The Washington Nationals signed veteran pinch-hitting specialist Matt Stairs to a minor league contract yesterday and have awarded him an invitation to Spring Training. Stairs, who will be 43 in February, has hit 265 homeruns in his career. Of those, 23 were pinch-hit homeruns, which is a major league record.
Stairs hit .232/.306/.475 in 111 plate appearances for the Padres in 2010. While the 43-year-old did play some first base, as well as right and left field, Stairs is best utilized as a pinch-hitter, and could provide much needed depth to the Nationals’ bench. Stairs will return to the organization that drafted him (The Montreal Expos) in 1989, and will likely finish his career there. In 18 seasons he has hit .264/.357/.481 for 12 different teams.
Stairs best years came in 1998 and 1999 as a member of the Oakland A’s. In ’98 he hit 26 homeruns and drove in 106 runs and in ’99 he hit 38 homeruns while driving in 102, making him one of the more feared sluggers in the game. However, as Stairs got older he made a transformation from middle of the order hitter to pinch hitter extraordinaire, adapting to a lesser role in order to stay in the Major Leagues.
Stairs will be reuniting with former teammate Jayson Werth, who he played with in Philadelphia in 2008 and 2009. Aside from his vicious power from the left side, Stairs is lauded for his positive clubhouse presence and won a World Series ring with the Phillies in 2008.
While he likely wont start, Stairs will be battling for the first base job in spring training against Michael Morse, Josh Willingham, and maybe even Cris Marrero. Unfortuntely for Stairs, all of his competitors have youth and athleticism on their side. With a weak bench and a need for power hitting from the left side, Stairs is likely to make the club out of spring training. If he does it will be his fourth team in five years.