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McLouth pessimistic about long-term deal

Pitcher Paul Maholm sounded optimistic Friday that he and the Pirates might soon hammer out a multi-year contract. But outfielder Nate McLouth seems resigned to taking just a one-year deal, which may require a contentious arbitration battle.

Both Maholm and McLouth are in the first year of arbitration eligibility. Their agents have exchanged salary figures with the Pirates -- there is a difference of more than $1 million in each case -- and an arbitrator would pick one number or the other if their cases go to a hearing.

"I was comfortable exchanging numbers, because it's not like the talking is over," Maholm said. "We're still negotiating. The long-term deal is still on the table."

The Pirates would like to lock up Maholm for at least four years, which would buy out his first year of free agency. Neither side has divulged long-term salary offers, but Maholm said the numbers "aren't far apart."

Last season, Maholm notched a team-high nine wins and made a career-high 31 starts.

Arbitration hearings are scheduled for Feb. 1-21 in Florida. Teams and players can continue to negotiate until the arbitrators announce a decision in a case.

Far apart
Pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Nate McLouth will have to take the Pirates to arbitration if they cannot soon work out contracts:
Player 2008 salary Player request Team offer
Maholm $424,500 $3.8 million $2.65 million
McLouth $425,500 $3.8 million $2.75 million

Maholm hopes things can be settled within a few days. He'd like to have a deal in place by Feb. 13, when Pirates pitchers and catchers will report to spring training in Bradenton, Fla.

"I play baseball for a living, so I shouldn't be complaining," Maholm said. "I've got friends that I grew up with who are dealing with issues because of the (slumping) economy. So you're not going to hear any complaints out of me, no matter how it goes."

The Pirates also offered McLouth a multi-year contract earlier this offseason. Unable to find much common ground, talks broke down.

"I wasn't surprised that it didn't get done," McLouth said. "There's still a chance something could get done -- maybe a slim chance. But there's a chance. There's the security of a multi-year deal, which is nice. But there are certain advantages to going year-by-year."

The Pirates already have avoided arbitration with five other players. Adam LaRoche, John Grabow, Tyler Yates and Zach Duke got one-year deals. Ryan Doumit received a three-year contract.

"The guys who have signed were able to find numbers that work for them," McLouth said. "I wasn't able to get the number yet that work for me."

Additional Information:

New uniforms

The Pirates on Friday unveiled three new uniforms for the 2009 season. The home white and road gray jerseys will have sleeves, a change from last year. The revamped alternate jersey -- black with a large 'P' -- replaces the unpopular red jersey and will be worn on selected home games. It's the first time in 74 years the script 'P' has appeared on the Pirates' jerseys. A pinstriped uniform, the same style as last year, will be worn on Sundays and day games.

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