Even going back to the winter, it had to be tough to be Bryan LaHair.
Though it was announced early that LaHair would be the team’s first baseman to start the season, most knew he was nothing more than a place holder for Rizzo, once he was ready to make the jump to the bigs. Even a hot start by LaHair wasn’t able to end that type of talk.
LaHair has cooled off a bit from his hot start, but he still boasts some impressive numbers on the season. He’s hitting .308 for the year, with a .396 on-base percentage. The power numbers are there too, with 10 home runs on the year, though you wish he’d make contact with a little more regularity.
Even if LaHair picks it back up and somehow grabs an All Star bid, the Rizzo talk isn’t going to die. There’s no denying the fact that he will be up, probably by the end of June, when he’ll be officially under team control for an extra year. There are plenty of scenarios that feature a lineup with both Rizzo and LaHair, but do they translate to beyond this season?
Many figure that once Rizzo is called up permanently, LaHair will be forced to find a new home. And with the way he’s played this year, the Cubs could likely find a taker for him. But should they take a look a dealing him, or considering keeping him around.
On a team like this, the case is easy to make in favor of trading just about anyone. Your organization needs to be improved from top to bottom and you can’t really afford to hang onto guys that won’t be around when you’re ready to contend. And LaHair is 29, just to add to that argument.
But this is an intriguing situation. Rizzo is going to play first, there’s no doubt about that. He has Gold Glove potential over there. LaHair is capable in the outfield too. Is there a future in Chicago for both LaHair and Rizzo?
That depends on the trade market. Dealing Alfonso Soriano would be tough, and has proven to be, but David DeJesus could be a popular name out on the trade market to open up a spot in the outfield corner. That would leave LaHair in the outfield for the remainder of the season, assuming he doesn’t find his way out as well.
Personally, I like the idea of keeping both Rizzo and LaHair in Chicago beyond this season. There are obviously a ton of factors that have to work into that. Rizzo has to come up and succeed. LaHair has to survive the trade deadline, as well as prove that his hot start wasn’t an illusion.
But putting two big boppers that bat lefty in the middle of the lineup could prove to be a tremendous asset for the Cubs moving forward. LaHair might be 29, but there isn’t a big amount of wear and tear on his body. He should have some good years left, assuming he’s for real.
There are plenty of variables to be worked out, not only for the remainder of the season, but for the next offseason as well. Whether or not the Cubs will put thought into retaining LaHair for the longer term after Rizzo becomes a fixture remains to be seen, but it doesn’t seem like the worst idea.