Stewart grateful for stability of multi-year deal

Stewart grateful for stability of multi-year deal

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Over the last two years, Chris Stewart has given the Pirates the stability they've been looking for in a backup catcher. So this offseason, the Pirates gave Stewart the professional stability he's been looking for.

Stewart, who turned 34 on Friday, signed the first guaranteed multi-year contract of his career in January, a two-year pact with a club option for 2018. The deal will pay Stewart $1.35 million in 2016 and $1.4 million in '17, with a $250,000 buyout or $1.5 million option in '18.

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"Knowing that I'll be here for more than a year -- hopefully three or more, that's the goal -- that's something I'm not used to," Stewart said. "It's definitely something we've been looking forward to for a long time throughout my career."

Since he was traded to the Pirates in December 2013, Stewart repeatedly brought up the idea of a multi-year deal. He would have been eligible for free agency after this season if he had signed a one-year deal or gone to arbitration.

"I felt like this was a great place for me. Good fit. Good organization," Stewart said. "I know they're going to be strong for not just this year, but for years to come."

Stewart and his family -- wife Lindsey, son Sebastian and daughter Brooklyn -- quickly felt comfortable with the Pirates and came to love Pittsburgh. So Stewart asked again -- and again and again -- about working out a long-term contract.

"I think it took a little beating into their brains to make it happen," he said, smiling. "We kept trying to do it every offseason. Kept bringing it up, kept bringing it up. This was the offseason where we were finally able to work something out.

"We're in a happy place, my family and I. ... Hopefully I can finish my career here."

Playing behind Russell Martin in 2014 and Francisco Cervelli last season, Stewart has proven to be an above-average defender and a capable hitter. He doesn't hit for much power, but he's batted .292 with a .340 on-base percentage in 326 plate appearances over the last two years.

The Pirates often praise Stewart for his defense behind the plate and his work between starts. He started 37 games in 2014 and 36 last year, but manager Clint Hurdle said there aren't many afternoons you won't find Stewart working with pitchers in the bullpen or trying to improve his throwing arm.

"It's not an easy job to not play, and then be ready to play, and play well and handle the defensive part of the game. He's done it very well," Hurdle said. "He's proven to us that his dependability is his greatest ability.

"We don't take it for granted. One of the ways we showed him that we don't take it for granted was to give him the opportunity to have the first multi-year contract he's had in his career."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.