Opening Day 2013 is just two days away for the Chicago Cubs. 2012 MLB All-Star Bryan LaHair is playing for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the Nippon Professional Baseball League of Japan. What might have been if LaHair had stayed and competed for a roster spot this season?
It appears as if Steve Clevenger will win the final spot on the bench. The Cubs need someone who can fill in for Ian Stewart. Stewart missed all Cactus League games with a quad injury. Clevenger has spent the offseason trying to become a utility infielder who can serve as an emergency first baseman or third baseman.
If Clevenger makes the team, he’ll make for a bench that includes Scott Hairston, Dioner Navarro, Brent Lillibridge and Dave Sappelt. Sappelt was recognized as the fifth outfielder when Brian Bogusevic was demoted to Triple-A. In 39 spring at-bats, Bogusevic had a .410 batting average with a 1.145 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Those numbers weren’t enough for Bogusevic to win a roster spot. The Cubs wanted Sappelt because of his career numbers against left-handed pitching. He continued to have success against them during the spring. At age 26, Sappelt should have more upside than Bogusevic. As a No. 5 outfielder, Sappelt is the better fit on a rebuilding team.
At age 30, LaHair was destined for a career as a Quadruple-A player. Those are the players who are constantly promoted and demoted from Triple-A to the 25-man roster. The problem with LaHair was that he didn’t respond once MLB pitchers figured him out in the second half of the season. Excluding October, LaHair’s on-base percentage was less than .300 in each of the last four months.
Even if LaHair had stayed, he wasn’t helping the Cubs in 2013. If Bogusevic didn’t win a roster spot with his production, then neither would LaHair. At most, LaHair would’ve been an insurance policy for injuries or if the Cubs traded one of their outfielders at the July trade deadline.