Bryan LaHair, one of only two All-Stars for the Chicago Cubs last season, turns 30 today. As the outfielder grows out of his twenties, it is unclear what kind of role he will grow into with the Cubs. While he flourished in the first half of the season and captivated the city with a walk-off hit to lead the team to victory in the season finale, LaHair struggled to be consistent in the second half of the season, ultimately leading to his replacement in the outfield. His season may ultimately be defined as his being the first baseman that moved to right field to make way for Anthony Rizzo.
LaHair finished his first full MLB season with a .259 average to go along with 16 home runs and 40 RBI.
Although he played well in 2012 following a lifetime in the minor leagues, the fact remains that LaHair was a 29 year old rookie last year. Few players can have long, productive careers when they finally get their shot in the big leagues at such a late age. His feel good story was a highlight during a depressing season, but Chicago will need to decide how the birthday boy figures into the long term plans of the team. With the outfield being a question mark as a whole, the Cubs will most likely bring someone new in during the offseason.
Without a wealth of experience in the outfield, it seems reasonable that the Cubs could ship LaHair elsewhere in the upcoming months. For a team that needs a new first baseman, LaHair would make a formidable solution, as shown by his All-Star performance from the first half of 2012, when he was playing his natural position. It was only after being moved to right field to insert Rizzo into the lineup that his struggles heated up. In April when playing first, LaHair posted a .390 batting average as he took the National League by storm. Who knows what kind of numbers LaHair could have ended up with had he not had to deal with position change.
With David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano presumably coming back to the outfield next season, only one slot remains to rome to the Ivy covered walls of Wrigley. Although Brett Jackson failed to impress during his time with the Cubs last year, the team saw enough in the unproven rookie to start him consistently over LaHair at the end of the season.
If the Cubs are committed to the rebuilding process, starting a second year player in his thirties, with less than half a season of outfield experience does not seem all that logical. While the feel good story of the year lifted the team last season, it may be time for the Cubs to shop LaHair if he can not make improvements in the outfield.
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