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McLouth, Pirates on collision course

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According to president Frank Coonelly, the Pirates have given up — for now — on trying to sign outfielder Nate McLouth to a multi-year contract extension. Yet, even a one-year deal is proving difficult to achieve, and the two sides appear to be on a collision course for an arbitration hearing.

“Unfortunately, there are times when the differences just seem large enough that it’s not going to get done without a hearing,” general manager Neal Huntington told me tonight. “I think both sides recognize that it’s in our best interests to do something without a hearing. But if we need to go there, they’ve stated they’re ready to go and, obviously, we are ready to go, too, if we have to.”

There is a huge gap between what McCouth’s camp has requested ($3.8 million) and what the Pirates have offered ($2.75 million). Unless a deal can be brokered, McLouth’s hearing before a three-person panel of arbitrators is slated for Feb. 17 — the same day as the Pirates’ first full-squad workout of spring training.

The Pirates have not gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when Jack Wilson won his case and received $1.85 million.

Also, today, the Toronto Blue Jays claimed right-hander T.J. Beam off waviers. The Pirates had designated Beam for assignment last week to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for outfielder Eric Hinske. Beam, 28, went 2-2 with a 4.48 ERA in 32 relief appearances last season.

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