Apr 29, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair (6) scores beating the throw to Philadelphia Phillies catcher Brian Schneider (23) during the eighth inning at Citizens Bank Park. The Cubs defeated the Phillies 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
First Baseman Bryan LaHair to Compete for Spot
The Indians took another step towards improving their vertical depth on Wednesday when they came to agreement on a one year minor league contract with free agent first baseman, Bryan LaHair. The deal will also include an invitation to spring training and a chance to make the big league club.
LaHair, who turned 31 back in November, spent the entirety of the 2013 season playing in Japan. However, if you recall, LaHair made the National League All-Star team in 2012 while a member of the Chicago Cubs. Unfortunately, the majority of the damage LaHair did at the plate that year came prior to the all-star break. In his first 74 games, he hit .286/.364/.519 with 14 home runs and 30 RBI for an underachieving Cubs team. After the all-star break things fell apart. In the final 56 games after the break, LaHair hit only .202/.269/.303 with 2 home runs and 10 RBI.
Prior to that magical first half in 2012, Bryan LaHair had spent the majority of his professional career in the minor league systems of the Mariners and the Cubs. In fact, 2012 was LaHair’s first full season in the majors having played in only 20 games for the Cubs in 2011 and 45 games for the Mariners in 2008. Ultimately, what looked like a feel good story about a late bloomer proved to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
That’s not to say Bryan LaHair can’t provide the Indians with some type of value if given the proper opportunities. Like most of the players the Indians have signed so far this off-season, their flaws have been exposed when thrown into the lineup on an everyday basis. For LaHair, finding opportunities against right-handed pitching would be ideal. In his career, the majority of LaHair’s big league at bats have come against righties – the exact ratio is
503 plate appearances against righties and 98 against lefties. Nearly all of his success has come against righties.
If LaHair should find a way onto the Indians big league roster, it will most likely be at the very end of the bench where he would serve as the team’s fifth outfielder, and back-up DH and first basemen. Even in those limited roles that is exactly what LaHair’s contributions would be, limited. Expecting the 2012 first half version of Bryan LaHair would be a stretch.
That said, should the Indians choose to hold on to Bryan LaHair and stash him away in triple-A Columbus, he could serve as legitimate emergency fill in should the injury bug befall the Indians during the season. Of course, that’s assuming LaHair performs well enough during spring training to warrant the demotion to Columbus. As previously mentioned, LaHair spent 2013 playing in Japan where he hit .230/.306/.428. Pair that with the second half of 2012 and the past year and a half for Bryan LaHair hasn’t been exactly awe-inspiring.
Once again, this move by the Indians was extremely low risk and gives them another body to plug into the lineup should the need arise. It’s the same reason why the Indians also signed Jeff Francoeur, Matt Treanor, and Matt Carson. You can never have too much depth. For Bryan LaHair, this is a shot at redemption and one more chance to make his major league dreams come true. Can he make the most of it? We’ll see, but as of today the odds are surely stacked against him.