LaHair's move to Japan official

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LaHair's move to Japan official

When the Cubs designated Bryan LaHair for assignment Tuesday, all indications were the slugger would wind up in Japan.

The move overseas was made official Wednesday, with LaHair agreeing to a two-year contract with the SoftBank Hawks worth 4.7 million and 2 million a year in incentives, according to MLBTradeRumors' Ben Nicholson-Smith.

Details on LaHair deal: incl. signing bonus and buyout its a 4.7M deal for two years. Each year has 2M in incentives. Opt out after 2013. Ben Nicholson-Smith (@mlbtrben) November 22, 2012
As ESPN's Buster Olney reported, the Cubs received 950,000 in the deal.

LaHair's move to Japan is not altogether shocking.

Last winter, LaHair was coming off a phenomenal season at Triple-A Iowa (38 HR, 109 RBI) and a solid start to his Cubs career (.885 OPS in 69 plate appearances), but it was unknown exactly where he would fit in the new regime when Theo Epstein took over.

But while unfounded rumors had the Cubs reportedly courting Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder through the MLB winter meetings, LaHair was contemplating making a move to Japan to further his career. Epstein said it would probably be a mistake for LaHair to go to Japan and thought the slugger had earned a shot to play in the big leagues.

So LaHair stayed and he parlayed a hot start to the 2012 season into an All-Star appearance, but hit just .194 in July and .205 in August, giving way to Anthony Rizzo at first base.

Upon Rizzo's arrival, LaHair moved to right field -- pushing David DeJesus to center -- but struggled defensively and eventually lost his everyday job when Brett Jackson and the youth movement took effect in the season's final couple months.

As the Cubs attempt to improve their roster after a 101-loss season, there wasn't really a spot for LaHair in the team's immediate future.

Jose Quintana admits trade rumors have affected him negatively this season

Jose Quintana admits trade rumors have affected him negatively this season

Jose Quintana emerged from the third-base dugout, taking in Wrigley Field for the first time in a Cubs uniform.

But he quickly snapped back to Earth as he realized he and the other Cubs starting pitchers were to take batting practice and he forgot to bring his bat out.

Ah, the life of an American League pitcher.

It was no big deal, obviously. And minutes later, Quintana's new teammates were marveling at his swing. Even Jake Arrieta — who has five career homers (all during the last three seasons) and sported a .720 OPS last year — was impressed.

Quintana doesn't start until Sunday night against the St. Louis Cardinals, so he has two days to acclimate to Wrigley Field.

Which is good, because Quintana showed up for work today — he took Lake Shore Drive in (better known as LSD to Chicagoans) — and didn't even know where the players' entrance was:

But once he figured that out, he was all smiles, learning the lay of the land from Cubs traveling secretary Vijay Tekchandani.

It's also good for the 28-year-old left-hander to get some consistency in his life.

Everything will be easier from this point on after he admitted the trade rumors had been bouncing around his head all season.

"It was my first time [being mentioned in trades]," Quintana said. "I never heard anything about trades [before]. It was on my mind all the time. 

"[Until I realized] it's because I'm doing something good and teams want me. I just try to do my job in season. It's really hard when you have trade [rumors] around you, but for me, it's over now and I'm excited for that and really happy to be here."

The White Sox organization was all Quintana had known since 2006 and after watching as teammates Chris Sale and Adam Eaton were shipped out of town over the winter, it is easy to see how it would've been tough dealing with the uncertain future. 

Quintana entered this season with a career 3.41 ERA, but that mark sat at 5.60 through the first two months of the season as the trade rumors swirled.

But the veteran southpaw eventually figured it out — just like he said — and has been on fire since then, posting a 2.30 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 47 innings since the start of June.

His first game as a Cub — Sunday against the Orioles in Baltimore, still with a DH — resulted in 12 Ks across seven shutout innings.

Quintana is excited for his first start in a Cubs uniform at Wrigley Sunday night (so much so that he used the word "excited" at least seven times in his five-minute media session) and just recently got a few bats to put that BP prowess into action in a game.

He was pushed back a day, so he will completely miss the Crosstown series next week and will not pitch against his former mates. 

That might be the right move, as he admitted it would've been very difficult with the trade just over a week old by the time Monday's Crosstown opener comes along.

"It was difficult for me because I played there for six seasons," he said. "It wasn't easy when I heard [I was traded]. It was a little hard for me, but I understand it's part of business and this is the best for me, too.

"Trades happen for a reason and I'm really happy to be here with these teammates, this organization; they were champions last year. We have a really good chance this year. I'm excited to be here."

As for the trade rumors, Quintana is content now. Especially since he and his family don't even have to move.

"As my wife said," Quintana stated, "'You can sleep now.'"

Joe Maddon updates injury status of Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks heading into Cardinals series

Joe Maddon updates injury status of Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks heading into Cardinals series

Kris Bryant will likely miss the first two games of this weekend's series against the St. Louis Cardinals and could miss the whole three-game set, according to Joe Maddon.

The Cubs manager said the reigning National League MVP will be sidelined as he recovers from a sore finger, injured when he slid head first into third base in the first inning of Wednesday's series-finale against the Atlanta Braves down in Georgia.

"He's just not ready today, but we're going to do this (as) a day-by-day thing," Maddon said. "I really don't know. If I had to guess, probably not tomorrow, too. And possibly on Sunday, but I really don't know.

"He healed well with the ankle, we did not expect that to come back very quickly and it did. So I'm just trying to not jump to conclusions right now."

"It's sore. It's just a soreness and he's got to grip the bat, and that's what it really comes down to."

The Cubs have suddenly closed within a game of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers after winning the first six games out of the All-Star break. Certainly losing Bryant for any time, no matter how brief, is a blow to the Cubs' lineup — and their rampage up the NL Central standings — but things could be way worse. A day-to-day situation is preferable to Bryant and his .401 on-base percentage heading for a lengthy stay on the disabled list.

Bryant's absence Friday meant right fielder Jason Heyward was at the top of the Cubs' lineup. It's just the third time Heyward has started in the leadoff spot since joining the Cubs. He was 0-for-7 in those two starts in June of last year.

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In addition to Bryant, there was an update of sorts on injured starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who could return to the rotation next week, per Maddon.

"More than likely next week, probably early next week. We're looking at that, but we're really not ready to make any other kinds of conclusions or announcements yet," Maddon said. "He's there. He's ready to rock n roll."

Hendricks' return to the rotation will be another shot in the arm for a starting staff that just received a huge upgrade in the form of Jose Quintana. Hendricks has been on the disabled list since June 8, when he went on the shelf with tendinitis in his right hand.

Hendricks logged 8.1 innings in two rehab starts with Double-A Tennessee recently, going 15 up, 15 down in his second outing. It sounds like he'll pitch in one of the four games against the White Sox next week.

Adding Hendricks and Quintana to a rotation featuring Jon Lester and an improving Jake Arrieta figures to make for a far different starting-pitching picture in the second half of the season following an inconsistent first half.