Bryan LaHair batted .286/.364/.519 with 14 home runs over his first 74 games this season for the Cubs and was named to the NL All-Star team in early July.
Four months later, he’s out of the major leagues.
According to MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, the Cubs designated LaHair for assignment on Tuesday night so that he can pursue an opportunity in Japan. He hasn’t signed with an NPB team yet, but indications are that he will at some point in the near future.
LaHair was selected by the Mariners in the 39th round of the 2002 MLB Amateur Draft, then toiled away in the minor leagues for several seasons before finally being granted everyday playing time this past summer in Chicago. That steady climb through baseball’s professional ranks will now shift overseas, where LaHair’s raw power could make him a fan favorite.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.
Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.
It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.