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Blue Jays Stewart Reach Agreement

February 18, 2003

DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) _ The Toronto Blue Jays reached an agreement Tuesday with outfielder Shannon Stewart on a one-year contract worth $6.2 million.

Stewart avoided an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for Thursday in St. Petersburg. He had asked for $7.5 million, and the Blue Jays offered $5.5 million.

``I’m happy with what we agreed upon,″ Stewart said on a conference call.

``My whole thing was not to go to arbitration. It can get ugly and no player wants to sit through that,″ he said. ``The most important thing was to get something done and get the season started.″

The 28-year-old Stewart, who will be eligible for free agency after this season, hit .303 with 10 home runs and 45 RBIs in 2002. He has a .302 career batting average with 66 homers, 321 RBIs and 162 stolen bases in 784 games.

``We were close and had an opportunity to meet with his agent, Jeff Moorad, this morning and got it done,″ Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. ``We feel fine with the number, it’s the number we felt we would get it done at.″

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