The Cleveland Indians signed first baseman/outfielder Bryan LaHair to a minor league deal with a spring training invite, the team announced on Wednesday afternoon.
LaHair, 31, is most well known for his torrential start to the 2012 season with the Chicago Cubs. A long-time minor leaguer and 2011 Triple-A Pacific Coast League MVP, he earned the team’s starting first baseman job almost by default. Top prospect Anthony Rizzo was simply waiting in the wings in the minors.
Through May, LaHair batted .308/.396/.582 with 10 doubles, 10 homers and 22 RBI in only 45 games and 169 plate appearances. His success was one of the best stories in baseball. That run helped him become an 2012 National League All-Star.
But right on cue, he started cooling off considerably in June, batting only .222/.284/.351 in his final 211 plate appearances for the year. Rizzo became a regular starter by July 2012 and later was given a seven-year deal in May 2013. He’s Chicago’s brightest offensive star.
Without a job following the 2012 season, LaHair was purchased by the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japan Pacific League. He struggled overseas, batting .230/.306/.428 in 111 games. The team granted him his release just two weeks ago on Jan. 22, 2014.
For his career, the left-handed hitter owns a .297/.368/.528 line in 653 Triple-A games and a .260/.334/.430 line in 195 MLB games. He also has assorted experience at both corner outfield positions.
Expectations likely should be low for LaHair, as he wasn’t very good after his hot two months in 2012 and then produced sub-par numbers over in Japan. Again, it’s simply another low-risk deal for the Indians, who continue to stockpile veterans for their spring training roster.
Previous position player signings include Elliot Johnson, Jeff Francoeur, Nyjer Morgan, Matt Treanor, Luke Carlin and David Adams. Cleveland has a glaring need for a backup catcher and is trying out alternative options at third base, but no other glaring holes. Certainly, if any of these players catch fire in Arizona, however, they could force their way onto the 25-man roster at some point.
Jacob Rosen is a long-time contributor to WaitingForNextYear. He's also a writer online at SportsAnalyticsBlog and Nylon Calculus . An Akron native, Jacob is a current MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. You can follow him on Twitter @WFNYJacob or e-mail him at udjrosen(at)gmail(dot)com.