As the Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein is taking a vastly different approach to building this team than he did with the Boston Red Sox. In the past, Epstein was engaged in a virtual arms race with the New York Yankees to see who could spend the most money on free agents.
I think many Cubs fans expected Epstein to employ a similar approach in Chicago. However, Epstein passed on the two biggest MLB free agents of 2012, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. I couldn't believe with the Cubs' financial resources, Epstein chose Bryan LaHair over Pujols and Fielder. But now I'm glad he did!
As the best active MLB player, I really wanted to see Albert Pujols become a Cub. It also would have been nice to see Pujols leave the hated St. Louis Cardinals to play in Wrigley Field. All things being equal, I'm sure Theo Epstein wouldn't have minded it either. But given his age, Pujols' demands were too high.
MLB players often experience a decline after signing a lucrative contract. However, Albert Pujols' early season slump was epic. As of May 9, Pujols had a grand total of one home run and was hitting .198. Los Angeles Angels fans were actually booing Pujols. Even Alfonso Soriano has a higher batting average than Pujols.
The other golden boy of the 2012 MLB free agent market was Prince Fielder. Like Pujols, Fielder is a first baseman and his prodigious offensive numbers also commanded a large contract. Prince Fielder also played for a Cubs rival in the past and I would have enjoyed witnessing the angst of Milwaukee Brewers' fans if Fielder played in Chicago.
However, unlike Pujols, Prince Fielder is not exactly a physical specimen. I'm sure Theo Epstein had second thoughts about signing someone of Fielder's physique to a long term contract who may not have the longevity to fulfill it. But in fairness, Prince Fielder is playing well for the Detroit Tigers with a .309 average and five home runs.
However, Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair is making Theo Epstein look like a genius. In two seasons with the Iowa Cubs, LaHair hit .320 with 63 home runs. So far this season, Bryan LaHair is hitting .384 with eight home runs. In fact, LaHair is leading the league with a .476 OBP. But there's an even better Bryan LaHair stat.
Albert Pujols' base salary in 2012 is $12,000,000. Prince Fielder's base salary in 2012 is $23,000,000. What is Bryan LaHair's 2012 base salary? Brace yourselves, Cubs' fans. In 2012, Bryan LaHair will earn a base salary of $482,500!
If his brilliance in choosing Bryan LaHair is any indication, maybe Theo Epstein will help the Chicago Cubs win the World Series someday!
Patrick Michael is a resident of New Orleans, but grew up watching the Chicago Cubs on WGN with Harry Caray and Steve Stone as the Cubs announcers. A diehard Cubs fan, Patrick's favorite season was 1984 when the Cubs were one win away from reaching the World Series. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
"Bryan LaHair," baseball-reference.com
"Albert Pujols," baseball-reference.com
"Prince Fielder," baseball-reference.com
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