Pirates settle with LaRoche, Grabow

Updated: February 2, 2007, 5:15 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- First baseman Adam LaRoche avoided a salary arbitration hearing with his new club, agreeing Friday to a $3.2 million, one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Left-hander John Grabow, expected to play a bigger role in the Pirates' bullpen with Gonzalez gone, also bypassed arbitration and agreed to a one-year contract for $832,500.

LaRoche, in his first year of arbitration eligibility, had sought $3.7 million from his former club while the Braves offered $2.8 million. LaRoche made $420,000 last season.

After both sides filed their figures last month, the Braves dealt LaRoche to Pittsburgh for left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez in a Jan. 17 deal that also included two minor leaguers.

The Pirates spent nearly two months pursuing a trade for the 27-year-old LaRoche, who hit .285 with 32 homers and 90 RBIs last season.

Since dealing Brian Giles in 2003, the Pirates haven't had a left-handed hitter with more than 17 home runs in a season -- even though PNC Park's easy-to-reach right field porch is only 320 feet down the foul line.

LaRoche is expected to hit fourth with Pittsburgh, between NL batting champion Freddy Sanchez and NL All-Star outfielder Jason Bay. LaRoche got most of his at-bats last season batting 7th (232 at-bats) or 5th (140 at-bats).

"Absolutely," LaRoche said when asked if he welcomes batting cleanup. "I've batted fourth a little bit in Atlanta, fifth quite a bit, and this past year it was a lot of 5, 6 or 7. I've even hit second.

"I've said it 100 times, I'll hit anywhere you've got guys on base. If the 6th and 7th guys are hot, I'll bat eighth," he said.

LaRoche can make an additional $125,000 in bonuses, collecting $35,000 for 565 plate appearances, $45,000 for 590 plate appearances and $45,000 for 625 plate appearances. He had 557 plate appearances with Atlanta last season.

Grabow can make an additional $115,000 in performance bonuses. He filed for $925,000, while the Pirates offered $765,000.

Grabow has pitched in 203 games the last three seasons, often in late-inning situations to retire a left-handed batter or two. He was 4-2 with a 4.13 ERA last season, pitching 69 2-3 innings in 72 games.

With Gonzalez now in Atlanta, Grabow and Damaso Marte will be the primary left-handers in Pittsburgh's bullpen.

"I hated to see him (Gonzalez) go, but we've got a lot of depth and when you've got a lot of depth you can trade," Grabow said.

Grabow can make $70,000 in bonuses based on games finished, with $10,000 for 20 games finished, $15,000 for 25 games finished, $20,000 for 30 games finished and $25,000 for 35 games finished.

Grabow can make an additional $45,000 based on appearances, with $10,000 for 75 games, $15,000 for 80 games and $20,000 for 85 games.

The Pirates' only remaining arbitration-eligible players are Sanchez and second baseman Jose Castillo, who will compete in spring training with Jose Bautista for a starting job.

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AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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