Bryan LaHair was one of the nice stories of the 2012 season, as the Triple-A veteran rode a .390 April to one of the more unlikely All-Star Game appearances in recent seasons.
It's understandable why LaHair would make the move -- after years of Triple-A salaries and one season in the majors, he'd basically be making the major league minimum yet again, but will likely draw a larger salary in Japan. When you're 30 and not guaranteed a big league job, it makes sense.
While LaHair ended up hitting .291/.362/.503 against right-handers, the Cubs didn't have a spot for him with the emergence of Anthony Rizzo, and LaHair played sparingly in the second half. But LaHair can hit right-handers and can play left field in a pinch. You'd think there would be room for him on a big league roster, but with 13-man pitching staffs, most teams won't carry a platoon first baseman these days.
But here's a lesson: The Oakland A's bolstered their offense by platooning Brandon Moss and Chris Carter at first base, and the two combined for 37 home runs in fewer than 600 plate appearances. Oakland first basemen hit 31 home runs (Daric Barton was ineffective there early on, leading to the Moss/Carter platoon), which ranked sixth in the majors. Meanwhile, nine teams received 20 or fewer home runs from first base and seven posted an OPS under .700. The Texas Rangers -- the team the A's beat out on the final day to win the AL West -- received a pathetic .251/.301/.399 line from first base. First-base production was a huge reason the A's beat out the Rangers. The Tampa Bay Rays played Carlos Pena most of the year at first base and he hit .176 against lefties as Tampa finished with a .683 OPS from first base. That was one reason the Rays missed the playoffs.
Punting offense at first base to carry an eighth reliever is unacceptable, not when there are options like LaHair out there. More teams need to think like the A's, and quit playing guys like James Loney, Casey McGehee, Todd Helton and Casey Kotchman.