Pirates sign Maholm and Hinske
On Friday, the Pirates secured the long-term services of their breakout star pitcher and also signed a fourth outfielder.
After physicals were passed, lefty starter Paul Maholm inked a three-year contract worth $14.5 million with a fourth-year club option for 2012 worth $9.75 million. Veteran outfielder Eric Hinske also signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million with incentives that could add another $1 million.
Maholm, who avoided arbitration with the signing, emerged as Pittsburgh's ace in 2008, when he went 9-9 with a 3.71 ERA and established career highs in innings pitched (206 1/3), strikeouts (139) and starts (31).
"I'm extremely happy," Maholm said during a press conference at PNC Park. "I couldn't be happier right now to get it done. It's kind of a load off me. Now, it's all about baseball and winning. You don't have to worry about going year-to-year. Some guys prefer it, but for me, this is perfect."
Scheduled to make $3.5 million this season, $4.5 million in 2010 and $5.75 million in 2011, the 26-year-old Maholm has all three arbitration years settled. A year of potential free agency is also covered if the option is exercised. The buyout for 2012 is worth $750,000.
"Both sides were realistic in their expectations," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "Both sides wanted this to happen. His makeup, intelligence and pitch arsenal make us confident we'll feel as good four years from now as we do today."
Over his four seasons with Pittsburgh, Maholm has gone 30-35 with a 4.30 ERA in 96 starts. In 2007, he was 10-15 with a 5.02 ERA and pitched only 177 2/3 innings over 29 starts. He was the Pirates' first-round selection (eighth overall) in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft.
Last offseason, Maholm sought to take his career to the next level and made efforts to get into better shape. He also developed more maturity and his efforts proved successful both on the mound and, ultimately, in his checking account.
"I was upset with myself that I missed starts in '07," Maholm said. "I wanted to make sure I did everything possible to not have that happen again. To me, if you're in the starting five you should expect to go 200 innings. That should be your starting-out goal. To reach it was rewarding, but also made me go into this offseason knowing that I had to work even harder and make sure I came in even better shape and there are never any questions of whether I'm prepared to go out there."
Maholm's contract marks the second multi-year deal handed out by the Pirates this offseason, and the fifth time overall that Huntington has avoided arbitration with players by giving them long-term contracts.
In December, catcher Ryan Doumit signed a three-year contract worth $11.5 million with a two-year club option for 2012-13. Both Maholm and Doumit were arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter.
Outfielder Nate McLouth now remains the lone Pirates player eligible for arbitration.
The left-handed-hitting Hinske batted .247 with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs in 133 games last season with the Rays. The 31-year-old can play both corner outfield positions, first base and third base.
Hinske, who was the 2002 American League Rookie of the Year with the Blue Jays, played in Toronto from 2002-06 and with the Red Sox in 2006-07. With Tampa Bay and Boston, he's appeared in the last two World Series.
"He's a great fit," Huntington said. "He's a blue-collar player, gritty. He's been around a winning environment."
Over his seven-year career, Hinske has batted .254 with 105 homers and 399 RBIs. As Spring Training loomed just two weeks away, he said he had about eight offers from around the league, but the Pirates contacted him a few days after he filed for free agency and pursued his services hard.
Going into camp, Hinske is expected to be a reserve outfielder but could slide into the starting left field spot should Nyjer Morgan not be able to retain his role. His signing could likely spell the end of utility player Doug Mientkiewicz's time in Pittsburgh, since the club now seems loaded with left-handed hitters.
"They were straightforward with me, and I appreciated that," Hinske said. "When I spoke to Neal Huntington, he assured me I'd get an opportunity to get some at-bats and be a big part of the clubhouse. It's been all positive for me. It seems like a pretty good opportunity for me. I'm happy to be a Pirate."
Another move is pending for Pittsburgh to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Hinske.