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12/03/10 1:31 AM EST

Blue Jays decline contracts for Lewis, Accardo

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays declined to tender contracts to outfielder Fred Lewis and right-hander Jeremy Accardo prior to Thursday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline.

Accardo earned $1.08 million in 2010, but he spent the vast majority of the season playing for Triple-A Las Vegas. Lewis earned just $455,000, but he was left without a role on the team after the Blue Jays acquired fellow outfielder Rajai Davis last month.

Earlier in the day, the Blue Jays announced the signing of right-hander Dustin McGowan to a one-year contract worth $450,000. McGowan, who took a pay cut of $50,000, was originally viewed as an unlikely candidate to be non-tendered by the organization.

Toronto did tender contracts to its remaining nine arbitration-eligible players: right-handers Shaun Marcum, Brandon Morrow, Jesse Litsch, Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp and Casey Janssen; outfielder/third baseman Jose Bautista; Davis; and shortstop Yunel Escobar.

Lewis, 30, played in 110 games with the Blue Jays last season after being acquired from the Giants in April. He hit .262 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs, and he spent the majority of the season batting out of the leadoff spot.

The native of Mississippi, who led Toronto with 17 stolen bases, was entering his first year of arbitration eligibility and would have been in line for a raise.

Accardo was once considered to be one of the prize assets of the organization, and in 2007, he filled in admirably for injured closer B.J. Ryan. The 29-year-old started that season with 21 consecutive scoreless innings and finished with a 2.14 ERA and 30 saves.

It's been mostly downhill for Accardo since then, though. He was injured for most of the 2008 season, and over the past two years, he pitched just 31 1/3 innings in the Major Leagues.

Last season in Las Vegas, Accardo posted some impressive numbers, going 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA. But in a troubling sign, he struck out just 5.3 batters per nine innings compared with the 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings he recorded in his banner 2007 season.

The 28-year-old McGowan is rehabbing after undergoing surgery in June to repair a torn right rotator cuff. He recently started a throwing program, but there is no timetable for his return.

McGowan is out of options, but if he is not ready to start the season, the Blue Jays could put him on the disabled list as he attempts to work his way back to the Major Leagues. If McGowan is healthy, he could find a spot in the bullpen or even be a surprise contender for the fifth spot in the starting rotation.

Toronto likely wanted to avoid losing McGowan the way the club regretfully did with right-hander Chris Carpenter in 2002 under a similar situation. Carpenter suffered through three stints on the DL that season before being shut down in August. He was non-tendered by the club and would later go on to become a National League Cy Young Award winner with the Cardinals.

The Blue Jays started the offseason with two other candidates to be non-tendered -- outfielder Dewayne Wise and left-hander Brian Tallet -- but they are no longer with the club. Both were outrighted to Las Vegas earlier in the offseason, but both declined the assignment and became free agents.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.