Stairs, Kennedy file for free agency
Jays maintain exclusive negotiation rights until Nov. 12
TORONTO -- Less than 24 hours after the Boston Red Sox captured their second World Series title in four years, a pair of Blue Jays wasted no time in filing for free agency.On Monday, outfielder Matt Stairs and left-hander Joe Kennedy were two of the dozens of players who turned in the paperwork, opting to test their worth on the open market. Toronto has exclusive negotiating rights with each player until Nov. 12, when Stairs and Kennedy will be allowed to begin discussing potential contracts with other suitors. Players could not file for free agency until the World Series had ended.
The Blue Jays have expressed interest in re-signing Stairs, who was one of Toronto's more surprising performers last season. At 39 years old, Stairs was one of the Jays' most consistent and potent weapons on offense, and the native of New Brunswick helped fill a variety of positions in the wake of numerous injuries."I have good feelings about it when, at 39, you prove that you can still play," Stairs said at the end of the season. "I think the biggest thing is -- if, hopefully, I do come back -- they know that they're going to have a pinch-hitter, a left fielder and a right fielder, a first baseman and, who knows, maybe a third baseman." This season, Stairs proved to be quite the bargain after signing a one-year deal worth $850,000 with Toronto in December. He hit .289 with 21 home runs, 28 doubles and 64 RBIs in 357 at-bats across 125 games. Stairs also owned a .368 on-base percentage and a .549 slugging percentage. Stairs' batting average and slugging percentage were his highest marks since 2003, when he was with the Pirates. His 21 homers and 58 runs were the most he'd compiled since he suited up for Oakland in 2000, and Stairs' 28 two-base hits were his highest total since 1998. Needless to say, he's likely due for a raise this winter. "My gut feeling? Our chances are better than 50 percent," said Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, assessing Toronto's chances of re-signing Stairs at the end of the season. "I don't know if he's going to have a chance to go somewhere full-time. I know he likes it here. He did a great job for us -- an absolutely great job. We'd love to have him back." Kennedy signed a Minor League contract with Toronto on Aug. 28, and he joined the big league bullpen in September. The Jays inked the 28-year-old pitcher in order to test him out as a situational left-hander to see if he might be a part of the club's plans for 2008. Over nine games with Toronto, Kennedy went 1-0 with a 5.14 ERA, striking out eight and walking five across seven innings. "He's more like a one-month trial for us," Ricciardi said after signing Kennedy. "We'll get him up here and see what he can do and see if he can help us -- if he's in the picture for next year. It'll be a chance for us to get to know him. He's a free agent, so it's kind of an audition." The Blue Jays currently have three left-handers -- B.J. Ryan, Scott Downs and Brian Tallet -- in their bullpen. Ryan is still recovering from the reconstructive left elbow surgery he underwent in May, and Downs and Tallet are both eligible for arbitration. If the Jays decide to sign Kennedy, that could potentially spell the end of Tallet's inconsistent tenure in Toronto. Kennedy began 2007 with Oakland and was under contract for $2.8 million. The D-backs claimed the lefty off waivers in early August but then released him on Aug. 15 after he allowed six earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings with Arizona. Overall, Kennedy was 4-9 with a 4.80 ERA in 39 games, including 16 starts, last season.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.