Shannon Stewart is rejoining the Blue Jays on a Minor League contract. He’s expected to be in camp within the next few days and he’ll be put into the mix for the job in left field, which has been billed up to this point as being a Reed Johnson-Matt Stairs platoon.
Stewart’s presence doesn’t necessarily spell the end for Johnson, considering Reed hits left-handed pitching better than Stewart. With that in mind, Stewart wouldn’t seem to be a lock to bump Johnson from that role. Stewart will definitely provide some competition, though, and it’s not like the man didn’t hit last season.
Last year with the A’s, Stewart hit .290 with 12 homers, 48 RBIs and a .739 OPS in 146 games. Take a look at Johnson’s totals in his last healthy season in 2006: he hit .319 with 12 homers, 49 RBIs and an .869 OPS in 134 games for the Jays. It’s similar production, with a slight edge to Reed and his Shelby Cobra.
Last season, even when fighting injury, Johnson managed to hit .325 with a .381 on-base against lefties. Stewart hit just .269 with a .333 OBP against left-handers. Stewart has performed better against righties, which is presumably Matt Stairs’ part of the platoon going forward. Unless Stairs is possibly sliding back to a bench job.
This signing also makes you wonder about Jays skip John Gibbons and GM J.P. Ricciardi recently saying they’ve discussed the possibility of slotting shortstop David Eckstein into the lineup’s second slot. If Stewart makes the team, he very well could serve as the leadoff hitter — he did so for 101 games last year.
More on this later today…