A's, Stewart agree to one-year contract

Updated: February 11, 2007, 12:03 AM ET
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Shannon Stewart
Stewart

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Shannon Stewart and the Oakland Athletics agreed to a $1 million, one-year contract, giving the club the additional backup outfielder it sought before the start of spring training.

The deal was first reported by ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.

Stewart can earn an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses under the deal announced Thursday. He will join recently re-signed Bobby Kielty as a backup outfielder behind right fielder Milton Bradley, center fielder Mark Kotsay and left fielder Nick Swisher.

"I know if I'm healthy, I can play every day," Stewart said on a conference call from Florida. "My mind is on going in there and playing where they want me."

Acquiring a utility outfielder to replace the departed Jay Payton was among the last order of business for general manager Billy Beane before the defending AL West champions report to spring training next week in Phoenix.

Oakland designated outfielder Charles Thomas for assignment to make room on the roster for Stewart, who tried out for several teams two weeks ago while looking for a job. The A's did not attend the workout.

While Stewart has primarily played left field, he came up as a center fielder and feels comfortable in any spot. The A's likely will try him at several positions this spring.

Stewart batted .293 last year with two homers and 21 RBIs in 174 at-bats for the Minnesota Twins. He was bothered by foot injuries and played in just 44 games.

"He's always been a tough out for us, especially with the Twins," A's assistant GM David Forst said. "We're looking forward to seeing that on our side."

Stewart, who turns 33 later this month, is a .299 career hitter with 102 home runs in 11 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Twins. His best year came in 2000, when he hit 21 homers and drove in 69 runs for the Blue Jays.

After an offseason filled with doctors' appointments and MRI exams across the country, Stewart has been pain-free for several months now and is able to run at full speed again. It was a little strange for him to be seeking work, practically interviewing for jobs by showing off his skills for different clubs.

"It's a weird, frustrating time," Stewart said. "I've been in the big leagues about nine years now and have never had to go through anything like this. It's tough to have to go through it, but I understood. It's been harder on me than anybody else."

The A's also added designated hitter Mike Piazza to replace Frank Thomas this offseason and left-handed reliever Alan Embree to boost their pitching staff.

Right-hander Rich Harden will be the new No. 1 starter after ace Barry Zito signed a $126 million, seven-year contract to pitch across San Francisco Bay with the Giants.

Stewart -- acquired by the Twins in a trade with Toronto for Kielty in July 2003 -- would make an additional $200,000 for 200 plate appearances, and $100,000 each for 220, 245, 265, 290, 310, 335, 355, 380, 400, 425, 450, 475 and 500 plate appearances.

The A's signed Thomas to an incentive-laden deal before last season and it worked out well for both sides. The Big Hurt batted .270 with a team-leading 39 home runs and 114 RBIs in 137 games in his only season with Oakland before signing with the Blue Jays.

"I think it's a good gamble on both myself and Frank," Stewart said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.