Maholm agrees to $14.5M, 3-year deal with Pirates

Updated: January 30, 2009, 6:38 PM ET
Associated Press

Left-hander Paul Maholm avoided an arbitration hearing by agreeing Friday to a $14.5 million, three-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who also finalized a $1.5 million, one-year deal with free-agent utilityman Eric Hinske.

Maholm's agreement locks him up through his remaining arbitration years and includes a club option for 2012. He was the most effective starter on a 95-loss Pirates team last season, going 9-9 with a 3.71 ERA in 31 starts.

He receives $3.5 million this season, $4.5 million in 2010 and $5.75 million in 2011. Pittsburgh holds a $9.75 million option for 2012 with a $750,000 buyout, and the option price can escalate to $11.05 million based on his performance.

"It's a load off me," Maholm said of getting the contract issue out of the way. "It's all about baseball and winning. I don't have to worry about anything going from year to year. For me, this is perfect."

Pittsburgh had offered Maholm $2.65 million in arbitration and he had countered with $3.8 million. Maholm went through a mandatory physical on Friday.

The 26-year-old Maholm, a first-round pick in the 2003 amateur draft, is 30-35 with a 4.30 ERA in 96 career games -- all starts, and all with Pittsburgh.

General manager Neal Huntington said the deal was worked out because "both sides wanted this to happen."

Hinske replaces the unsigned Doug Mientkiewicz as the Pirates' top player off the bench, although Mientkiewicz hit .277 last season and was a fan favorite in Pittsburgh. During last week's Pirates offseason festival, a fan received a standing ovation when he asked management why Mientkiewicz hadn't been re-signed.

The 31-year-old Hinske figures to gives the Pirates more power than Mientkiewicz, who homered twice in 285 at-bats last season. Hinske hit .247 with 20 homers and 60 RBIs in 381 at-bats with Tampa Bay and had a career-high 24 homers as the AL rookie of the year with Toronto in 2002. He played for the Blue Jays in 2002-06 and the Red Sox in 2006-07.

The left-handed hitting Hinske can play first base, third base, left field and right field, although the majority of his playing time has been at third base.

"He's a good fit. He's blue collar, hardworking, gritty," Huntington said. "He's not as vocal as Doug but it might be hard to be as vocal as Doug. From our standpoint, it was a sacrifice worth making because of Eric's versatility."

Hinske's salary nearly doubles his base of $800,000 last year, when he earned another $250,000 in performance bonuses. He can earn up to $1 million in performance bonuses in his new deal.

"He (Huntington) assured me I'll get at-bats and be a big part of the clubhouse," Hinske said, a reference to the leadership role Mientkiewicz played last season.

Since the Pirates hired president Frank Coonelly and Huntington 18 months ago, they have given multiyear contracts to Maholm, catcher Ryan Doumit, second baseman Freddy Sanchez, right-handed reliever Matt Capps and right-hander Ian Snell.

Their only unsigned veteran player is All-Star outfielder Nate McLouth. Talks on a multiyear contract broke down last month and have not resumed.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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