Rumors aside, Cubs 1B in 2012 will likely be LaHair

Rumors aside, Cubs 1B in 2012 will likely be LaHair

After a wild day of speculation where Theo Epstein met with Albert Pujols' agent and the number of suitors for Prince Fielder seemed to dwindle down even further, after all is said and done, the Cubs' first baseman in 2012 may be a guy who's already on the 40 man roster.

Bryan LaHair met with Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer and seemed to come away in good spirits, talking about how fun it was to HR off of Carlos Zambrano.

The reason for his good mood?

LaHair also said this,

“They didn’t make any promises.  They want to give me an opportunity. It’s something I’m excited about.”

They want to give him an opportunity.  No promises, of course,  in case a friendly deal  for a big name free agent unexpectedly falls in their lap, but otherwise it sounds like LaHair is getting first crack at the first base job while providing power from the left-hand side.  LaHair's excitement after the meeting indicates the talk was positive in nature.

Epstein's impression of LaHair has been positive from the beginning,

“I have a soft spot for guys who hit everywhere they’ve ever been — hit, hit, hit and continue to hit. There’s this myth about the 4-A hitter. Guys who perform all the way up the minor leagues, dominate Triple-A, get a cup of coffee, they hit a buck-fifty in the big leagues, and everybody labels them a 4-A hitter.

“The reality is, I’m not so sure there is something called a 4-A hitter. It’s just (a) pretty good Major League hitter who never got an opportunity… We’re looking for assets. We’re going to scratch and claw and do everything in our power- in the draft, internationally, small trades, waiver claims... We need to build assets because we don’t have enough of them. We’re not going to look past one that might be sitting right there in our organization.”

LaHair is coming off a season where he was the PCL MVP, hitting .331 with 38 HRs, then hit .288 with 2 HRs.  More importantly, perhaps, LaHair fits Epstein's philosophy as a hitter.  LaHair was a patient hitter, walking 11.5% of the time, resulting in a .405 OBP.  That patience continued in his brief September stint where he walked 13% of the time and put up a .377 OBP.

LaHair seems to be aware that he fits in,

“I think I proved I can grind out at-bats, get good pitches to hit it hard, and then just let everything else take over. I think I got a really good opportunity in September.”

LaHair gets it.  And that may mean the 29 year old first baseman may finally get his opportunity next season.  With the Cubs building toward the future and saving assets for a few years down the road, LaHair may be just the guy to bridge the gap for the Cubs over the next couple of seasons.

 

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  • If the Cubs are somehow able to trade both Soriano and Byrd, then I would love to see LaHair placed as the everyday man in Left. How is his fielding in the outfield? I imagine it's better than Hoffpauir or Jake Fox. Those guys were just as valuable with their bats if. Hopefully LaHair can find a position if Fielder is signed. Fox and Hoffpauir didn't have one.

  • In reply to elusivekarp:

    I read somewhere that the Cubs aren't considering him for the OF, and probably not as a bench player. I think it's starting 1B or bust for him.

    His fielding in LF is fringy. He catches what he gets to, but he simply doesn't have the speed to run down many balls. His range and arm are probably below average out there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He's a way better OFer than Soriano.
    Then again... Soriano makes Dave Kingman looks like a Gold Glover.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    LOL...Kingman was a statue out there. Just awful. I think the general thing we have to keep in mind is the Cubs want to upgrade the defense as much as possible, so position changes or anyone playing at anything but their best defensive position are extremely unllikely.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, but if a fly ball was hit right to Kingman you could be confident he would catch it!

    And he would actually go all the way back to the wall instead of shying away in fear. I have the 22-21 game recorded and he actually did that on one of Schmidt's taters.

    He also hit the longest homer in the history of Wrigley. One of Kong's better games (he hit 2 other huge bombs) if you've never seen it.

  • Since 2012 will be a rebuilding year I say give a chance at 1st.
    Don't know if he is the answer until he gets a chance. No
    sense trading a good prospect, or more, for a 1st baseman.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Or committing a big contract if you're not going to win.

  • I concur, 2012 will be a tough year, but with an eye toward the future for the Cubs. IMO, I will be shocked if LaHair is not the starting 1st baseman for the Cubs next year

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I think he has to be considered the favorite. That idea may not be popular with everyone but it's the most realistic outcome.

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    Is it possible that we go after Casey Kotchman if we don't sign either Fielder or Pujols?

  • In reply to Noah Alsberg:

    There's a chance. He plays good defense and has decent plate discipline, so he would fit. I don't think he'll hit as well as he did last year. He's probably more of a .270 hitter or so. He'd be a different kind of player than LaHair, better defense, but I think LaHair can match him in avg. and top him in OBP and Slugging.

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    I'm perfectly fine with LaHair as the first-baseman in 2012.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    If you think about it, after Fielder, Pujols, and maybe Pena there really isn't a whole lot of difference between LaHair and the other options -- and LaHair would play for the minimum.

  • John, it's been on my mind but I haven't seen anyone mention it: what about 3B for LaHair? He's a L/R guy, so he brings the lefty power bat with the righthanded-ness needed for that position. Maybe it's just my penchant for managerial creativity or eagerness to see something out of the ordinary. Is this any more than the ramblings of a madman?

    If it does happen (obviously it would take a serious acclimation in ST, as he hasn't played 3B professionally from what I can tell) 1B is still open for another potential thumper in the line-up. Maybe Colvin, Fielder, or even a Pena re-signing after the Fielder-Pujols dust clears. Given the apparent lack of serious bats available at 3B, might be something to think about.

    Or do you think Epstein-Hoyer simply have their sights set on a defensive-minded third baseman?

  • In reply to SaberToothed:

    Creative idea, and there may be a few 1B that could make that switch. Frankly, LaHair wouldn't be one of them. He is barely passable at 1B and lacks the athleticism and the arm to move across the diamond, No experience at the position makes it even more difficult. Cubs will have to find a different way to fill their 3B hole.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sigh, I knew it was really only a pipe dream. Just thinking about ways to maximize offensive potential. Brings to mind the Jake Fox problem a couple years back. He was at 3B for a good stretch when ARam was out of commission. But I remember that Fox was originally a catcher, and therefore had relatively decent hands, or at least a barrel chest with which to knock down screamers at the hot corner.

    If he's barely passable at 1B, do you really think management would do something like give him such a shot? Maybe they feel a Soriano trade coming on and are looking to install him in LF...

  • In reply to SaberToothed:

    LaHair is better at 1B than LF. He's made some strides defensively the last 2-3 years. Barely passable was probably a poor choice of words on my part. Adequate may be the right word, but he'll be a step down from Pena when it comes to picking balls out of the dirt -- but then again, you could say that about any 1B in the league.

  • If the Cubs did this, and fail to trade Soriano, they could put Soriano at 1B. Lots of 'ifs' in that statement.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Soriano might be able to learn 1B, but it would have to be at the expense of LaHair, since that's really his only legit defensive position. Just hoping they trade Soriano at this point.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No, no, no ... didn't you hear Lovie? --- "Alphonso is our Thirdbaseman ..."

    Other than Catcher, 3B is as far away as you can get from The Ivy. It's been 12 years since he played any 3B (for the Yankees; we don't count the 1/3 inning he played in 2009), but he's certainly got the arm for it, and, if you worked about 20 pounds off his midsection he'd even be able to bend down to field those bunts.

  • In reply to HotRuta:

    I think Soriano at 3B would be pretty scary. He was scary at 2B when he was young and in shape. He really doesn't have the hands for an infielder. You could maybe hide him at 1B, but he wouldn't be very good there either. The Cubs need at least an average defensive 3B, especially since he'll be playing next to Castro.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Well, OF COURSE Soriano at 3B would be scary --- Soriano ANYWHERE in the field is scary.

    But I can't shake the potential image of Soriano staring at the CF Scoreboard while pickoff throws sail into the visiting dugout and bullpen. You have to pay attention if you are playing 1B.

    Even though his best fielded position is at DH, it's clear that Soriano sees himself as an infielder, and feels misused to be anywhere else on the field. If we can just get him excited enough to give us a couple of good months at 3B until the July trading deadline ...

  • In reply to HotRuta:

    I can honestly you tell you that there is a far, far greater chance that Soriano gets moved (even outright released) than ever seeing a day at 3B with the Cubs. Epstein/Hoyer value defense and OBP far too much much. Soriano is well below average when it comes to OBP and he may wind up being the worst 3B in the history of baseball.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I have no problem moving Soriano (I've never been much of a fan of him), but I do have a problem with an outright release. Just as Zambrano's value is being optimized by "opening the door for him to return" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), we should try to do the same with Soriano. (That's why, by mid-season last year, I wanted to play Soriano every day, and in the leadoff slot, too --- I wanted to fatten up his stats with some of those easy leadoff HRs, and I think it would have added 20-30 points to his BA and OBP.)

    I just want to motivate him to get in better shape so he can be showcased in Spring Training and until the trade deadline. In the meantime, I wouldn't rule him out until we have somebody better --- as it is, we've got the makings of a team with no power, and openings all over the place. I'm not as obsessed as some to get him out of the picture; I just want somebody better before dumping him --- we all need to be patient while we're building (an activity that we should have started two years ago).

    Part of the problem is that we're trying to use Soriano the way we (in the NL) need to use him --- but it's not the way he wants to be used. Under the circumstances (and how far we need to go), I think we can afford a few months showcasing to optimize his value.

    Over the years, I've seen some pretty bad fielding 3Bs (and not just on the Cubs). And if there's no room on the Cubs for players who need to improve their fielding at the position they are playing, then I guess that means that Castro is a goner, too.

  • In reply to HotRuta:

    Castro has the hands, range, instincts and arm to play SS. There's a big difference. Soriano only has the arm. You're not going to fool any teams by sticking him at 3B and hoping for a miracle. He's been scouted for years and every team understands that his best "position" for the last several years has been DH.
    I don't think the Cubs will release him. I think they'll find a trade partner. But if he plays 3B as badly as people believe he will, and puts up nothing but HRs on offense like he did last year, he will actually have negative value.

  • Did you catch the interview on intentional talk with Theo, and Kevin Millar and Chris Rose? I am speechless, Epstein is amazing. The guy is just a special leader, but very humble at the same time. I see big things coming the Cubs way.
    He mentioned his compensation, said there was precedence when Andy McPhail moved. Cubs gave up a single A prospect and cash.

  • Agreed on all counts on Epstein.

    The Cubs gave up a pitching prospect named Hector Trinidad for McPhail-- who coincidentally, had also won two WS rings before coming to the Cubs. Trinidad was the Cubs 10th rated prospect in a system that was much weaker than the one we have now.

  • Forgot to mention a rumor I heard this afternoon. Santo got 15 out of 16 votes on the committee. Take a guess who the one guy who did not vote for him was. Here is a clue, he is the owner of a team that plays around 250 miles south of Chicago.

  • no suprise on the knuckle dragger who gave the no vote to Ronnie. Shanme on that individual. Secondly I am estastic the Cubs will give LaHair achance . Best option not named Fielder .

  • If that's true, that's exactly what's wrong with this kind of voting. Improvements are still there but it still leaves room for bias.

  • Who is this now? Glass?

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    I hope LaHair gets a shot. He held his own in Sept, would be cheap, and could probably do a decent job for a couple years. I'd much rather have them play him than sign a mediocre established veteran to do the same thing (i.e. Kotchman). Use that money elsewhere.

  • In reply to brober34:

    Kotchman would cost a lot more coming off a good year. You'd be getting better defense but losing power. I'm not sure it's worth it except for the fact that Kotchman is more of a known quantity-- but I agree, at this point I'd rather see Lahair get the shot and patch holes elsewhere.

  • John,

    Have you followed the Matt Dominguez, the 3rd base prospect on FL? It appears he was a top rated prospect at one time, so if we go young'ish in 2012, this might be a good fit at 3rd.

    My only reservation, and this was echoed by EmartinezJr a while back, is that we need some vets to guide the kids and win enough games so losing is not a foregone conclusion and an acceptable outcome day after day.

  • In reply to socalcub:

    I think we mentioned Matt Dominguez a couple of days ago. He's a good fit in that he can play a good defensive 3B, unfortunately he's not that great an offensive player. If we got him, we'd have to throw him in the mix with LeMahieu and let them compete this spring. Loser goes to AAA.

  • I would love to see LaHair get a chance. Obviously, I would love to see the Cubs bring in Pujols or Fielder, those guys are special players, but will be paid accordingly.

    I am thrilled to see the assumption that Pena will come back fading away. Not only does he have a pretty low ceiling in terms of how much he can help this team, he would also, effectively "cost" the team a draft pick (in that the Cubs would NOT get the supplemental pick when he signs somewhere else).

    Give LaHair a shot and hope he can make us happy. I will say though, it is aggravating that he wasn't playing 1st everyday starting in July, 2011.

  • In reply to WGNstatic:

    Good point on Pena costing the Cubs a pick, something they'd like to accumulate. Cubs want to build through the farm system and player development so every pick is important at this stage -- and it's another reason Cubs probably won't be signing big Type A FAs like Pujols/Fielder.

  • What would Headley's cost be in terms of prospects?

    My gut reaction is to not pursue Headley, simply because trading away prospects seems odd at this point. That said, could a trade centered around Vitters and a bullpen arm (Russel?) possibly be enough?

  • In reply to WGNstatic:

    I've actually heard they've had interest in Russell but nothing on Vitters. Russell would be cheaper for them than Marshall but it would also mean we'd have to add a decent prospect. The Cubs haven't had any serious talks yet and things are closed to the vest right now. There's some talk they'd want us to take on Hudson's contract as well, which I'd be willing to do if it means giving them a lesser prospect. That could mean we'd have to give them Barney too, another cheap option for them.

  • Since the topic of creative ways to get a 3B man was brought up, I've thought for a couple years now that Soto should be moved out of catcher to the corner infield. I've also imagined how ideal it would be if he could play 3B.... I know it's pie in the sky thinking and would be a HUGE undertaking to move him there, but I think he would have enough power and OBP skills in his bat for the position while still allowing for a lefty 1b man. I dont think this would actually happen but thought I'd throw it out there... What do you guys think?

  • In reply to Puma0821:

    Funny you should say that because Soto was drafted as a 3B, I believe, but I have to think there's a reason they moved him to catcher. I would also think both Soto and the Cubs would be reluctant to move as it would kill his value on the open market.

    Don't forget the Cubs have a lot of depth at 3B in the minors and the hope is that at least one of LeMahieu, Vitters, Lake, or Baez pan out. There's also Dustin Geiger and Ryan Flaherty.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    True and if he can't play it then fine, but I've always thought his bat is valuable enough that conserving his knees and lenghtening his career would be worth it. And with the extra ABs he could probably be around 20-25 Hrs per year as well.

  • In reply to Puma0821:

    It seems like giving Soto time at 1B is a more likely option. Perhaps he could see some time at 1B against lefties, spelling LaHair and giving Castillo/Clevenger more AB.

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