Jays designate Stairs for assignment
Trade talks indicate veteran may sign with contending club
ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Stairs didn't read too much into the fact that his name wasn't included in the Blue Jays' starting lineup on Thursday night. That changed in the eighth inning, when Toronto manager Cito Gaston didn't turn to the veteran as a pinch-hitter in an eventual 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay.
Sitting on the bench, Stairs told Blue Jays third baseman Scott Rolen that he thought there was a good chance he'd be getting called into the manager's office after the game. As Stairs predicted, Toronto designated him for assignment and is currently working out a trade, reportedly to the Phillies.
"Sure enough," Stairs said. "I didn't even get my spikes off and I was called in. Everything happens for a reason. So, we'll see what happens."
Replacing Stairs on Toronto's roster is a top outfield prospect, Travis Snider, who had his contract purchased from Triple-A Syracuse. The Blue Jays would not reveal which team was attempting to acquire Stairs -- only that the deal will hopefully be completed within the next two days.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said Stairs -- a veteran of 13 seasons in the Majors -- took the news in stride.
"He was not shocked," Gaston said. "He's a veteran. He knows it's that time of year, so he's fine."
One likely suitor is the Philadelphia Philles, who are in the market for a left-handed bat and placed Geoff Jenkins on the disabled list on Saturday. In order for Stairs to be eligible for a postseason roster spot, any potential trade would need to be completed before Monday.
The 40-year-old Stairs -- a native of New Brunswick -- made it no secret that he hoped he'd have a chance to retire as a member of the Blue Jays. That likely won't be the case now for Stairs -- "unless I come back to manage some day or coach" -- though he doesn't regret his time spent with Toronto.
"Nothing would've been better than to go down Yonge St.," Stairs said, "celebrating with the guys I became really close with over the last year and a half. To me, the greatest city in the world is Toronto and I'm not saying that because I played there or because I'm Canadian. It's a city I've always loved."
This season, Stairs hit .250 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs in 105 games for Toronto, which struggled mightily on offense earlier this season. Stairs said he believes he might have avoided his current situation if he had performed at a similar level as he did last season -- his first tour with the Jays.
Last year, Stairs hit .289 with 21 homers and 64 RBIs over 125 games for the Jays, convincing the club to sign him to a two-year contract extension worth $3.25 million in November. Stairs is under contract for $2.25 million this year and is scheduled to make $1 million in 2009.
"It was disappointing early in the season," Stairs said. "Offensively, we never swung the bat. The situation would've been different if I was swinging the bat extremely well. If I put up the numbers like I did last year, we wouldn't be in this situation."
Snider, 20, was hitting .344 with two homers and 17 RBIs through 18 games with Syracuse this season. Between stints with Class A Dunedin, Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Syracuse this year, the left-handed-hitting outfielder hit .275 with 23 homers and 91 RBIs over 133 games.
The Blue Jays selected Snider with the 14th overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. Gaston said that Snider will rotate between left and right field and will receive some playing time as the club's designated hitter. Snider is also scheduled to take part in the Arizona Fall League in October.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.