On a stormy June 2002 night in New York the names were announced in 5 minute intervals. After 38 completed rounds of 30 and 1179 picks, and exactly 10 years from the Transit of Venus, Bryan LaHair‘s name is called for the Seattle Mariners. A Right Fielder out of St. Petersburg College, LaHair was taken after such studs as: John Mayberry (1st), Randall Frye (3rd), Eric Blakley (21st), Vance Hall (21st) and Deandre Green (38th). Bryan’s below average minor league career led to his release from the Mariners in 2009. The Cubs signed him two months later. It was at this point when LaHair realized that slow and steady wasn’t going to win this.
The next season Bryan turned it on. He hit 25 home runs and batted .308. Last season (2011) in Iowa LaHair batted .331 and hit 38 home runs. He spent a little time in the majors that year playing 20 games hitting .280 with 2 home runs. His strong showing in Iowa and a solid spring in 2012 led to the veteran farm hand breaking with Chicago.
[Other notable 39th Round Legends:
- Eric Decker (drafted by the Brewers & never signed, drafted again the next season earlier…now catches passes from Peyton Manning.
- Daniel Desouza (he’s the guy the Cubs took in the same draft before LaHair
- Luke Hochevar (2002 by the Dodgers)
- Kenny Rogers (1982 by the Rangers) Also, the other Kenny Rogers starred in the classic film “Six Pack” and released #1 on everyone’s playlist, “Love Will Turn You Around,” in 1982.
This season Bryan LaHair has been one of the few positive things to come out of the North Side. At the time this is written, he is hitting .310 with 12 Home runs, 25 RBI while sporting an OBP of .391 and a SLG of .589. It would be natural to say that he is finally living up to his projections…but let’s be real. A 39th round pick had no projections or expectations really at any point in his career. This is a Disney-esk movie scenario about a man who never gave up and kept digging until he got his chance in the big leagues.
The real question here is, if you are Theo Epstein what do you do with LaHair?
Here’s Theo’s conundrum:
A) Anthony Rizzo– …is waiting in the shadows…not unlike Darkwing Duck. I think we can all agree that Bryan LaHair wasn’t supposed to be doing this well. He was supposed to carry his Spring Training momentum through the first quarter of the season to keep the seat warm for Anthony Rizzo. A player Theo drafted and considered a top prospect when he was in Boston, so much that he was a part of the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston..oh by the way the guy that brokered that deal on the San Diego Padres side is now also with the Cubs.
II) LaHair has a limited sample size (as I have driven into the ground earlier). Do you trade high?
3) Or, do you hang on hoping he’s a late bloomer and build with him and Rizzo? This would mean that LaHair would need to move to another position. Probably Right Field since that’s his secondary comfort food.
Standing in Bryan’s way in Right Field is the juggernaut that is David DeJesus. Those are pretty big shoes to fill. I mean, DeJesus was the AL “Player of the Week” in 2005 once. AND, he has Jesus in his name. That alone puts him in the Tim Tebow realm.
Obviously, Right Field wouldn’t be an issue. Where this discussion gets interesting is with Bryan’s contract situation. LaHair is locked up until 2018 and isn’t arbitration eligible until 2015. He is making $482,500 this season. As a benchmark, Alfonso Soriano is making $18,000,000 this year, Geovany Soto is making $4.5 million this year, Ian Stewart is making $2.2 million, DeJesus is making $4.25. My point is that he makes less than anyone else on the starting lineup.
This makes these sell high option much more enticing. Especially since the Chicago Cubs will not be buyers at the deadline, they will most certainly be sellers.
If it were me (which means this statement will assuredly be wrong) I see what I can get for Bryan LaHair on the market. The Cubs need to be rebuilt. So, they need to replenish the farm system. Package LaHair in a deal with one of the ridiculous contracts to a contender and reload the prospects. This isn’t because I don’t believe that LaHair cannot maintain his major league productivity, I just don’t think he’ll be able to maintain it long enough (as is years) to be a part of the reconstruction process for the Chicago Cubs.
“Well then who gets him?”
- How about Miami? Gaby Sanchez isn’t having a great season and unless he turns it around the Marlins could need a First Baseman.
- Texas Rangers? Mitch Moreland is inconsistent and streaky. Also, I’m sure they would love to get Soriano back….right?
- Los Angeles Dodgers? I mean… no one trusts James Loney.
- St. Louis Cardinals? If Berkman doesn’t make it back and they are in contention they could look to make a move. But, would Theo deal to the hated Cardinals? For one of their pitching prospects I bet he would.