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The Year Of LaHair?

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May 6, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair (6) hits a double during the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

The free agent class of the 2012 was billed as the year of the first basemen. Mainly because of the top two free agent first basement that were available to teams on the free agent market. Those two were Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, formerly of the St Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers respectively.  The Cubs were closely linked to the top free agents of the 2012 class. Reason being the Cubs had a free agent first baseman in Carlos Pena that was likely going to sign with another team for the 2012 season.  There was not a day that went by without the Cubs being mentioned as possible suitors for either Pujols or Fielder.

No matter what reporter you asked, there would always be a smokescreen that the Cubs were secretly pursuing Pujols or Fielder. One day, the Cubs were front-runners to sign Pujols. The next, they were the favorite to sign Fielder.  But there was one option that was not discussed. That option was Bryan LaHair. LaHair spent the previous two seasons with the Iowa Cubs and put up prolific power numbers while playing for the Cubs’ Triple A affiliate. However, LaHair’s name did not have the same ring to it as Pujols and Fielder had.

As we have learned, the Cubs interest in Pujols and Fielder was nothing but a mere smokescreen. Pujols signed a lucrative contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Fielder took his talents to Detroit. Even with Pujos and Fielder off the market, the answer for Cubs fans was not LaHair. The Cubs fans feelings towards LaHair were all in spite of both Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer publicly endorsing the career minor leaguer.

Then in a trade that sent Andrew Cashner to the San Diego Padres, the Cubs received first baseman Anthony Rizzo in return. Rizzo was immediately hyped as the long-term solution for the Cubs at the first base position and hailed as the first basemen of the future. Rizzo’s arrival seemed to have pushed LaHair out of the spotlight for the first base position, and many fans were anxious to witness Rizzo playing first base for the Cubs at Wrigley Field. This would be why there was some disappointment when LaHair was on the Opening Day roster as the Cubs starting first baseman and Rizzo was the starting first baseman for the Iowa Cubs.

Once Opening Day came around, Cubs fans were constantly asking the question when would Rizzo be brought up to the Major League level? No one ever considered the possibility that LaHair would succeed in his opportunity as the Cubs’ starting first baseman. Succeed is what LaHair has done so far through the 2012 season. The 29 year old first baseman is hitting .388/.479/.800/1.279 to go along with 8 home runs, which is the most by any Major League first baseman. To put LaHair’s number into perspective: Pujols is hitting .197/.236/.291/.526 on the season with one home run, and Fielder is hitting .308/.381/.452/.833 with 4 home runs.

So after the first month of the season, LaHair is having a statistically better season than the two options that most Cubs fans wanted in the off-season. Now it may be likely that both Fielder and Pujols finish ahead of LaHair statistically at the end of the season, it does not mean that LaHair will not be productive. If anything, LaHair has proven during the first month of the 2012 season that he will not only be the Cubs top offensive producer, but one of the top offensive producers throughout the entire National League.

The Cubs face an interesting situation if the LaHair continues to produce on the Major League team, and Rizzo continues to produce with the Iowa Cubs. Because of this reason, many fans have asked about LaHair’s trade value. Despite LaHair having been impressive for the start of the 2012 season, the first baseman still has minimal trade value. Teams will first have to see LaHair put together a solid first half of play before being interested in the first baseman. Assuming LaHair continues his success, there is no guarantee that the Cubs are going to trade him. Epstein and Hoyer have both very strong and vocal in their endorsements of LaHair. I would say that it is more likely that the Cubs move LaHair to the outfield and have Rizzo play first base. That scenario would allow the Cubs to have two left handed run producers in their lineup.

Rizzo may be the future, but for now at least, we appear to be in the year of LaHair.