Cubs

What should LaHair's role be in 2012?

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What should LaHair's role be in 2012?

Where will Prince Fielder sign?

Who cares? The Cubs have their first baseman of the (near) future already.

I mean, don't they?

Bryan LaHair certainly deserves at least a long look for the vacant position. The 29-year-old had a very solid season in 2010, his first year with the Cubs organization. But it was nothing compared to his 2011 (to date).

He absolutely annihilated Triple-A pitching this season and he didn't slow down over his brief stint in the Majors or during the Venezuelan Winter League.

In all (Triple-A, Majors, Winter League), LaHair has hit .311.405.629 in 677 at-bats with 127 runs, 211 hits, 51 doubles, a triple, 54 homers, 143 RBI, 105 walks and 180 strikeouts.

The whiff numbers are a bit high, but you can't argue with that power. Four-hundred-twenty-six total bases in 677 at-bats is just astounding. Those are video game numbers.

Granted, Venezuelan Winter League isn't exactly filled with a bunch of Cy Youngs, but it's no slouch of a league.

LaHair's 2011 Triple-A success netted him a slew of accolades, including the Pacific Coast League MVP, Joe Bauman Home Run Award and a spot on the Baseball America 2011 Minor League All Star team.

He showed the same ability in the brief stint with the big-league club with time at first and 14 games in the outfield.

It's true he could be one of the Cubs' outfielders next year or rotate through first and outfield. But on a team currently without a first baseman, LaHair has the bat to fill that position.

Theo Epstein says he doesn't believe in the "Four-A" players, or guys who are too good for Triple-A, but not good enough for the MLB. Given LaHair's numbers, he's too good for Triple-A now. Which means he deserves a shot.

The former 39th round pick of the 2002 draft turned 29 in November, so while he's too old to be considered a prospect, he's still young enough to have at least three full seasons in his physical prime.

The power is for real. The 2012 Cubs are sorely lacking power and the free agent market is sorely lacking in talent at first base -- apart from Fielder, who is still a relative long shot to sign on the North Side because of the financial commitment, and Carlos Pena, who very well may re-sign with the franchise that grew to admire him.

Signing Pena to another "pillow contract" would be a pretty good move, which could slide LaHair in as the backup first baseman and at least a part-time outfielder (if the Cubs deal Soriano, LaHair could get the lion's share of time in left).

Either way, LaHair has proven he deserves a shot and he has the big bopper potential this 2012 Cubs lineup needs.
(numbers are through Tuesday, Dec. 27)

Cubs Talk Podcast: Is Kris Bryant the new Curt Flood?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Is Kris Bryant the new Curt Flood?

This has been the offseason of Kris Bryant rumors and with his grievance still unresolved Cubs fans can only speculate what will happen to the MVP. Is Kris Bryant trying to change the system like Curt Flood did? Host David Kaplan is joined by ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers to discuss Bryant's future as a Cub, and the lackluster offseason the Cubs have had.

(1:50) - Why the Cubs have not made any moves so far

(3:32) - Is Kris Bryant the new Curt Flood?

(6:26) - Cubs need upgrades, specifically in the bullpen

(9:10) - Will the Cubs make a big move before the season starts?

(11:30) - Does Javy Baez get the big extension?

(14:45) - Will the Cubs get to 86 wins this year?

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Cubs close to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

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USA TODAY

Cubs close to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

The Cubs have made a roster move.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are reportedly close to a deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza.

Souza, 30, missed the 2019 season after suffering a torn left ACL and LCL at the end of spring training. He also missed a chunk of 2018, playing 72 games while hitting the injured list on multiple occasions.

Souza had a career year with the Rays in 2017, slashing .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBIs and a 121 wRC+. Those figures were career-bests for Souza, minus his batting average. He sported a walk rate (13.6 percent) above league average (8.5) that season, though his strikeout rate (29 percent) was worse than the MLB average (23).

The signing of Souza likely rules out a return of fan favorite outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. The Cubs have been linked to Castellanos throughout the offseason, but since they're looking to stay under MLB’s luxury tax threshold, re-signing Castellanos would require some financial maneuvering.

Souza has spent most of his career in right field (3,608 career innings) but has minimal experience playing center (33 1/3) and left (20). He’s above average in right (career 6 Defensive Runs Saved) and posted a career best 7 DRS in 2017.

The Cubs have a five-time Gold Glove right fielder in Jason Heyward, so Souza will see time at all three outfield spots. Heyward moved to center full-time last season after the Cubs acquired Castellanos and has played center at times throughout his career.

Assuming he stays healthy, Souza is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Cubs. He’ll add power to the middle of the order and add a proven bat to an outfield with some question marks. Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ have each struggled offensively at times since 2018. Souza offers another bat in case those two slump again.