Chris Stewart discusses contract, returning to Pirates
January 22, 2016 11:24 PM
Jon Durr/Getty Images
The Pirates' Chris Stewart, left, and Mark Melancon celebrate after their win over the Chicago White Sox in June.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Each offseason since the Pirates acquired him in December 2013, Chris Stewart has let the club know he would be interested in a multiyear contract. This winter, the Pirates took him up on it.
“We brought it up almost as soon as the offseason began this year,” Stewart told the Post-Gazette today by phone from his home in California. “It was just a matter of waiting to see what they were going to do, what their long-term plans were. Once the arbitration deadline started looming, that’s when we started really getting into the talks and hammering down the specifics.”
Earlier this week, Stewart and the Pirates signed off on a two-year contract with $3 million guaranteed and a $1.5 million club option for 2018 with a $250,000 buyout.
Entering his final year of team control and eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, Stewart thought about testing the open market. He said the comfort of knowing where he would be for at least two years, and the fact that his family loved Pittsburgh, was worth the risk. It gave him peace of mind.
“I saw what some of the other catchers were getting this offseason, and it was definitely enticing,” he said. “I feel like this offseason could have been a good market for me personally. On the same token, I’m making plenty of money now with this new contract. I have the security. I don’t have to worry about what next year’s going to entail.”
Stewart was a career .214 hitter before joining the Pirates, but hit a combined .292 in the 2014-15 seasons in Pittsburgh — although that average contains only 13 extra-base hits, all doubles, good for a .336 slugging percentage. He was worth four Defensive Runs Saved above average in 2015, but threw out 23 and 24 percent of baserunners in 2014 and 2015.
“The coaching staff has helped me kind of revitalize my career,” he said. “It’s people you want to be around. You’re going to be the best you when you’re around those types of people.”
The team’s success — three consecutive playoff appearances and a 98-64 record in 2015 — helped as well, and Stewart said he was comfortable with where the franchise is headed. He bases his assessment not on the precise names of the players under contract or prospects in the minors, he said, but a faith in the organizational philosophy.
“I know how they operate,” he said. “I know that they’re always prepared for now and for the future.”
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG.
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