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.


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48 Comments on "Trade Candidate: Bryan LaHair"


johnsilver
3 years 4 months 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.

3 years 4 months ago

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 4 months 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 4 months ago

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

johnsilver
3 years 4 months ago

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

3 years 3 months ago

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 !

Chowbacca
3 years 4 months ago

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

bhazlett
3 years 4 months ago

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

3 years 4 months ago

Jays would love this guy

Lastings
3 years 4 months ago

Yeah, if he was named “Joey Votto”…

diehardmets
3 years 4 months 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. 

3 years 4 months ago

Detroit would trade delmon young for him in a heartbeat!

3 years 4 months ago

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

BrocNessMonster
3 years 4 months ago

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

Cubs in STL
3 years 4 months 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 4 months 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 4 months 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…

3 years 4 months ago

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 4 months 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.

3 years 4 months ago

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.

3 years 4 months ago

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

3 years 4 months ago

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.

3 years 4 months ago

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 4 months 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.

Bill Metek
3 years 4 months 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.

3 years 4 months ago

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.

3 years 4 months ago

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.

3 years 4 months ago

 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 4 months 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

jeremy
3 years 4 months ago

dodgers could sure use this guy instead of getting bobby abreu

3 years 4 months ago

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.

BFrank
3 years 4 months 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.

3 years 4 months ago

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.

themightygin
3 years 4 months ago

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