The Nationals traded the Chicago Cubs for veteran outfielder Scott Hairston late Sunday night, according to a person familiar with the situation, bolstering their underperforming bench with a veteran right-handed hitter who has a track record for mashing left-handed pitching.
It is not known at this time who the Nationals dealt for Hairston. The trade was first reported by FoxSports.com.
The Nationals had been interested in improving their bench with a veteran right-handed hitter and found one in Hairston, a 33-year-old in his 10th season. Hairston signed a two-year, $5 million contract this offseason, and so the Nationals control his contractual for 2014, too.
Hairston has struggled this season with limited playing time, hitting .172/.232/.434 over 112 plate appearances. Last year, Hairston slugged .550 with an .867 OPS against left-handed pitching.
After a strong season in 2012, the Nationals bench has been underwhelming this season. They are 23rd in the majors with a .174 average pinch-hitting because of the struggles of Chad Tracy, Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi, Roger Bernadina and others.
Moore, a right-handed batter, was expected to fill the role of backup outfielder-first baseman who could pinch hit and face left-handed pitching when needed, but he has hit .157 in 102 at-bats and .130 against left-handers. Hairston, though, has never played first base.
As a team, the Nationals have struggled against left-handed pitching. The Nationals are last in the majors with a .218 average and .626 OPS against southpaws. Hairston, who signed a two-year, $5-million deal with the Cubs in the offseason, has made a reputation for smashing left-handed pitching. He has a career .268 average and .813 OPS against left-handed pitchers. He hit .263 with a .803 OPS and hit 20 home runs last season with the New York Mets.
This season, in limited playing time, Hairston has hit .172 overall with eight home runs in 99 at-bats and posted a .169 average and .685 OPS against left-handers. The National League Central is right-handed pitching heavy. And, Hairston appears to have had some bad luck; his .129 average with balls in play is far below his career average of .272.
The deal for Hairston also fits the pattern of General Manager Mike Rizzo, who prefers to avoid one-season rental players. Hairston was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the third round in 2001, when Rizzo was head of scouting there.
The details of the trade were not immediately known, though the FoxSports.com report suggested the Nationals had dealt a Class A pitcher for Hairston. Messages to Nationals officials seeking comment were not immediately returned.
The Nationals have an open spot on their 40-man roster but would have to make room on the active roster for Hairston.
The move comes at a beneficial time for the Nationals as they head to Philadelphia for a four-game series which includes facing three left-handed starters: John Lannan, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. The Atlanta Braves, who the Nationals are chasing in the division, have two left-handed starters in their rotation.
Hairston’s brother, Jerry Hairston Jr., played for the Nationals in 2011 before they Nationals traded him to the Brewers shortly before the trade deadline.