Catcher Chris Stewart, who was to become a free agent after the 2016 season, will spend at least two more seasons in Pittsburgh after agreeing a two-year contract extension that the club announced Tuesday. The deal was reached last week, but not made official until after Stewart passed a physical.
The contract, which also includes an option year for 2018, will pay Stewart $1.35 million in '16 and $1.4 million in '17. The club option for '18 is worth $1.5 million with a $250,000 buyout.
Stewart, who turns 34 in February, has been a reliable catcher for Pittsburgh each of the past two seasons. He is well-regarded for his defense and pitch framing, and he has posted his best offensive seasons with the Pirates.
By locking up Stewart, the Pirates seem to be paving the way for No. 14 prospect Elias Diaz to take over the starting job in '17, with Stewart as his backup. After a brief callup last season, Diaz is slated to catch every day for Triple-A Indianapolis this year. Though he has expressed a desire to finish his career in Pittsburgh, Francisco Cervelli will be a free agent after this season.
Since joining the Pirates in a trade with the Yankees, Stewart has hit .292 with a .675 OPS in 107 games as the backup to Russell Martin and Cervelli. He made $1.225 million in '15 and was a third-time arbitration-eligible player this winter. Stewart was the only one of the club's arbitration-eligible players to receive more than a one-year deal.
The Pirates went 26-10 in Stewart's 36 starts last season, winning 15 of the 16 games he started at PNC Park. Stewart batted .289 with eight doubles and 15 RBIs in 58 games last season.
Since debuting with the White Sox in 2006, Stewart has appeared in 364 games with six organizations.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.