A few days ago, one of my sources mentioned that the Nationals were preparing to sign veteran left-handed hitter Matt Stairs.
I did a short take, and asked, "Really?" and filed it away as something that seemed a little improbable. After all, Stairs will be 43 in February, and is pretty one-dimensional: he plays bat, though he did spend 17 games in the field for the Padres in 2010.
But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Last season, Jim Riggleman's pinch-hitting options were pretty slim; I don't need to mention any names. If there's one thing Stairs does extremely well, it's go to the plate cold and make contact. Twelve of his 23 hits in 2010 were for extra bases. Career-wise, Stairs holds the major league record with 23 career pinch-hit home runs, and his next pinch hit will be the 100th of his career.
Stairs got a minor league contract, so there's no guarantee at this point. He has to make the team out of spring training. But this move reminds me of the moves teams routinely made 40 or 50 years ago, when players like Elmer Valo, Smokey Burgess and Dave Philley could hang on another season or two, pre-DH, and swing the bat just once a game.
Stairs broke into the big leagues with the Expos in 1992. He's a native Canadian, born in St. John, New Brunswick.