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LaRoche agrees to $5 million contract

LaRoche agrees to $5 million contract

PITTSBURGH -- Adam LaRoche became the first of five Pirates players to avoid arbitration when the first baseman agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with the club on Monday.

The contract will make LaRoche, who was in his second season of arbitration eligibility, the fourth-highest paid player on the club. He made $3.2 million last season, which was his first year in Pittsburgh.

Despite a prolonged slump to begin the season, LaRoche finished the year with a respectable .272 average and led the team with 21 homers, 88 RBIs and 42 doubles. LaRoche finished the season's final 77 games with a .326 average, the 12th-best average in the league during that span.

At the end of the 2007 season, LaRoche reiterated that his desire is to stay with the team long-term. However, by agreeing to a one-year contract, the first baseman and team stayed away from having to exchange arbitration figures at the end of the week.

Though general manager Neal Huntington keeps a policy of not directly commenting on negotiations regarding any specific players, he did reiterate that the Pirates will not shy away from looking into locking down certain players to multi-year contracts this year.

"There will be players that we will approach regarding long-term contracts," Huntington said. "It makes sense from a financial standpoint and will allow us to retain players that we think can have a great impact on our club."

The four other arbitration-eligible players -- John Grabow, Freddy Sanchez, Xavier Nady and Jose Bautista -- have until Friday to reach an agreement with the club. Otherwise, both sides will exchange arbitration figures.

Huntington said that he expects the organization to come to an agreement with all four in the next four days. However, if the Pirates aren't able to do so, that's not to say negotiations won't continue until arbitration hearings begin in February.

"We're working very hard to get all four signed," Huntington said. "I think in a perfect world, you would like to get everything done before that deadline. If we don't, it doesn't preclude us from continuing negotiations, and we are more than prepared to go to a hearing if necessary."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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