Trade Candidate: Bryan LaHair

When I described Bryan LaHair as having "quality sleeper potential" in a column for Roto Authority back in January, I certainly didn't expect this.  Heading into Thursday's play, LaHair was hitting an absurd .381/.459/.794 in 74 plate appearances as the Cubs' regular first baseman and establishing himself as one of the best stories of this young 2012 campaign.  A 29-year-old with just 219 Major League PAs to his name entering the season, LaHair was expected to do little more than keep first base warm for Anthony Rizzo, but LaHair's success has in all likelihood required a shift in the Cubs' short-term plans.

Or has it?  LaHair is obviously not going to keep up his Ruthian numbers for the entire season, though his solid power numbers in the minors would hint that he's not going to fall completely off the map.  If LaHair regresses even to around an .850 OPS by June, that's still a very solid output, and if he tops that number, even better.  If LaHair is still swinging a hot bat by midseason, it would behoove the Cubs to at least test the market to see what they could get for the first baseman.

The obvious question is, why wouldn't the Cubs just hang onto LaHair and move him to a corner outfield spot once Rizzo is called up?  Rizzo and his Triple-A slash line of .372/.422/.638 certainly look on pace to be in Chicago by midseason at the latest, and if he can translate even some of that quality to the Majors, then the Cubs would have a nice pair of bats to hit behind Starlin Castro

The problem could be that the Cubs' preferred trade candidate, David DeJesus, is playing poorly.  Teams aren't going to be be willing to acquire a 32-year-old who has a .687 OPS in 2011-12, is owed approximately $9.15MM through the end of the 2013 season and whose traditionally strong corner OF glove also seems to be failing him.  Chicago's other corner outfielder, Alfonso Soriano, is set to earn approximately $51MM through 2014.  Between Soriano's untradeable contract and DeJesus' lack of form, LaHair is a much more valuable trade commodity than either player and could become the trade chip that the Cubs hoped DeJesus could become.

The Tigers, Dodgers, Phillies and Brewers are just a few of the contenders and would-be contenders that could use a slugging left-handed bat at first, left, right or DH.  Suitors wouldn't pay a king's ransom for LaHair since they would also have an eye on his middling career history, but power is an increasingly rare commodity, so teams would definitely give the Cubs some value if LaHair continues to smash right-handed pitching.  LaHair would also be under team control through 2018 though since he's already 29, controllability is not a major factor in this case.

Cubs fans will no doubt be upset over the club dealing away the feel-good story in the midst of another sub-.500 year, but Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have stated on many occasions that they're rebuilding the Cubs from the ground up and that 2012 is intended as a rebuilding year.  If Chicago can turn a 29-year-old career minor leaguer into a quality prospect or two, that's a better long-term move for the organization than hoping LaHair is a late-blooming superstar like Jose Bautista and can stay an elite hitter until the Cubs are ready to contend again.

Put it this way — if you asked a Cubs fan even one month ago if they'd be willing to see LaHair dealt for two of another team's top 15 prospects, even the most staunch Wrigleyville dweller would've jumped at that deal.  One red-hot outlier of a month (or even a few hot months) shouldn't be enough to alter the Cubs' rebuilding plan.

48 Responses to Trade Candidate: Bryan LaHair Leave a Reply

  1. johnsilver 3 years ago

    Take the money and run with LaHair. Epstein knows he is going to regress and his overall line points right towards it.. 25k in 63AB? Career long he has been a massive free swinger. The sooner the better and imagine he has just been waiting for his phone to ring in order to get Rizzo called up ASAP.

    • Many problems with that. LaHair can hit lefties, Rizzo cannot. LaHair works the count, Rizzo does not. LaHair has polished opposite field power, Rizzo is a pull hitter with raw opposite field power. Curtis Granderson is also a free swinger, but I don’t see the Yankees trading him. LaHair should be the center piece to the Cubs future.

      • johnsilver 3 years ago

         ” LaHair should be the center piece to the Cubs future.”

        LaHair is a 29YO career minor leaguer and contrary to what you said.. Rizzo’s power *is* to all fields and he is something else.. A tremendous defensive 1b that happens to just be 23YO.

        • chico65 3 years ago

          His nickname should be Sampson, because all the Cubs power at the moment comes from LaHair.

          • johnsilver 3 years ago

             LOL. He better no go Telly Sevalas on them then.

      • I agree, trading lahair could be one of the most dumbest move Epstein could make, Lahair has shown that he can HIT ! in fact He’s the best hitter they have right now, Rizzo have’nt proven anything at the major league level !

  2. Chowbacca 3 years ago

    I certainly didn’t expect him to put up numbers like that either 

  3. bhazlett 3 years ago

    How about the Angels. They could use a first baseman with some pop.

  4. Jays would love this guy

  5. diehardmets 3 years ago

    Perhaps the Dodgers would be interested if they stay in contention. Phillies could be a possibility as well. Perhaps the Rays as well, but I don’t see them overpaying for a hot streak. 

  6. Detroit would trade delmon young for him in a heartbeat!

  7.  We could even toss in brad eldrid to sweeten the deal.

  8. BrocNessMonster 3 years ago

    If he was 6 or 7 years older Agent Ned would we on the phone already.

  9. Adam Duncan 3 years ago

    I’m still guessing they pay 90% of Soriano’s contract and deal him assuming he’ll waive the NTC. That money is sunk anyway and there’s no reason to give up Lahair if they believe he can be an 850 OPS player. They need more young players, sure, but don’t give up a guy with SOME actual major league production for a couple of guys with none unless we’re talking about a teams top 10 prospect who is a starter with very high upside. Otherwise, you’re adding by subtracting.

    • jwsox 3 years ago

      I was going to say the exact same thing. Even if the cubs get a project type prospect back moving soriano much like Big Z is addition by subtraction. Will LaHair keep this up, who knows.. The cubs have shown recently they are willing to eat big money to move a player. Eat 75% of Sorianos Deal. 75% of his deal leave a remaining 12 mill left over, thus 4 mill this year, 2013, and 2014..Most teams would love to have soriano and his power as a 4 million dollar DH. Teams that come to mind right now that could and would make that deal. Yankees-Soriano is a huge upgrade over Raul, Boston, if manny can play left so can sori, Toronto the need a DH upgrade(they need a 1st base upgrade more yes but still) seattle, Tampa(the loss of Longo) but honestly the tigers make the most sense, they SHOULD Cut Young, then slot soriano into that line up  thats scary!!!! I’m a whitesox fan and even I think they should trade him to detroit!

      • johnsilver 3 years ago

         “.Most teams would love to have soriano and his power as a 4 million dollar DH.”

        Not sure on that.. Abreu can be had for league minimum by anyone. Vladdy is still looking and probably will get 1/3-1/2 of that. Damon just got.. Was it like 1.5m from the tribe?

        Think Epstein would have to pay just about the entire enchilada to move Soriano. it probably is better off to just hang onto him and hope he gets red hot for a month or 2 until the deadline, then a team gets totally desperate.

        Agree with ya on Young.. He should be long gone and hard to find…

  10. Being a die-hard Cubs fan, I’ve been saying Bryan LaHair is the next big thing. He could be the key to a playoff run for Chicago. Certainly not this year, but if you get protection in the order for him, namely Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson, he’ll be the next Jose Bautista. Theo, Jed and Dale are just gonna have to suck it up and bench $51 million. If they want to rebuild, build around Castro and LaHair. They have pieces it’s just a matter of waiting. Trading Bryan LaHair would be the biggest mistake Theo Epstien has ever made and boy has he made a lot of them.

    • DebaserTN 3 years ago

       The problem with being a die-hard Cubs fan is being a die-hard Cubs fan.  Sometimes (just sometimes) we fall in love with a player and are unable to see the forest through the trees.  The point was well-made, you don’t build around a 33 year old especially with an unproven major league career.  The front office is trying to rebuild a decimated farm system; if the “mistakes” Theo & co. have made are trading people like Marshall, I’ll keep the mistakes.  Cub fans should take a hint from Castanza — go with the opposite of everything we initially think.  Or, we could continue to overspend and give no-trade clauses, wait for the Astros to move out and settle comfortably into the cellar with the team wilting on the vine.

      • By mistakes I mean everything he did in Boston. If you look at the terrible moves he’s made, he would have brought Boston several more titles. Trust me, the good did not outweigh the bad. As for Marshall, that deal was garbage. Marshall was the top setup lefty and the Cubs got a guy who’s posting a 5 ERA in AAA. Great deal. By the time the Cubs are ready to contend LaHair will only be 31 not 33. I’m pretty sure thats when Bautista broke out too.

    •  Mike’s comments get giant facepalm from Cubs fans everywhere.

      • Why because I believe in talent. He’s only played in Seatle prior and I’m pretty sure that’s a pitcher’s ballpark. It’s like saying Anthony Rizzo is bad hitter because he couldn’t hit in Petco.

  11. the Pirates could really be in on this even though it would be trading LaHair within the Central…..thats the one thing the Pirates lack is some sort of talent in the system at first higher than double A (Curry and Dickerson). with McCutchen, Tabata, Presley, Marte all young rounding out the OF, Alvarez at 3rd, Walker at 2nd, Morton&McDonald in the bigs now in addition to the wave of young pitching prospects out of Owens, Locke, Wilson, McPherson, Cole, Taillon. throw a solid 1st baseman in their and thats a great team for the future

    • Todd Smith 3 years ago

      LaHair kind of reminds me of Garrett Jones and his hot start with the Pirates a couple of years ago.  I think it’s the kind of player the Pirates should be trying to trade away, not acquire.  I agree, they need a first baseman – just don’t think this would be the way to go.  I’d rather see what a guy like Hague could do with some regular playing time.

  12. Bill Metek 3 years ago

    sorry, but… this article is more to brag about what you said in january than anything else.  the kid has hit well (against mostly right handed pitching) for a month, and has plenty of strikeouts too in a division with one team over .500. If you are talking about fantasy baseball trades, he might get you a decent return, otherwise the odds of him having any trade value in 2012 are slim and as a platoon at best.

  13. I watched Lahair play a lot of games in AAA and I thought he could be a good player. Never expected anything like this though. Two days ago his BABIP was at .650, so this isn’t sustainable, but I think .270 with power is.

  14. I have a suggestion. Since this is a rebuilding year, as have been the past 100 years or more, why don’t you fans stay home, until management declares they are ready to compete!  Nothing like spending hard earned money on a throw away year.

  15.  I was thinking about this scenario the other day, but a number of (possible) issues come up.

    Between now and 2013……..let’s say we dump Soriano (it’s going to happen) and we move LaHair to left field.  Say Jackson gets the call in center and Campana in right. 

    Your infield consists of Stewart at 3rd (maybe), Castro, Barney, Rizzo and Soto.

    This is a lineup with 5 left handed hitters.  3 right handed.  Your main righties are Castro, Barney, and Soto.  Not inspiring.  You still might have DeJesus, Baker, Mather, Johnson, Castillo/Clevenger off the bench or intermixing in.

    Would we be “too” left handed?  Who do you cut out of this equation and why?

    • jwsox 3 years ago

      campana is nothing more than a 4th outfielder, stewart will more than likely be non tendered this off season unless he finally puts it together and soto will more than likely be gone by the dead lie

  16. meep 3 years ago

    dodgers could sure use this guy instead of getting bobby abreu

  17. I have a little trouble with everyone who pooh-poohs LaHair’s numbers as just being one streaky month. True, he won’t sustain these eye-popping numbers for a whole season, but he has done this for two seasons in AAA and in his brief time in the majors last year. If he were 26 or 27, would that make you happier? does 2 or 3 years of age really make that much difference in how you evaluate a player’s potential?

    I also have a little trouble with those who clamor for Theo to trade him, based on the three trades Theo has made (Volstad, T Wood, Stewart) and the two free agent signings (DeJesus, Sonnenstein). I’m still looking for this shrewd talent evaluation team I’ve heard so much about, to show up in chicago. Yes, let’s trade LaHair for another failed former 1st-round draft pick fringe starting pitcher, by all means, we need more of those.

    Finally, I have a little trouble with the guy who says he “hopes” darwin Barney isn’t on the team in a couple of years. Barney has batted in the mid-high 200’s, gets on base when it counts, and has played near flawless 2nd base. So sorry he can’t be Ryne Sandburg for you; there are better second basement out there, but he’s not exactly a liability on the team.

  18. BFrank 3 years ago

    Keep Lahair if at all possible. However, if you can get 2 top 15 prospects than make that deal. The Cubs need arms in the minors. Get pitching for him. The trouble is young pitchers are a crap shoot. Right now no one will take Soriano unless the pay pretty much his whole contract.

  19. Sheilendr the problem I have with you whining about who Theo acquired think about what we traded away…

    A starting pitcher who is in his 30s and last season gave up on the team, what did Theo get for a guy that was a hot head? A pitcher who is 25 and under team control for more years than Z had left. Volstad’s career numbers aren’t terrible and he is still young enough where he hasn’t peaked.

    Got rid of an expensive set up man in return for T. Wood, also young with good potential, and a guy that could play MLB outfield. Lets all remember Jeff Samardizja wasn’t a good MLB starter until he hit his “peak” 27th year.

    Finally the Colvin deal, he got the Cubs a starting 3B for cheap. Would you rather Colvin sat on our bench right now? He may be starting CF for the Cubs if he was still on the team, but I prefer Campy’s speed. The Cubs are rebuilding so resigning A-Ram was out of the question so getting Stewart was a nice grab, hopefully Vitters figures it out and can get to the bigs so we don’t have to rely on Ian for long.

    Did you think in Theo’s first year that he would have household name players at every position in a rebuilding year? Theo is doing a great job for this team. Jim Hendry probably would have had us acting like contenders and spent a whole bunch of money this off season.

    I do agree that Barney is a good player. He is one of my favorites because everyone hates him so much. He has been nothing, but a team player and earned his spot.

  20. themightygin 3 years ago

    By July, the price will be two top 10 prospects, including one top 5.  

  21. Clay 3 years ago

    As a Cubs fan im just happy we finally have a player worth arguing over!!

  22. If he’s 29 and either a late bloomer or a flash-in-the-pan, why trade him instead of releasing DeJesus and just eating the contract? I guess this is why the Cubs are the Cubs. They keep the non-producers with fat contracts and try to trade the guys who are producing.

  23. TheReturnOfMrBlanks 3 years ago

    Just keep Lahair and make it work with Rizzo, there’s no way of knowing if Rizzo pans out and if he doesnt moving LaHair would be kinda dumb. Plus no one else is hitting in the line up besides him….ya kinda need him Cubbies

  24.  I say that once Rizzo is ready, move LaHair to right and have DeJesus play center. Campana is a nice story, but he’s not an everyday player.

  25. tenncub 3 years ago

    Not sure I understand the thinking on DeJesus being a “favorite trade candidate” after just signing him to a 2-year contract and an option for a 3rd year.  Besides, there are other that they would surely like to trade more, even if that’s only in their dreams.

  26. Bad idea to trade him. If the Cubs are looking long term, isn’t a price controlled solid hitting stick who can play 1st, RF, LF who will be with the Cubs through 2018 just what they’re searching for?
    To add, if they only get middling prospects (which is most likely) why trade him? It shall forever be a mystery to me some teams’ trades of valuable major league ready players in a situation like LeHair who offer only decent trade potential i.e. they will most assuredly not get a player of his value in a trade. At the same time, holding onto LeHair would help a Cubs lineup that needs some power as he has supplied more than half of their homeruns to this point.
    One last thing, if Rizzo ends up being a zero LeHair will be needed.

    Best scenario, Cubs call up Rizzo to play 1st, LeHair moves to RF/LF/1st rotating and playing as needed by full time. If Rizzo fails, the Cubs have a LeHair, if DeJesus fails Cubs have RF covered. Problem sorted.

  27. Patrick the Pragmatist 3 years ago

    The M’s don’t need him back,  but they might be willing to give up Chone Figgins for him anyway.

  28. I don’t see the point in trading lahair to bring up Rizzo,( Rizzo haven’t proven anything yet at the major league level ) or trading lahair for a future prospect, the guy can Hit !…and is the cubs only power hitter !  A good hard hitting lefthanded hitter is hard to come by, and trading him for a future unproven prospect is dumb. 

    Right now the Cubs  have a pretty good starting pitcher’s unit and really what they need is another power hitter (Ideally at 3er base  ) to back up Lahair and some bullpen help (especially a bonife closer ) for this team to compete THIS YEAR !….

    otherwise, if what theo wants to do is trade value player for future young prospect then he might as well  start thinking of trading his starting pitching staff as well for futher prospects , because by the time these prospect develop  the pitching staff would be close to retiring.

    I believe the Cubs needs to renovate ( as needed ) But not at the expence of your best hitting or pitching players, otherwise  who wants to spent their hard earn money on a boring renovating team in the mean time,  unless they cut their ticket prices !…..O well i guess the old faithful Cubs Fan !

  29. meep 3 years ago

    it cant be worst then what the As lost. they either lose a good player or trade one a away because the As are dirt cheap. As would be one of the best teams out there if the owner wasnt cheap as hell. thanks to them dodgers got a beast of a player in ethier

  30. chico65 3 years ago

    Leave it to someone with the name Zolan to miss a Z

  31. Ptk123 3 years ago

    I agree with Soto big time, however I would not mind having Barney on the cubs in 3 years if he is hitting 7th or 8th.

  32. Clay 3 years ago

    Castro at 3rd???? are you crazy? He commits enough errors without the added pressure of another 30-40 feet to throw to 3rd. Castro is and will be the SS of the now and the future!

  33. jammin502 3 years ago

     I like Campana.  He does exactly what he is supposed to do – put pressure on the defense.  If nothing else, he can be a late inning pinch runner, but for now his bat is coming in handy.  I think that Cardenas will eventually move up to be the starting 2B, with Barney moving to the utility infielder that he is best suited for.  Jackson is not ready yet, but Rizzo is.  To me, the odd man out should be Soriano.  It is a sunk cost like many say, but I think he could still bring back a little value off the bench.  Would he be happy with that?  Probably not, but I don’t think he has better options. 

    LF B LaHair
    CF T Campana
    RF D DeJesus (trade candidate)
    3B I Stewart / J Mather
    SS S Castro
    2B A Cardenas
    1B A Rizzo
    C  Soto (trade candidate) / Castillo / Clevenger

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