Bryan LaHair made his season debut in the outfield yesterday, and, although Alfonso Soriano was DH’ing, LaHair played in right field, not left. David DeJesus shifted from his (now) natural right field to center, and Tony Campana shifted from his natural center field to left field. An awful lot of shifting to accommodate LaHair in right field, eh?

The reason for the shifting, of course, is because the Cubs are planning for top prospect Anthony Rizzo’s arrival, as soon as this weekend (the Cubs will have cemented their extra year of control by Saturday, though they might give it a day or two before calling him up). Rizzo is going to be a regular at first base, and, if the Cubs want LaHair in the lineup, too, he’ll have to play in the outfield. LaHair impressed in his first outing.

“After today, probably every day,” Dale Sveum told reporters, with a laugh, when asked how often he’d be playing LaHair in right and DeJesus in center. “Depending on what we do at first base, LaHair is going to be out there quite a bit, with DeJesus in center field, against right-handed pitchers.”

Sveum added that, indeed, the move is designed to ensure that the Cubs are ready for Rizzo’s imminent arrival.

“Obviously, LaHair playing right field is something that might eventually happen,” Sveum said. “There’s a day when Rizzo is going to be here, so this is getting him acclimated to the outfield, too.”

And Sveum is right. The Cubs have to be ready for the possibility that they’ll have to field a lineup with all of Soriano, LaHair and Rizzo.

Playing LaHair in right field prior to Rizzo’s arrival serves another purpose for the Cubs, though. It doesn’t merely prepare them in the event that they’ve got to find a spot for all three of LaHair, Rizzo, and Soriano – a situation the Cubs almost certainly would prefer to avoid (can you imagine how much ground DeJesus, who isn’t a natural center fielder, would have to cover?). It also protects them in any ongoing trade talks about Alfonso Soriano.

As I referenced yesterday when the lineup with LaHair in right field was announced, the Cubs have had a trade leverage problem for quite some time with Soriano. No, I’m not talking about the $18 million per year they owe him through 2014 (although that’s long been the most obvious problem). I’m talking about the fact that, ostensibly, the Cubs were facing a positional crunch that would force them to dump Soriano when Anthony Rizzo was ready. To the outside world, when Rizzo was ready, assuming the Cubs planned to keep LaHair, the Cubs were going to move LaHair to left field, and were going to do whatever it took to dump Soriano. First of all, left field is considerably easier to play, especially at Wrigley Field. Second, the Cubs probably weren’t going to want to clog up center field with David DeJesus if Brett Jackson was going to be coming up at some point later this year.

With that positional problem looming, any teams to whom the Cubs spoke about Soriano could balk at giving the Cubs so much as a penny on the dollar in trade. (“Why would we trade you anything of value or take on any salary when, in two weeks, you’re going to have to dump Soriano to make room for Rizzo?”) The Cubs could try and say they are comfortable with LaHair in right field, or that they might trade LaHair (they would never say that), but otherwise, they had no leverage.

So the Cubs took the wind out of those negotiating sails yesterday by demonstrating that they are fully capable of continuing to play – at least until Brett Jackson is ready, which could take months – with all of Soriano, LaHair, AND Rizzo in the lineup at the same time. Point Theo/Jed.

Let’s keep perspective here, though: despite Soriano’s crazy hot streak, he still doesn’t have much value in trade. The Cubs would still be lucky to save $10 million total by trading him. But $10 million is better than nothing, and by showing that LaHair can handle right field, the Cubs have preserved what tiny leverage they have left with respect to Soriano.

Then, if the Cubs are able to move Soriano at some point in the next month, LaHair can shift over to left field with relative ease. Or, the Cubs could deal LaHair. Or, the Cubs could deal DeJesus. The point? The Cubs are preserving their options. And the most attractive option is moving Soriano, without having to out-and-out release him.

Playing LaHair in right field right now helps them preserve that option, in particular.

  • JB88

    I really appreciate this perspective as it is something that I had never considered. I would add, though, that it certainly helps (for leverage purposes) that Jackson doesn’t appear to be ready for the bigs this year.

    • Brett


  • hcs

    Obviously Dejesus has lost a step or two over the years, but he has spent more than half of his career in CF, so I thnik that he might be passable there, for the time being, at least.

    Then again, Soriano used to play second, albeit in a butcherly fashion. So, never mind.

    • Brett

      You’re right. DeJesus can play passable center field. But it’ll look a lot worse with Soriano and LaHair flanking him.

      • hansman1982

        That is going to be an ugly defensive outfield

        • GoldFinch

          Yes it is. No speed to cutoff hits to the gaps. DeJesus does tend to get good “reads” on balls, but I don’t know how much that is going to help.

        • ottoCub

          But the potential offensive production the Cubs get with a Soriano DeJesus LaHair outfield (coupled with Rizzo playing first) will be well worth a few balls getting through the gaps. As an example, last year’s World Series champs (who will go un-named on this great website) fielded an outfield that was sorely lacking in defense, but the offensive numbers more than made up for it.

    • cubs217

      “Obviously Dejesus has lost a step or two…” but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some fireworks here. (Sandlot anyone?)

  • ibcnu2222 (John)

    One last time for today. When will Alfonso Soriano of the 2012 Chicago Baseball Team be traded to a baseball team in the 2012 American League. Or better yet, When will the 2012 National League start using the designated hitter full time in 2012? Sorry Brett. Its just too funny.

    • David

      On his best day, I don’t think DeJesus was referred to as “The Jet”.

  • CubFan Paul

    I’d prefer Soriano to shut it down and get that knee surgery he’s putting off and we try again next year

  • Noah

    On top of all the good points you raised, let’s say LaHair is better than we would expect in right field. Let’s be honest, the best bet is he’ll be somewhere near disastrous defensively. But let’s say he’s even adequate. He’s someone you could stick out there 120 games a year and say we can live with that considering his bat against right handed pitchers. Not only does that make him much more valuable to the Cubs, it also raises his trade value.

    With that said, odds are it’ll be fairly ugly defensively.

  • Michael John

    If DeJesus gets dealt, his Wheaton wife will not be happy lol, just read the VineLine article about that

  • Smitty


    With Jackson not close to coming up, would the cubs really dump Soriano at any point this year? Since he isn’t keeping anyone from playing time, couldn’t using him in a platoon situation make the most out of this situation?

    • Brett

      Yes, I think they still really want to dump him – I don’t think they are particularly interested in seeing a Soriano/DeJesus/LaHair outfield for terribly long. It certainly wouldn’t help the pitchers’ values through July, you know?

  • cubs217

    In a Soriano trade, I know the return is heavily based on how much money the Cubs pick up. With that being said, what is the ceiling and flood for a return for Sori, anything significant or just merely saving a few (million) dollars?

    • Brett

      I don’t want to be too pessimistic, but I still see the ceiling as the Cubs saving $10 million, and picking up a flawed prospect.

      • CubFan Paul

        I see the ceiling as the Cubs paying everything except for the prorated veteran’s minimum this year and the veteran’s minimum for ’13 & ’14 ..and then, maybe do we get a decent player in return

      • berselius

        That sounds pretty optimistic to me

      • cubs217

        Any chance of bad K swap with another team, or is Theo not interested in that sort of thing?

        edit: “bad contract swap.” My shorthand doesnt work when “K” actually means something in baseball, sorry for any confusion.

        • Brett

          I understood K. I actually almost do that all the time myself, too.

          I don’t think this front office has any interest in bad contracts, at least not right now – bad contracts tend to be older players, for whom the Cubs have no use right now. They’d rather just save a little money.

        • Cyranojoe

          If Sori were a clubhouse cancer, I could see this, but the need here is primarily to make space in our lineup and save a little cash. Swapping for another financial liability who blocks a prospect would not work so well. There *might* be a young pitcher out there who fits the bill, but I can’t see Theo/Jed going for a positional player swap.

      • dw8

        This is actually a better case scenario, in my opinion. There aren’t going to get back an impact prospect for Soriano, so why not get as much cash as they can and treat it as an insurance policy for Soler or sink it into another international guy before the signing deadline.

  • lou brock lives

    Keep a close watch on 7th round draft pick just signed as a second baseman with Cubs from Virginia – Steve Bruno. This 21 year old just finished the college year with the 3rd best batting average in the ACC. (over .370)This conference is recognized as the top baseball conference in all of college. Bruno has decent power for his smaller stature & also can steal a few bases. He began his career at Virginia as a SS but mostly played 3rd this last year.
    He is not ready to replace Barney at this time but should move up thru the system quickly.After all he was the first inf selected by the new Cub management group.

  • Joker

    I think one thing that we all overlook is just how well liked and respected Sori is in the clubhouse and by the staff. It won’t keep them from trading him, but I think it’s enough to prevent the embarrasment of any out and out release.

    • Brett

      Those are absolutely considerations – these are all real people, after all. But if there was a true roster crunch (if, for example, Brett Jackson were killing it), if Soriano were struggling, and if the Cubs were in a race, they’d have to dump him, even if it meant release.

      None of that is a concern this year, though. Ha. Aw. I made myself sad.

      • Leo L

        actually i think if the Cubs were in a race and jackson was killing it, I think the Cubs would keep him. he can bat off the bench. he has the type of swing that probably is better if he plays everyday (that is what Ive heard I dont know if that is true) but he still has value, just not to his contract value.

  • Jp

    I’m not sure Jackson will ever have a decent K percentage (stating the obvious). I just wonder how long we will keep him in AAA if he keeps K’ing at this pace? I think he’s going to hit 20 HRs and will hit .270ish and play stellar defense but he’s going to have Jose Hernandez like strikeout totals at least, could be Rob Deer like even. Just when do they say this dude is going to K 175 times in a season, is he worth running out there everyday?

    • willis

      If Soriano is moved or dumped, Jackson will get the call. And he will have been at AAA for about a full year if Soriano is dealt sometime in July.

      And yes, it’s worth it to run him out there every day. The defense will be very good and he’ll have some pop at the plate. Not to mention he a much better option than Campana.

      It’s time to see him at this level.

      • Jp

        Hell I agree Willis, I think you could leave him down there for a decade and he’s still going to strikeout once per game no matter what at least and all the rest of his tools make him ready IMO as well. I’d MUCH rather see him out there than Campy who I think is a fine 4th outfielder/pinch runner.

    • keith

      starting to sound like corey patterson.

  • willis

    DeJesus better have his horse out there to chase down all that ground. But that lineup sounds kind of fun.

  • Cooper R

    If we moved DeJesus, Campana could play CF and cover the ground needed to help LaHair and Soriano. But then again those are 3 very weak arms out there and DeJesus probably won’t net much of a return.

    • cubs217

      The thought of Campana out there every day scares me. I think i would rather have Jackson and his high K numbers. Campana often looks completely over-matched at the plate and I think fits in more as a 4th outfielder rather than an everyday player; but as a short term solution, I could see it working, the guy is crazy fast.

      • willis

        Bingo. Jackson all day over Campana.

    • MichiganGoat

      Yeah I don’t see that as a huge improvement, but the scrappy factor will dramatically increase.

      • Professional_High_A

        That is the only reason I watch baseball. Runs, good pitching, wins, who actually cares about that stuff?

    • Diesel

      Actually soriano has a very strong arm. Just everyone is already half way to home by the time he gets to the ball because of his legs.

  • Featherstone

    All this Front Office posturing and maneuvering has me thinking, “I am finally glad we have a front office that knows how the game is played.” I’m not sure if anyone else felt the same way, but I was always nervous with Hendry and his ability to not make equitable trades and evaluate talent.

    • http://deleted Crazyhorse STEWART

      Yes this season is proof. the failure to sign anyone that helped .They traded players and the players they recieved are doing what was expected. They gave Concepcion 7 million dollars as an investment to match his over 7.00 era not to mention that the Cubs first round draft choice might hit the Books . and invested 30 millions dollars in Soler .a player that is 2 to 3 years away and never hit majorl eague pitching.. and the the Cubs are in last place . yeah this front office is doing well/

      • nkniacc

        Well they were atleast 2 years from contending anyway so why not invest in the future instead of the past?

  • jstraw

    Nice analysis Ace. I like to see, howtime and time again, Theo and Jed maximizing every little thing. This goes to why they were never, ever going to call Rizzo up before that year was protected.

    • Brett

      Thanks, and yup. Epstein always says you try to tilt the odds in your favor at the margins (53/47). Small things like this can make that difference over time.

  • Cubs Dude

    The Nats signed Koyie HIll. Haha..

    • Crazyhorse STEWART

      And the Cubs still believe in Stewart – bigger ha ha . its a shame that it took a DL stint to take him out of the lineup -hopefullly for good

  • Dumpgobbler

    It will certainly be more then interesting to see how things work out at the deadline this year.

  • Eric S

    In regards to David DeJesus, “But it’ll look a lot worse with Soriano and LaHair flanking him.”

    What can possibly look any worse this season?

  • art

    you can always use Campana late in games for D. this line-up should get you some runs, for now.

  • Diesel

    Soriano is a lot more productive than that Carlos Pena guy in Tampa.

  • alex

    would the orioles trade jonathan schoop for soriano and barney

    • EB

      I have been wondering if they would trade him for Dempster

    • Brett

      I doubt it – a lot of upside there.

  • Eric

    For the life of me I can’t figure out why people have their minds made up about Jackson. I haven’t seen any reason to even think about bringing him up this year. In fact, his numbers are awful for the PCL. Can somebody help me out here?

    • Cubs Dude

      Everyone I have heard talk about Jackson thinks he’s going to be pretty bad in the show. So I am not sure what you are talking about… I haven’t heard much positive about that guy in awhile. I like him more than most and know he K’s at a ridiculous rate. But I think he could be good at everything else, but people get so pissed at players who strike out they don’t give him a shot. I would rather have a player that K’s a lot as opposed to hitting in a lot of double plays..

    • nkniacc

      maybe that’s part of the reason to put Lahair in right and Dejesus in center

  • art

    if anyone had doubts about LaHair playing the OF, forget them. he can, he used to play CF in high school, has played a lot of OF in minors including last year. if you seen the play he made yesterday you know he is a lot better then people think, and by far better than Soriano could ever dream of being. he may not be gold glove but, he’s better then Soriano, Fox, Kingman, Dunn kind of guys. he went after that ball the way an OF’er should, never hesitated, reached out and made a nice catch.

    • GoldFinch

      That was many “moons” ago partner.

  • Jga6718

    Do you guys think it is a fair assumption that I will see Rizzo play on the 4th in Atlanta?

    • Brett

      I’d say it’s about an 85% chance (assuming no injury).

      • Jga6718

        Thanks Brett, I like those odds.

  • Vladimir


  • Drew7

    Brett do you see the chicago cubs trading any chicago cubs players this summer before the major league baseball trade deadline?

    • Jp

      Oh no! I was just thinking about her! Where has she been?!?

    • Jp

      Do you mean the 2012 MLB Chicago cubs of 2012???

    • Brett

      You guys are getting too good at this.

      • farmerjon

        I was wondering about Jackson this morning (checking the cows and BN at the same time) is there anyway to find out the ratio between SO’s swinging v SO’s looking? What I mean is, is he up there swinging wildly, or is he trying to draw walks?