When the Cubs designated Bryan LaHair for assignment earlier this week it was reportedly because they were working on a deal to send the first baseman to Japan and now we have the details of that agreement.
According to ESPN Chicago he’ll get a two-year, $4.5 million contract to join the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and the Cubs will get $950,000 in cash to part with LaHair.
LaHair slumped horribly after making the All-Star team as a 29-year-old rookie, but he’s still a .260 hitter with 21 homers and a .764 OPS in 195 total big-league games and has consistently crushed Triple-A pitching for years.
I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t put up huge numbers in Japan and, who knows, maybe in a couple years another MLB team will feel like taking a flier on him as a cheap bench bat or platoon starter.
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.
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.