By Kirby Arnold
Bryan LaHair may never become more than a 4A player. But to those who would like to have seen the big first baseman get a real chance to disprove that, his next opportunity will come with the Chicago Cubs.
Foxsports.com is reporting that LaHair, 27, has signed a minor league contract with the Cubs with an invitation to their major league spring training camp.
LaHair, a power-hitting first baseman who rose from a 39th-round draft pick in 2002 to the Mariners’ minor league MVP in 2006, played only 45 big-league games before the organization essentially gave up on him.
GM Jack Zduriencik’s regime took over a year ago and had different ideas, and prospects, to try at first base. LaHair moved to left field and batted .289 with 26 home runs and 85 RBI last year at Class AAA Tacoma, but the end obviously was near. The Mariners cut him loose after the season and, hopefully in LaHair’s case, a new organization will allow him to flourish.
Too bad he didn’t have a chance to show more of his left-handed power in a big-league setting. The Mariners called him up and gave him 136 big-league at-bats in 2008, but the combination of an oblique injury and the pressure he put on himself limited LaHair to a .250 average and three home runs. It seemed alarmig that a guy with so much power drove the ball so seldom.
Last January, I ran into both LaHair and minor league hitting coach Terry Pollreisz at the Mariners’ training complex in Arizona, and Pollreisz promised we’d see a healthier and more productive hitter in 2009. LaHair was, but his time already had run out as the Mariners’ new management moved on with other first baseman like Mike Carp and Jeff Clement at Tacoma.
Now LaHair will compete for a bench job with the Cubs, and a lot of Mariners fans who’d followed him since his first pro season in Everett in 2003 will watch with great interest.