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Nats sign veteran hitter Stairs

Dec 14, 2010, 5:26 PM EST

The Nationals have signed Matt Stairs to a minor-league contract, bringing aboard a veteran slugger who will most likely serve as their top left-handed pinch-hitter in 2011.

Stairs, who turns 43 in February, is baseball’s all-time leader with 23 pinch-hit home runs. He’s played for 12 different major-league clubs over the last 19 seasons in a career that began way back in 1992 with the Montreal Expos.

A first baseman and corner outfielder in his younger days, Stairs has been limited to DH and pinch-hitting duties in recent years. He hit .232 with six homers and 16 RBI in 78 games (111 plate appearances) for the Padres this season, with 57 of those plate appearances coming as a pinch-hitter.

The deal is not for guaranteed money, so if Stairs doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, it won’t cost the Nationals anything.

A native of New Brunswick, Stairs is 25 years older than one of the players he’ll play alongside next spring: Bryce Harper, who is set to participate in big-league camp at age 18.

  1. Wally - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:30 PM

    A small deal, perhaps, but surprising. The Nats don't seem to be constructing a roster where they can give a spot to someone who is a PH-only guy.

  2. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:34 PM

    Nats youth movement continues…

  3. Deacon Drake - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    Stairs still has a quality swing and can work the count. It would be amazing if he makes the roster, but it is always good to have that extra veteran bat handy. One of my favorite A's of all-time.btw, my first verification word was "corpse"

  4. bgib - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    OK, we're on our way now.

  5. DC Tom - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:44 PM

    The headline should be, "Nats to audition Matt Stairs for minor league hitting instructor in Spring Training."Because that's what I have to believe is happening here.

  6. Pilchard - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    Stairs numbers over the last two years have been dreadful (BA/OBO/SLG): .214/.333/.428. He also played a total of 5 innings in the field in 2010, recording no putouts or assists.Do the Nats expect those numbers to improve at age 43?I get that the Nats can simply cut Stairs with no obligation in Spring training, but since he can not play in the field, and he is no longer an offensive threat, you would think/hope that the Nats would have better non-roster options.

  7. pdowdy83 - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:53 PM

    Two words. Kevin Mench.Stairs posted a .781 ops in san diego last year. Mench got 2 hits. Stairs hit 6 HRs in 99 at bats. That is good production from a left handed bench bats. Before people knock it think about how many at bats willy taveras and kevin mench amassed on our team last year. Not to mention Stairs is a class act. Good pickup.

  8. Feel Wood - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    This would be a good move, except that knowing Riggleman he'll probably bat Stairs leadoff and then double switch him out after his first AB in favor of Alberto Gonzales.

  9. phil dunn - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    Consumate dumpster dipping!!! Stairs will be eligible to draw Social Security in a couple of years.

  10. N. Cognito - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    This would be a good move if it wasn't Matt Stairs.

  11. JamesFan - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:10 PM

    The contrast between the Nats signing Stairs and the Phillies signing Lee is not good PR. They should have waited a couple of days to announce the Stairs deal.

  12. Anonymous - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:11 PM

    Oh yeah, its such a terrible move to add the guy who tied for the lead in pinch hit homeruns last year despite playing for San Diego on a non guarenteed deal. You guys are all debbie downers.All good teams have a left handed PH. We still have Morse, AGon a catcher and that leaves another spot up for grabs on the bench as well, maybe 2.

  13. Doc - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    Willie Harris v. Matt Stairs…hmmmm. I think that Stairs, alluding to some previous comments, would do very well as the minor league hitting instructor. He has fulfilled that role at the University of Maine–and seems to like it.

  14. erocks33 - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    Pirates just inked Lyle Overbay to a 1-year deal. Nats needs to sign LaRoche NOW!

  15. JD - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:33 PM

    I read where the Nats are considered a good trading partner for Greinke because KC is looking for Catcher, mid infielders but that the Nats won't include Desmond because they consider him the SS for the next 10 years; the report also quotes an NL exec as saying that the Nats would trade Espinosa in a heart beat for Greinke. If this is true I don't get it; I think that the Nats are over valuing Desmond and under valuing Espinosa.

  16. JD - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:38 PM

    erocks33, Relax; Overbay is no big loss and LaRoche is probably holding out for a star contract; he is not a star. There are many ways to skin this cat including trades; inhouse options etc.

  17. erocks33 - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:50 PM

    JD — I'm not looking for a star at 1B right now, just someone that can play good defense and also can hit left-handed. And now, that list of players has gotten much smaller.

  18. JD - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:16 PM

    erocks, Overbay was 1.5 over replacement player last year and now he is one year older; that means if you stick anyone at first base vs. Overbay you will only win one extra game. LaRoche was 2.1 ORP. I wouldn't break the bank for either of these guys. The list is getting smaller if you only consider FA,s; there are other ways to fill positions.

  19. natscan reduxit - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    … well Halleluiah! Five days into my retirement (pause here for congratulatory applause), and now the Nats celebrate my life changing event by signing … MY HOME BOY!!… Matt Stairs, who hails from just up the road, whose parents live next door to my sister, who played for my home town Marysville Royals (look them up). Now these kinds of interpersonal connections might be pretty common for some of you guys, those of you who live cheek by jowl to everyday phenoms. But where I live, things like this don't come along everyday – your home town hero signing with your chosen team of support.Go Matt; Go Nats (and get him up to DC soon).

  20. Rob Dibble - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:30 PM

    If he makes the team he'll set the record for most franchises played for. Yackem!

  21. VladiHondo - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:32 PM

    The juxtapositon with the Lee signing is appropo, since Stairs hit a 2 run bomb off a 95 mph fastball to win game 4 of the playoffs vs. the Dodgers. So we sign a World Series ring-owner, who's down to earth, a LH bat with pop, and who's nickname was once "Wonder Hamster".It all spells "PERFECT!"

  22. natsfan1a - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:42 PM

    Wonder Hamster? Is he related to the Gerbil, aka Don Zimmer? Now, if he'd starred in a video like this, I'd be impressed: congrats, Natscan!)

  23. swang - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:51 PM

    @JDMorse is definitely not "average replacement player" at 1B. Not yet.

  24. rogieshan - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:04 PM

    Stairs knows his role and is a winner, two ingredients missing from our bench last year. And as Mark points out: "If (he) doesn't make the Opening Day roster, it won't cost the Nationals anything."

  25. PEASANTS - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:15 PM

    We want Marat, and we don't care how!We want Marat and we want him NOW!

  26. M. deSade - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:25 PM

    from the musical "The Persecution and Contraction of the Montreal Expos, as Performed by the Bloggers of the Asylum at Natstown, Under the Direction of Stan Kasten"

  27. The Great Unwashed - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:28 PM

    It's already on Wikipedia so it must be official.

  28. Doc - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:31 PM

    Ditto on congrats for Natscan! I watched a game when Stairs and Larry Walker played in the same OF for the 'Spos.Trading Espinosa for Greinke, would be good for the Royals. I hope that is one trade that Rizzo passes up.

  29. Tim - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:39 PM

    I think Stairs is a good bench pickup.

  30. Steveospeak - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:17 PM

    @Pdowdy83: Great points I have no problem with the Stairs signing. He should be a great LH pinch hitter who could always backup LF or 1B (not the prettiest of sights) in case of injury. He could be a great mentor for Bryce Harper in ST, and adds a nice vet. presence overall.

  31. DFL - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:30 PM

    Having Stairs for a Nats pinch hitting role reminds me of the equally pathetic New York Mets of 1981-83 bringing the slovenly Rusty Staub off the bench as a pinch hitter. Staub seemed to have cared more for New York's cuisine than the ballfield. Perhaps Stairs is thought to replace Adam Dunn. Stairs did hit 38 home runs for Oakland in 1999 when he was 31, the same age Dunn was when he duplicated Stairs feat last season.

  32. Anonymous - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:36 PM

    I have no problems with Stairs signing. It's a minor league deal and there is no risk in doing so. It's win win. If he makes the team great. If not you send him to AAA or cut him. What we need is a first baseman.Please Santa Rizzo. Christmas is right around the corner. Can I have a left handed hitting first baseman under the tree by Christmas morning?

  33. JD - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:43 PM

    swang,In 2010 Morse was 1.4 ORP on 293 AB's; you can probably easily extrapolate this to 2.5 WAR if he played at 1st every day; the only negative with playing Morse at 1st is that he hits right handed.

  34. pdowdy83 - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:50 PM

    JD,Thats assuming he is an average fielding first basemen. If he isn't that brings his WAR down. I think he should be in LF a lot and let him settle in there. Trade Willingham for something while we can and sign Laroche for 2 years, maybe 3. I like Morse a lot and he might be good enough for first but I wouldn't want to put all the eggs in that basket.

  35. JD - Dec 14, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    pdowdy83, Actually the 1.4 WAR includes a -5.9 for fielding in the outfield which means that he is a really bad outfielder (ALA DUNN); I think he can be less bad at 1st and if that works then you need to find a let/switch hitter for left field.

  36. Pilchard - Dec 14, 2010 at 10:38 PM

    FWIW, Morse came up as a shortstop. That was 6 years (and a significant body change) ago.

  37. natscan reduxit - Dec 14, 2010 at 11:37 PM

    "I think Stairs is a good bench pickup."… so do I; I echo some of the others who see in Matt a guy who doesn't rock boats, who has the ability to settle down a wayward bench (if needed), and who can step up to the plate and do something worthwhile…. but that said, I'm still looking for a decent 1B and someone with an arm who camn take the mound to start a game…. we ain't done yet … I hope.Go Nats!

  38. Anonymous - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:41 AM

    Good move by Rizzo. Fills need for left handed power that knows HIS PLACE on the team. And a good clubhouse guy too. These types of under the radar moves are what championship teams do in the winter. Let's hope double switch Riggs knows his place and doesn't use him in the field.

  39. BinM - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:59 AM

    To the reactionists: Matt Stairs is a minor-league signing for 2011, with an invite to Viera in 2011. That's all; No guarantees, no long-term obligations. Having 'said' that, if he does make the 25-man roster out of spring training, he needs to earn it with his current bat, and not just his reputation / history. If that means a lot of bus-trips to AL sites where he can serve as a DH, sobeit.

  40. N. Cognito - Dec 15, 2010 at 1:08 AM

    If Matt Stairs makes the 25-man roster the Nats will lose 100.The guy is in freefall and last year hit .232 .306 .475But hey, he's a great clubhouse guy!

  41. Alan_A - Dec 15, 2010 at 1:12 AM

    DFL -I remember Staub as a pretty effective pinch hitter, with numbers comparable to Lee Mazilli in late '86 and '87. And he was a good clubhouse presence as well. Obviously not what he was in his prime but still an asset. Kinda like Stairs, now that I think about it…

  42. Theophilus - Dec 15, 2010 at 2:23 AM

    You oughta at least mention who Stairs replaces as the #1 LH pinch-hitter — Willie Harris. So who says Stairs isn't a good pickup?

  43. alm1000 - Dec 15, 2010 at 2:54 AM

    "Professional hitter" Matt Stairs is a BIG upgrade over Willie, and Riggs won't double-switch him.

  44. Anonymous - Dec 15, 2010 at 3:29 AM

    The problem with Morse playing first base every day is that he is a right handed hitter. As is Chris Marerro. As is potential first bagger Derrick Norris. Bernadina in left could offset that … but he doesn't hit as well as Morse, at least not yet. Perhaps he will become a good hitter? Apparently Rizzo doesn't want to take the sort of risk Jim Bowden would have gladly embraced; in both cases.

  45. Big Cat - Dec 15, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    I wonder if Werth is starting to look around and saying to himself "This might of been a big mistake."

  46. Another_Sam - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:03 PM

    Just when I thought things were looking up. Stairs signing == same old, same old, an old used to almost be. Oh, well.

  47. Jeff - Dec 15, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    I see the Stairs' signing as a positive improvement for our bench. Is it going to change the Nats comletely in '11? No. But it is an improvement over our other PHs.

  48. Dave - Dec 15, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    @Big Cat, why would he say that? The off-season is not over.

  49. Section 223 - Dec 15, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    Hey, Boz indicated fireworks. Should have three new players by lunch. The Boz knows.

  50. pdowdy83 - Dec 15, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    That makes no sense N. Cognito. Stairs, who you say is in a freefall, tied for the league lead in pinch hit homeruns on a team that was in playoff contention last year. His OPS as a PHer was over.800 and he tied for the lead in PH homers (not to mention a game winner against the Nats). If he has been good enough to be a vital bat off the bench for Philly and San Diego the last 2 years, which by the way means he was on their 25 man roster in case you were confused, then he is surely good enough to be on our bench. Look up more than just a slash line before you say a player is destined to cause a team to lose 100 games. We had players like Kevin Mench, Willy Taveras, Jorge Padilla, Alex Cintron etc over the last couple seasons that got as many at bats as Stairs will get. Those are the players who are on 100 loss teams.

  51. Dave - Dec 15, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    I too am not getting the slam on Stairs. He hasn't been hired to be the heart of the batting order, or the leadoff hitter, or the missing first-baseman.As a pinch hitter he's good. Shouldn't we want somebody like that?





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