Pirates on verge of losing keystone combo
- The Pirates have approached shortstop Jack Wilson and second baseman Freddy Sanchez about multiyear contract extensions, putting on hold, for now, the possibility that either will be traded by Major League Baseball's July 31 deadline.
And there is a catch, one unusual in professional sports: If one player does not sign, the other probably will not, either. Wilson and Sanchez are best friends to the point of being virtually inseparable, on and off the infield dirt.
"I'm very excited to possibly continue my career in Pittsburgh, to finish what I've started, and Freddy is going to be a vital piece of any decision I make," Wilson said last night after the team's post-break workout at PNC Park. "Without Freddy, I think, it would be tough to win without a player like that."
"I want to finish my career turning double plays with Jack in a Pirates uniform," Sanchez said. "If it works out, it would be unbelievable. This is what we've been talking about for a long time."
As it turns out, my worries were unfounded. Over the weekend, Dejan Kovacevic reported the modest size of the offers, in terms of both years and dollars:
- The Pirates yesterday made their initial financial offers toward keeping shortstop Jack Wilson and second baseman Freddy Sanchez, and they drew decidedly mixed reactions.
The offer to Wilson, according to two sources, covers two years plus a club option. No money terms were divulged, but it was seen as competitive even though it represented a significant cut from his current $7.4 million salary. Wilson would prefer three guaranteed years.
But the initial offer to Sanchez, also made yesterday, was for two years and a total believed to be in the range of $10 million. That would represent a cut from his current salary of $6.25 million and, more striking, the total is $2 million more than the $8 million Sanchez is set to make in 2010 alone under the vesting option in his current contract, one that would be annulled under the Pirates' proposal.
Sanchez is on a comfortable pace to achieve the 600 plate appearances necessary to trigger that option.
Both offers, apparently, came with little flexibility on the Pirates' end ...
I don't believe that Neal Huntington believed that Sanchez or Wilson would accept these initial offers, and they haven't:
- Wilson's offer covers two years at a total of $8 million, it was learned yesterday, plus a club option for 2012. That offer at least reached the point where it was delivered formally and considered. Wilson would prefer a guaranteed third year, but it was not outright rejected, and Wilson remains steadfast in his insistence that Sanchez gets signed, too.
The scenario is somewhat different for Sanchez, whose offer covers two years at a total of $10 million while also voiding his current 2010 vesting option worth $8 million if he achieves 600 plate appearances this season, which he likely will. That offer was rejected emphatically, to the degree that no further talks were planned.
Sanchez had little choice, because he's worth more than $10 million for one season, let alone two. Wilson is also worth a great deal more than offered, though in his case it's not as obvious because so much of his value comes from his defense. So (you might wonder) why didn't the offers come at least somewhat close to the players' "real" values? Because a team like the Pirates really can't afford to pay the market rate for veteran players. Not good ones, anyway.
I suspect that Huntington extended the offers merely so he could say that he did. It'll be a shame if the Pirates can't keep Sanchez and Wilson, but both are quite valuable and should bring excellent return if traded.
Given how valuable they are and the Pirates' apparent inability to keep them -- friendship's worth only so much, right? -- Huntington's handling of their departure will go a long way toward defining his legacy as general manager.