Matt Stairs, the pride of St. Johns, New Brunswick, was designated for assignment last night after the Blue Jays lost their rubber match against the American League East leading Tampa Bay Rays 3-2. This morning, the Associated Press reported that Stairs would be traded to a team in the playoff race by Saturday. According to MLB Trade Rumours, the Philadelphia Phillies have already acquired the left hitting designated hitter from the Blue Jays for an unnamed prospect. So what are the implications of J.P. Ricciardi's latest move?
Ricciardi's latest move makes sense on many levels. Stairs production at the plate has dropped significantly from last year. His batting average and slugging percentage are both down, and his strike outs are up. For most of the season, he has looked like an aging DH in the twilight of his career. Since Stairs would not have likely been a major factor in the team's plans next year, this trade allows the Jays to avoid eating the 1 million dollars that he is owed next season. This move also makes way for highly touted prospect Travis Snider to make his MLB debut this season. Snider is slotted to be the team's DH of the future. Expect the Jays to give him a serious look this season in hopes that he may be ready to make the jump to the majors right out of Spring Training in 2009. Snider is not yet Major League ready, but a good number of big league at bats in September might fast track his development.
The 20 year old potential slugger started off the season with the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Florida State League before blazing a trail through the Jays' minor league affiliates, playing 98 games with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats of the Eastern League and 18 games with the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League. Scouting reports indicate that Snider strikes out much too often, but he shows great power potential. In 18 games with Syracuse, Snider had a batting average of .344, a slugging percentage of .516, 2 homeruns and 17 RBI's . Jays fans should not expect him to put up Evan Longoria type numbers this September, but he will give them optimism for the future.
It is also worth noting that J.P. Ricciardi put aside his policy of drafting older players from the college ranks to take Snider 14th overall in the 2006 entry draft. Jays fans can only wonder how things might have been different during Ricciardi's tenure had he not insisted on drafting older players who were closer to being Major League ready, but who had less projected potential than the younger prospects in their drafts.