LaHair’s year comes full circle; from All-Star to Japan

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Bryan LaHair’s unusual 2012 season with the Cubs went from starting first baseman to All-Star to bench player. On Tuesday, the Cubs designated him for assignment while working to help him sign with a club in Japan.

That was part of several roster moves the team made Tuesday, including acquiring minor league pitcher Barret Loux from Texas for Class AA righthander Jake Brigham while adding four players to the 40-man roster.

Loux, 23, and a player to be named later will come from Texas while Brigham, 24, returns to Texas after coming from the Rangers in July as part of the deal sending catcher Geovany Soto to Texas.

LaHair began the season winning the first baseman’s job after Carlos Pena wasn’t re-signed. He was considered the placeholder until prospect Anthony Rizzo was ready to take over.

But LaHair, 30, surprised the team–and the National League–with a strong first half that saw him hit .286 with 14 home runs and 30 RBI. Those statistics earned him selection to the National League All Star team by voting among players.

Rizzo’s promotion to the major league team in June changed things, with LaHair relegated to the bench.

He hit only .202 with two home runs and 10 RBI in the second half.

The Cubs designated him for assignment in an effort to help him sign with a club in Japan.

The team made several other moves Tuesday, including

adding Class AA right-hander Trey McNutt, Class A infielder Christian Villanueva, Class A pitcher Robert Whitenack and Class AA infielder Logan Watkins to the 40-man roster.

McNutt, 23, has a 27-16 record and 3.45 ERA in four minor league seasons. He entered the 2012 season ranked the fourth best prospect in the organization by “Baseball America”.

Villanueva, 21, was acquired from the Rangers as part of the trade sending pitcher Ryan Dempster to Texas.

Watkins, 23, was named the organization’s 2012 minor league player of the year after hitting .281 with 20 doubles, 11 triples, nine home runs and 52 RBI. He led the Southern League in runs scored and was second in triples.

Whitenack, 24, pitched at Class A Daytona this season after coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2011.

The Cubs also added righthanded pitcher Carlos Gutierrez to Class AAA Iowa’s roster after he cleared waivers.

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