarber had to be carted off the field.
Epstein watched the play unfold on television.
"I think everyone who knows Kyle was sick watching that play and the aftermath of that play," Epstein said. "With the news today, we're just devastated for him. He's worked so hard, he's such a great person, he's such a great teammate, he's such an important part of our identity in the organization that you hate to see anything bad happen to him, let alone devastating news like this and not be able to play baseball for the rest of the season.
"My heart went out to him -- all of our hearts went out to him. It's tough news. It's really devastating news."
Schwarber took to Twitter on Saturday to thank fans for their support.
"Thank you all for the encouragement. This is a test of character and plan to attack it head on. This team is special and fun to watch! #Cubs"
Thank you all for the encouragement. This is a test of character and plan to attack it head on. This team is special and fun to watch! #Cubs
Epstein said Cubs orthopedic specialist Dr. Stephen Gryzlo said that when multiple ligaments are involved, the rehab can take significantly longer than six months. The Cubs will have a better idea of the timetable of his return once he has the surgery, but the hope is he's ready for Spring Training.
Schwarber did play linebacker -- he was recruited by Ohio State -- but the Cubs really liked the left-handed hitter for his bat. In nine postseason games last October, he batted .333, hitting five home runs, including one that landed on the scoreboard in right field. He hit .246 with 16 home runs and 43 RBIs in 69 regular-season games, and was 0-for-4 this year.
"Young man, sophomore season in the big leagues, one of the most refreshing young talents in all of Major League Baseball, and now to be out for the rest of the season, it's not easy," Maddon said. "I want him to understand we know he'll kill the rehab and we'll be there mentally to talk to him for whatever he needs. He will kill the rehab, I'm sure of that."
The loss of Schwarber is undoubtedly a tough blow to fantasy owners who invested heavily in the premier catcher option. Owners in one-catcher leagues should be able to work the waiver wire each week to find a useful option, with plenty of serviceable backstops such as J.T. Realmuto and Wilson Ramos likely to be available. But owners in two-catcher leagues may need to explore the trade market for a suitable replacement. Keeper-league owners should be aware that Schwarber may not retain his catcher eligibility in 2017, as he did not appear at that position during the first week of this season.
Soler should be added in virtually all mixed leagues despite his modest 2015 production (.262 average, 10 homers over 366 at-bats). Having hit .303 with 28 homers across 557 at-bats during his Minor League career, the outfielder has the potential to make notable strides this season. If Maddon hands him a full-time role, the 24-year-old Soler could produce plentiful counting stats as part of a loaded Cubs lineup. Schwarber's injury may also open up more playing time for Baez, who could play often in a super-utility role when he returns from the disabled list in the coming days. Baez may not post a respectable batting average, but his plus power will make him an asset in NL-only leagues.