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Sign LaRoche? You kiddin' me?

| Friday, Oct. 3, 2008

There's no sense signing Adam when you're on the eve of destruction.

Actually, if you're the Pirates, you're way past the eve of destruction. You're well into your latest roster overhaul, so why allocate $6-7-8 million for even one year to an underachieving first baseman who won't be here when (if) you start winning again, especially if he learns to hit in April and May and thus prices himself out of town?

The mere concept is preposterous.

Yet, the Pirates are talking about signing Adam LaRoche -- who had a one-year, $5 million deal this season -- to a new contract.

"As we pencil our club forward," general manager Neal Huntington said recently, "Adam is the guy we pencil in there."

Break the pencil, then. Or buy an eraser, because the only sensible approach is to jettison LaRoche and every other higher-priced veteran, notably shortstop Jack Wilson and second baseman Freddy Sanchez.

The last thing this franchise needs is another half-baked rebuilding project.

The reconstruction is well under way. Have the vision and fortitude to see it through. Trade those guys. Don't even tender LaRoche an offer, if it comes to that, before arbitration.

Use the extra millions on the draft. Use it to sign Latin American prospects. Use it to lure a veteran pitching coach (Rick Peterson, anyone?).

Invest in the future, not the wretched present.

The Pirates should slash their payroll to infinitesimal proportions and live to fight another day. They shouldn't insult the knowledgeable fans by making a transparent attempt to win next season, as if keeping LaRoche would represent some kind of legitimate commitment.

The Pirates aren't going to win in 2009. They are going to post a losing record for the 17th consecutive year - a record for professional sports teams in North America (and perhaps anywhere else).

But that doesn't mean the franchise is hopeless. Quite the opposite. If I were a fan, I'd be looking forward to a lineup in, say, 2011, that might feature Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata and whoever else the Pirates can sign, draft and develop before then.

Every extra cent should go toward fortifying that group.

Which brings us back to LaRoche.

The silliest argument for keeping him goes like this: Who else are you going to put there?

OK, cue the high-pitched Jim Mora voice from his famous "playoffs!" rant:

Who else?

You kiddin' me?

Who else?

Let me answer that question five different ways:

5. Who cares?

4. The next upright, breathing mammal you see.

3. Nobody. Play without a first baseman.

2. A cheap free agent.

1. Steve Pearce.

I know what you're thinking: Pearce hasn't shown he can hit major-league pitching.

Neither has LaRoche in games that matter.

Pearce hit .298 with four home runs in September, by the way, which means absolutely nothing. Just like most of LaRoche's home runs.

If LaRoche is part of the long-term plan, then the long-term plan is flawed.

Notice what the Oakland A's did recently• They secured a fireballing, 6-foot-7, 16-year-old Dominican pitcher named Michel Inoa with a team-record $4.25 million signing bonus.

Wouldn't you like to see the Pirates use $6 million in freed money for those kinds of bold moves, rather than try to keep some faint flicker of hope alive for next season by re-signing Adam LaRoche?

Prospects, prospects, prospects. That should be the Pirates' motto.

Be fruitful and multiply.

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