Chicago Cubs: 10 Reasons They Should Sell High on Bryan LaHair ASAP
Bryan LaHair is one of the surprise stories of the 2012 season so far. A career minor leaguer with just 195 at-bats in the majors before this year, the 29-year-old first baseman ranks in the top five in both batting average and home runs in the NL.
But is LaHair a good fit for the rebuilding Cubs? The Cubs aren't ready to win anytime soon, and it is doubtful that he fits into their long-term plans. Here are 10 reasons why the Cubs should unload him while they can.
Optimize Trade Value
It is highly improbable that LaHair will ever go through a stretch more successful than the one he is currently in. He trails only Derek Jeter and Matt Kemp in batting average on the year, and he has reached base in 46 of his 95 plate appearances.
His current hot streak is turning heads around the league, and the time to make a trade is when a player is at his best. This is a time where the Cubs can optimize their return if they can find a potential buyer and unload LaHair while he is most valuable.
Make Room for Rizzo
As good as Bryan LaHair has been, we all know that he's just keeping the seat warm until it is Anthony Rizzo's time to take over. The 22-year-old Rizzo is dominating AAA and is without a doubt the Cubs' future starting first baseman.
Right now, LaHair is just blocking Rizzo's route to the majors, and there is no way that these two could coexist peacefully at the major league level. They are both primary first baseman with big power, and Rizzo already has the nod as the future stud for the Cubs.
He's Not a Talented Outfielder
Some may say that Rizzo could be brought up to play first and LaHair could be moved to a corner outfield spot—problem solved.
The issue is that LaHair is not a quality outfielder. He has played just a handful of games there in the major leagues, and it isn't a position that he could play effectively for a full season.
Even if his bat makes up for his defensive liabilities, he is much more valuable at first base. LaHair is not a very athletic type, and playing him in a position like corner outfielder limits his effectiveness and creates issues defensively.
Cubs' Outfield Depth
Even if the Cubs wanted to try LaHair out in the outfield and attempt to start both him and Rizzo on a regular basis, there is no room in an already messy outfield situation. We know that Soriano isn't going anywhere, and benching him would be throwing away millions of dollars even more than it is now.
That leaves right field for LaHair, which is occupied by David DeJesus, who is making $4.25 million this year. DeJesus is struggling mightily, but if the Cubs want to use him as trade bait down the road so they don't have to pay the rest of his contract, he has to work his way out of his slump and show signs of significance.
Also, Joe Mather is having a decent year, and a move to the outfield for LaHair would all but guarantee a demotion for Mather.
He's Already 29
LaHair has spent the better part of the last nine years in the minors, playing in nearly 1000 minor league games. This being his first full season in the majors, he is already 29 years old.
The Cubs won't be ready to put a winning product on the field for at least a few years, and while the Cubs are rebuilding, LaHair will pass up his prime baseball years.
It makes more sense to let him go now and get young players in return. These players can help the Cubs years down the road when the team is ready to compete for the playoffs and beyond.
Pitchers Haven't Figured Him out Yet
Part of the reason LaHair is having so much success is that pitchers haven't figured him out yet. Like what happens to many talented rookies who have spectacular seasons, many come back and can't do it again. There's even a phrase for it—the sophomore slump.
The pitchers that have faced LaHair so far this year have never seen him before, but the more they see of him and the more video the league has on him, the more adjustments pitchers will make and the less successful LaHair will become.
This season so far isn't a fluke, but it isn't something that he will continue for too much longer.
Get Prospects to Continue Rebuilding
Since LaHair will be likely be well into his 30s by the time the Cubs are ready to put a winning product on the field, it makes sense to not have him labeled as a priority in their future plans. Instead, if the Cubs could get two decent prospects in return, they would be much better off.
A couple of talented guys in their early twenties would not only bolster a talented farm system, but would further emphasize the rebuilding process and help the Cubs five to 10 years down the road when they are ready to win and compete for a World Series title.
He Has Been Lucky
Bryan LaHair's season has definitely been impressive, but if we look at his numbers more closely, we can see why he is having so much success and why it won't last for a substantial amount of time. He has been very lucky, lucky in the form of BABIP (batting average on balls in play).
His BABIP right now is .535, head and shoulders above the rest of the league. An acceptable number for a guy like LaHair would be about .300, maybe a little higher. He is also striking out over 30 percent of his plate appearances, which is terrible and almost in the Adam Dunn/Mark Reynolds range.
Once his BABIP starts to come down, his average will plummet to below .300, and if he keeps on striking out at his current rate, we could see some major problems in his production later on this year.
As we already know, first base and outfield are two positions that the Cubs have enough depth at, but what they could use more of is pitching, specifically relief pitching. Since they have an abundance of talent at first, why not use the excess to help them in an area of need?
The team can possibly get two quality pitching prospects or even a young major league reliever for LaHair. With the Cubs' bullpen problems so far this year, it is something that they will need to figure out in the near future. It would definitely be in the Cubs' best interest to move LaHair in order to fill this void.
Waiting Does No Good
The Cubs may wait until the trade deadline to figure out what to do with LaHair and Rizzo, but in this particular situation, waiting does no good. LaHair will never be as hot as he is right now. A major slump between now and the end of July can change the minds of potential suitors.
Also, injuries happen. Though nobody wishes for anyone to get hurt, there is a possibility that LaHair ends up on the DL and the Cubs get stuck with him for the rest of the year.
There is no scenario where waiting can do anything positive for the Cubs in terms of moving LaHair—the sooner they do it, the better.
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