Pirates' LaRoche agrees to $7.05 million deal
EDs: UPDATES with Duke, Grabow and Yates terms.
The deal includes $100,000 in performance bonuses: $50,000 each for 555 and 590 plate appearances.
This was the third time LaRoche was arbitration-eligible. He can become a free agent after the 2009 season.
Pittsburgh also agreed to one-year deals with left-handers Zach Duke ($2.2 million) and John Grabow ($2.3 million), and right-hander Tyler Yates ($1.3 million). That left outfielder Nate McLouth and left-hander Paul Maholm as the only Pirates remaining in arbitration.
LaRoche made $5 million last season, when he hit .270 with 25 homers, 85 RBIs, 32 doubles and 122 strikeouts.
In two seasons with the Pirates, the 29-year-old has been an especially slow starter, one reason why they got off to poor starts each season.
In 2008, he had 17 homers and 51 RBIs after July 1, even while missing 2½ weeks with a ribcage injury. In 2007, he ended with 21 homers and 88 RBIs despite being limited to five homers in April and May and a .133 batting average in April.
LaRoche's salary is expected to be the Pirates' second-highest this season to shortstop Jack Wilson's $7.25 million.
LaRoche's younger brother, Andy, goes into spring training next month as the Pirates' starting third baseman. He was acquired in a late-season trade involving his former club, the Dodgers.
McLouth, the Pirates' lone All-Star last season, and his agent discussed a multiyear contract since the season ended. Maholm was the Pirates' most effective starter, going 9-9 with a 3.71 ERA.
Duke was 5-14 with a 4.82 ERA last season and is 18-37 since he was 8-2 as a rookie in 2005. Grabow was effective all season, with a 6-3 record, 2.84 ERA and 60 hits allowed in 76 innings. Yates was 6-3 with a 4.66 ERA and had 63 strikeouts in 73 1-3 innings.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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