Could Bryan LaHair Actually “Make It” This Year? And Other Bullets

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training for the Cubs in 23 days on February 18. That’s five days later than last year, which is totally lame, in part because February 13 is my daughter’s first birthday. That would have been the cat’s pajamas.

  • I’m told Bryan LaHair shows up on BP’s recent list of offseason risers, which is swell. LaHair had a solid offseason while playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, and will start the year at first base for the Cubs. He’ll finally get a real shot to “make it,” something rarely met with success by guys in their late 20s – but it does happen, as is discussed in this Message Board thread. Because I’m excited about the future at first base for the Cubs, and because LaHair and Anthony Rizzo both tearing things up would be a good problem to have, I’m ready to throw the entire weight of my support behind LaHair. I hope he absolutely destroys the ball this year.
  • Former Cub Daryle Ward – who hasn’t played in the bigs since 2008 – tested positive for a banned amphetamine, and has been suspended 50-games. Maybe after that, he can be a bounce-back candidate?
  • Speaking of bounce-backs, 39-year-old free agent Raul Ibanez is hoping to come back next year, and feels like he’s in great shape to do so thanks to a three-day hitting instruction session from the Cubs’ hitting coach, Rudy Jaramillo. “I know 2012 is going to be way better than 2011,” Ibanez told Ken Rosenthal. “I didn’t know quite how I was going to do it. But I knew I was going to do it. Now I expect that [2012] is going to be great. That’s the different level I went to. I haven’t felt this good since I left for spring training in ’09 — the last time I worked with Rudy.” Hey, Rudy – save some for the boys in blue, eh?
  • Local ad agencies are upset that the Cubs took their advertising business to a New York firm (a decision made by Business President Crane Kenney and Marketing Chief Wally Hayward). I’m a proponent of supporting local folks, but I’m also a proponent of getting the best services, wherever you can find them. The product of the ad switch is the new “Baseball is Better” campaign, which, I suppose is fine. But I don’t think the Cubs are working with Don Draper. In any event, the Cubs will continue to do some of their work with local ad agencies, so it’s not as if the entirety of their business has moved to New York.
  • This is totally meta, but if you’re ever wondering why I report news and rumors in the way that I do – i.e., cautiously and with caveats aplenty – this account of the erroneous early reports of Joe Paterno’s death pretty much sums it up. That’s from Brian Cook at MGoBlog, the best blog on the Internet (Michigan sports, if you’d care to know). Among many money shots in the article: “We’ve seen this happen before when a newspaper intern replicates an internet rumor on one of the dingy blogs shuffled off into the corner of large metro papers: as soon as a rumor gets paired with header graphics associated with a real newspaper, everyone else is confirming it via ‘sources.’ In this instance, CBS’s screwup was compounded because they didn’t even provide a link to the primary source.” Yet another reason to always link. It’s not just about doing the right thing and sharing the love, it’s also about covering your ass.
  • We had an ugly example of a fast-moving oopsie just a couple days ago, when Yahoo’s Tim Brown, the man who legitimately broke the Albert Pujols signing, totally gaffed just minutes before breaking Prince Fielder to the Tigers. A fake Jon Heyman account tweeted that Fielder had signed with the Nats (many of us were duped into re-tweeting the faker), but Brown took a … different route:

  • In case it’s unclear, or if you’re not a Twitter’er, the gist there is that Brown, seeing the fake Heyman tweet exploding everywhere, appears to confirm the info in the “Heyman” tweet, as though he’s checked with a source. Clearly, however, he hasn’t. Because soon thereafter, he corrects himself, and then breaks the big news (to his credit, Brown has not removed the tweets, and I’m not calling this anything more than a relatively harmless mistake). It’s a testament to how easy it is to momentarily goof in the fast-moving Internet age, and why it’s so important – especially for non-national guys like me – to report rumors cautiously (Brown can rest on his otherwise-established credibility in the face of a mistake like this; if I did it, I’d be burned for a very long time in many folks’ eyes). It’s also why I tend not to “confirm” things after it’s been widely reported by reputable sources – (1) you don’t need me to do that, and (2) it’s a practice that leaves too much room for shenanigans. I’m very pleased that our local Chicago media doesn’t really do it.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

104 responses to “Could Bryan LaHair Actually “Make It” This Year? And Other Bullets”

  1. Fishin Phil

    It’s not like we’ll constantly remind you if you get one wrong. We wouldn’t do a thing like that, would we??

  2. Kyle

    I think it’d be a neat story if LaHair can stick in the big leagues after all this time. I’ll root for it. But it doesn’t matter much to the Cubs one way or another. The most they stand to gain is maybe they can convince someone to give you a C prospect for him if he has a hot first half. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, so even if he succeeds, it’s not like it fills any holes long-term.

    1. Bill

      LaHair doesn’t need a monster season. Like I wrote earlier this week, he’s a placeholder until Rizzo is ready. Personally, if he hits around .280 and keeps playing with that solid glove he’ll be viable trade bait come July and do well from then on.

      1. Kyle

        LaHair doesn’t really have a solid glove. He’s a below-average defensive 1b.

        Hopefully he outslugs his glove, though.

  3. Steve

    I must concur Brett. It’s easy to sweep 2012 under the rug mentally and look past the possibility that Lahair might put up some really good numbers. Let’s say he does a decent job at 1st, hits 20 hr, and drives in 70-80. Would you say “WOW!!” ??
    Looking at his body of work as a career minor leauger, I’d say unless he has a huge hole in his swing that major league pitchers will most certainly find, there is a good chance he is a pleasant surprise in 2012.
    Mr Lahair deserves his shot. Let the games begin!

    1. DocWimsey

      If LaHair hits 20 HR batting in the middle of the lineup and gets only 70-80 RBI, then the Cubs will be setting some new lows for OBP from the 1-3 guys!

  4. Spriggs

    LaHair is not a long term solution, but who knew Barney was going to be at this time last year? In spring training last year I rooted for Barney to beat out Ojeda for the utility job. Then to my horror, he started playing over Baker and DeWitt — and batting 2nd every day. I learned my lesson. Give me the C prospect.

  5. jstraw

    Paterno’s not dead?

    1. CubFan Paul

      nope, he’s alive and still enabling child abuse

  6. MichiganGoat

    This exact discussion happened last night on main board concerning how the Garza numbers were misreported. Mistakes will happen for the exact reasons you’ve outlined. We are in an immediate news world and so when one incorrect report comes from a major news source it gets pounced quickly and we have these mistakes. It will continue to happen because everyone major outlet is fighting to be first and skips the journalistic mantra of checking the sources. Its why places like BN are so wonderful. Brett doesn’t have to compete with ESPN and CBS and can check his sources and confirm information before he proclaims suspect information.

  7. 1908Blues

    Brett – If the dates were the same, it would be the C’s P’s, but then you’d also be running around like “chickens with their heads cut off”. None of us need that.

  8. EtotheR

    A good season from LaHair would be a high-class problem to have…if it happens, lots of trade bait.

    Working in the ad industry, I can tell you that no New York agency gets their feathers ruffled when a New York company goes to Chicago or otherwise out-of-town (which happens all the time). The Cubs are a business with an individual market posture. They need to look for the firms that make the most fiscal and creative sense…without limiting the field to those on Wacker Drive.

    Also…question…if we do sign Cespedes, how many penis jokes am I allowed per day?

    1. Toby

      3 penis jokes a day.

      1. ferrets_bueller

        the site is offering one, you’re probably going to have to take it to arbitration.

        1. EtotheR

          If I ask for four, will everyone think I’m holding my penis jokes in too high regard? They might also think I’m trying to get traded to wherever Dick Pole is these days…

          1. Toosh

            If you hold your penis jokes in too high regard for more than 4 hours you might want to seek the help of a doctor, according to the commercials.

            1. Hcs

              Well played…

            2. EtotheR

              I agree, Toosh…if you hold your penis jokes too highly, you might also miss your intended target, as well. A more supple hand is the key to success.

  9. Toby

    Brett, throughly agree with you about LaHair. We, the fans, will finally see if the young man can hit over an extended period of time with the Cubs. I doubt that Rizzo will be called up before the first half of the season for Hoyer learned his lesson about bringing him up too early when they were both in San Diego as Rizzo probably comes up during Sept call-ups. The Cubs are in a win-win situation with LaHair and Rizzo. Since LaHair is on a one year deal then if he has a horrible year then the Cubs cut ties with him no problem and turns over 1B to Rizzo in 2013 and on the other hand if LaHair has a good season up to the trading deadline then Hoyer could trade him if Cubs are out of it. Of course, if he can prove that he can hit major league pitching on a consistant basis then the Cubs could keep him as a back-up at 1b and spot start in outfield.

  10. cubs4life

    You never know, if LaHair is tearing it up at the deadline, and a contender needs a firstbaseman badly enough the C prospect could always end up turning into a B prospect. When teams a desperate they do stupid things.

    But in the mean time i hope LaHair has a great season, he did nothing but hit everything last year in the minors, did well in his chance in the majors, and VWL.

    1. Toby

      If LaHair hits, like we all know he can, then Cubs can allow Rizzo to take his time and develop in AAA. It’s really nice when according to, the Cubs have #1 rated and #10 rated 1B prospects.

      1. MichiganGoat

        All we know is how he can hit in AAA and VWL, his cup of coffee last year was not enough to make assumptions about his MLB ability. Let’s not get star struck or hopeful until he has proven something at the big show.

        1. Mick

          I’ll add that even if he does mash in the first half of the season its still not large enough of a sample to give other MLB clubs faith that he could conitnue it well into September and October. What types of numbers would LaHair have to put up to reach a Type A or B free agent? If LaHair does blow up and we’re willing to let him walk it might be smarter just to add a 1st or 2nd round pick instead.

  11. MichiganGoat

    It would be greatly beneficial to the Cubs for LaHair to look good, but I’m not expecting much out of him. He has the job because the FO want Rizzo to have a little more time in AAA, if Rizzo was absolutely ready LaHair would not be on the team. Just be realistic at the odds of him actually being the stud so many fans are dream/wish he could be.

    1. Toby

      I don’t think that we are viewing him as a stud, or at least I’m not, but he’ll be more than adequate. Remember Cubs, at one time, had Darryl Ward playing first (?) when D. Lee was out with an injury a few years back.

      1. Mick

        Daryle Ward, Randall Simon, Matt Stairs, Ron Coomer, etc. Now we have Jeff Baker filling this role who’s also a FA after the season. If LaHair has a decent showing we could let Baker walk and re-sign LaHair to fill the role.

    2. rcleven

      What do you think are realistic numbers for LaHair to be considered a success?

  12. JR1908

    Sorry, this may be a dumb question… But would it be possible for LaHair to be a type A or B free agent to obtain a sandwich pick if he has a great year? Also, at what point does a player get tagged what type of agent they are??

    1. Luke

      They just reworked the Type A and B classifications in the new CBA, so I could be wrong on this, but I think it would be technically possible. I think, though, that the classification systems have an over-time component. If that is the case, LaHair would have to put up enough numbers in 2012 to offset his lack of numbers in the past few seasons. He would have to put up historic numbers… ridiculously historic numbers… but I think it would technically be possible.

      But if he was putting up those numbers, the Cubs would be better off dealing him before reality set in.

      Edit: As Kyle points out below, the classification system wouldn’t apply anyway since it is being abolished (finally).

  13. Toby

    @JR….Cubs would have to offer him arbitration first, but that doesn’t really guarantee a sandwich pick. I doubt the Cubs would offer him arbitration knowing that Rizzo will, more than likely, be playing 1b in 2013.

    1. JR1908

      OK, thanks. Maybe they can have some handshake agreement like they did with Pena that he wouldn’t accept it if they offered him arb.?? The whole sandwich pick arbitration thing confuses the hell out of me.

      1. Kyle

        Under the new CBA, it’s not arbitration anymore.

        They’d have to offer him a 1 year deal for about $12 million in order to get compensation for him leaving. That doesn’t seem likely.

        1. JR1908

          OK, yeah I am sure he would accept in a heart beat if they offered him 12 million. Thanks for the info Kyle.

  14. Cliffy

    QT @Cliffy46405: Royals place four prospects in Top 50: 17. Bubba Starling; 19. Wil Myers; 31. Mike Montgomery; 47. Jake Odorizzi can you say system loaded.

  15. Cliffy

    QT @Cliffy46405: The 2013 top 100 prospect list, maybe with 4 Cubs? Baez, Vogelbach, Maples and Junior Lake. Lake will be ranked highest, monster year guess.

    1. Kyle

      2013 top 100s? Rizzo and Jackson will graduate, of course.

      Baez is pretty much a lock. Szczur just has to have a decent year to stay in the top 100s. After that, the Cubs have a ton of guys in the 101-200 range who could make the leap if they have a good season. Probably a couple of them will make the cut. Besides Lake, Vogelbach and Maples, I could see Vitters, Rhee, DeVoss, McNutt and a few other guys pushing for the back end of the top 100 if they have breakout years.

      1. EQ76

        Don’t forget Whiteknack (SP?) is coming back from TJ surgery.. he would have finished top 100 had he not gone down last year.

        1. Mick

          Reggie Golden too, some compare him to a young Ron Gant!

  16. ShootTheGoat

    Quick What if scenario: What if Lahair does great and Rizzo is lights out in the minors? Do they bring up Rizzo after a certain time and put him at another position if he can play another position, is he relegated to the bench, or do they just let him be in the minors for the entire season?  Throw your ideas @ me.

    1. EQ76

      I believe LaHair played some LF & RF for us last year.. I’ve been wondering the same thing.. my best thought is that if they can move Soriano and/or Byrd, we’ll have an opening in the OF. LaHair in LF and Rizzo at 1B could be the way the season ends.. Rizzo is a better defensive 1B, so I’d assume they’d prefer to keep him there once he’s up.

    2. Kyle

      He’ll be shipped off for an okay prospect.

  17. Cheryl

    Already talking about trading LaHair? He may do okay and Rizzo may not. What if LaHair does well and Rizzo is brought up and does poorly? What then? Can’t get LaHair back if he’s traded and we’re stuck with Rizzo.

    1. Kyle

      If LaHair does well and Rizzo does poorly, you *still* trade LaHair for prospects. LaHair is old and an FA after this season. He’s not a long-term answer at 1b no matter what he does.

      1. EQ76

        No, but he could be a long term answer in LF. 28 isn’t exactly ancient.. he could have 8 productive years in him.. and Kyle, this year especially, with the severe lack of power this team has, they’d be stupid to trade him if he hits for power.

        1. Kyle

          Yeah, if we lose that last little bit of power, we might only win 74 games instead of 77. That’d be tragic.

          1. GocubsGo14

            If Lahair hits like he did in AAA and they trade him ill be pissed there are plenty of question marks at other positions, to keep him on the team and move him if/when Rizzo is ready. Im high on Rizzo, I love his character, and how he looks as a ballplayer but he is a prospect, as was felix pie and corey patterson, and Hee sop Choi. My question is why not extend him now to 3 years at a decent amount and then use him at the very least as a pinch hitter off the bench the next couple seasons?

  18. die hard

    he cant do well with while looking over shoulder to see Rizzo coming…will never relax and will be gone by All Star break is my prediction..Theo creates a self fulfilling prophecy and LaHair ends up going to AL team as DH where he hits a ton in that role is how this will play out… they say is already baked into the stock….just better hope Rizzo is the real deal or passing on Fielder looks real bad

  19. Wilbur

    Brett to your meta point about news versus rumors, caveats and making errors.

    We readers of your blog all realize In the internet world their are reliable, unreliable and even fake sources. I come here because I value your reasoned vetting of the above and your reasoned judgement on what to comment on and how much credit to give.

    Painting with a broad brush, I assume many of the skills that make you successful in filtering and intelligently rephrasing the wide range of things you see and hear goes to your training as a lawyer.

  20. Cubsfaninky

    I disagree with you die hard I don’t think there is any circumstance out there that will make the cubs look bad for not signing prince. I was always a big fan of fielder and wanted the cubs to sign him ( on a 8 yr 185 deal or a 7 yr 175) I also got bashed by everyone for those numbers. But 9 yrs and 214 million those numbers are crazy(even for me who never has a problem spending other ppls $)

    1. die hard

      Prince for 3 yrs at $100 mil would have solved lots of problems like ensuring 3 mil attendance for next 3 yrs for instance

      1. DocWimsey

        Right now, Scott Boras is laughing derisively out of the blue.

      2. gblan014

        How does signing him for 3 years help the team on the field though? He becomes a free agent again just as we’re getting to be competitive. Plus, 33 million bucks a year? That’s just plain nuts.

        1. DocWimsey

          Just think of what that would do to arbitration cases, too.

        2. die hard

          Cubs would get most productive years out of him before he limps off to AL as DH…fans would be breaking down doors to get into Wrigley…money would be pouring in and more than enough to pay his salary and have lots left over to use other places…may have attracted another good free agent or two so Cubs could make a run in 2013 and 2014

  21. Steve

    I would assume that in Lahairs case, no free agent classification would be assigned other than unrestricted. The way they are typically classified is correlated to their body of work, just as how arbitration eligable players are classified.
    Is this correct?

  22. Butch Cub

    I would love to see him out-hit Prince… then we would be justified in saving 214 million dollars!

  23. The Dude Abides

    LaHair played a little for Seattle a couple of years ago when he was 25. Combining his two brief stints he strikes out better than 25% of the time and projects for 12 HR’s 262 avg and 145 K’s and that is before opposing teams get the book on him. He is 29 with a questionable glove and a long shot at best to make it as a fulltime player, left handed bat off of the bench maybe. Hopefully for the sake of the Cubs he pulls it off we need production and power numbers from somewhere this year.

  24. CubFanBob

    Maybe its the Cubby in me but I just feel LaHair is going to hit 280ish 25+ HR 80+ RBIs if he can get a full season. I think he knows this is his last and best chance and will come in focused and tearing the ball.

    1. DocWimsey

      Or, knowing that it’s his last chance, he’ll be too focused and not relax enough to play well. You can spin it both ways!

      And, as I noted above, if he hits 0.280 with 25 HR but gets only around 80 RBI, then we are looking at some really low OBP in front of him.

      Bill James projects LaHair at .273/.335/.474, which would be a little below league average for a 1Bman. However, James also was assuming that LaHair would be platooning, so he’d probably revise that downwards if he was projecting full-time play.

    2. die hard

      Heesop Choi

      1. DocWimsey


  25. jim

    Never met him, but dislike crane kenney more each week. &€£¥#% up epstein comp deal. Raping wrigley. Many things. Brett, your reorting is fine.

  26. DON

    Hey, can Soriano play first base? He can jump pretty high, oh, but them low throws.

  27. 2much2say

    Has anyone noticed that Theo only surfaces just prior to a deal?

  28. 2much2say

    I would bet that the next contact with him will be prior to signing Cespedes. He will emerge and make some comment about the sign in right field then answer some questions. The next day a signing will be annouced

  29. Bric

    “Baseball is better”- they probably paid a cool 15 – 20 mil for this genius of a slogan. Money well spent. Question- why even bother to advertise at all? After 100 years we fans have had plenty of time to jump off the wagon if we wanted to. “Baseball is better” isn’t going to do anything to keep us rooting. How about spending that 20 mil on a contract for Solar? That would give us something to root for.