One side effect of Anthony Rizzo’s emergence for the Cubs is that Bryan LaHair has fallen completely out of the team’s plans just months after being named an All-Star.
LaHair was a great story in the first half, finally getting his big chance at age 29 after a decade in the minors and hitting .286 with 14 homers and an .883 OPS to represent the Cubs in the All-Star game.
However, he’d already begun slumping by then and after initially trying LaHair in the outfield once Rizzo arrived the Cubs have basically given him a permanent spot on the bench. LaHair has a grand total of 101 plate appearances in the second half and has hit just .187. Dating back even further, since hitting .384 with a 1.243 OPS through May 10 he’s hit just .212 with a .612 OPS in 88 games.
When asked yesterday about LaHair’s status, manager Dale Sveum said:
I think for his sake he needs to go play winter ball again and get those at-bats he missed out on and be ready for spring training just like he was this year. … Yeah, that [securing a big role with the Cubs will be difficult] goes unsaid really. Rizzo is healthy and playing time will be tough to find.
Obviously the Cubs will try to get something for LaHair this offseason, but much like we saw with Evan Meek and the Pirates yesterday the “former All-Star” label isn’t exactly guaranteed to create trade interest when the selection was iffy in the first place.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.