The Pirates yesterday pulled back their contract extension offers to Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez and, though they remain open to new negotiations, there was no indication any are forthcoming.
"That time has come and gone," general manager Neal Huntington said of the offers' lifespan. "They feel like we're awfully light both in years and dollars. In our minds, the conversations are at a standstill."
Neither of the player's agents, Page Odle for Wilson and Paul Cobbe for Sanchez, has responded with a counter-offer after each player rejected the team's initial offer late Friday, though Wilson's rejection was not as emphatic as Sanchez's. Wilson's offer was for two years and $8 million, plus a club option for 2012. Sanchez's was for two years and $10 million, plus the voiding of his existing 2010 vesting option that could pay him $8 million.
Wilson remains adamant that Sanchez must sign if he is to sign. He would prefer a guaranteed third year, as would Sanchez, and Sanchez would want to make up the money lost by voiding the vesting option that he almost surely will trigger.
Neither Odle nor Cobbe has sought further talks with Huntington. And Huntington strongly suggested the next move will not be his.
"If they want to continue dialogue, we're open to it," Huntington said. "If not, we understand. No harm, no foul."
How long might the Pirates' door remain open?
"I think that comes when we trade one or both, which may not happen. We made an offer, and we put a deadline on it, which is something I've done with every offer I've made. You can't just leave it out there. We're a little time-sensitive here because of the looming trade deadline."
That is July 31.
"And just because they don't accept doesn't mean they're going to be traded. If we get the right baseball deal, we get the right baseball deal."
Huntington pointed to the lack of counter-offers as pivotal.
"Typically, in a negotiation, you get a counter-offer. That's how conversations continue. We've not gotten that to this point. We felt pretty strongly that our structure was in place but that we were open to some adjustments off it. Not huge differences in years or dollars. But if there was something that added value to the player, we're open to that."
Odle and Cobbe declined comment, as did Sanchez. But Wilson responded, solely on the topic of counter-offers.
"Answer me this: How can we respond with counter-offers when we were told that those were take-it-or-leave-it offers?" Wilson said. "How do you counter that?"
The Pirates' terminology in issuing the offers, according to multiple sources, was "best-shot."
Huntington was asked if the differences might be made up with bonus-heavy contracts.
"Yeah, something that they feel adds value," he replied. "Obviously, their response is that they don't feel we're even in the same ballpark, and that's understandable. We've made a quick attempt to sign players for what we feel works for us. If they don't feel it works for them, then they don't accept. We've made offers that we feel will be realistic given this year's free-agent offseason."
Huntington cited Major League Baseball's most recent free-agency period, one in which four position players out of 107 signed contracts of three years or longer.
"We don't feel we're that unrealistic in our offers. We understand they think they're going to get more this offseason, and they're certainly entitled to that."
The Pirates carry 2010 club options on each player -- $8.4 million for Wilson, $8 million for Sanchez -- and could unilaterally keep each player another year at those prices if they choose. But Huntington made clear those will not be exercised.
"I don't know that that's realistic from a financial standpoint," he said. "A year ago, I was an idiot for extending Freddy for $6 million. And now, I'm an idiot for not being willing to give him a heck of a lot more than that. In Jack's case, he has played terrific defense for us, maybe the best of his career. But this is the fourth of five years that he's been a below-average league bat for his position. So, we've got to be realistic in our evaluations."
Huntington took umbrage at the notion that Wilson and Sanchez are irreplaceable because of a dearth of middle infielders in the Pirates' system.
"We can't be held hostage because we don't have enough options. We believe we have enough talent in the system that, if we have to trade for a shortstop or second baseman, we can do that. We could look for a free agent. Adam Everett signed for $1 million a year ago."
Everett, 32, a year older than Wilson and Sanchez, signed for that amount with Detroit. He is batting .252 as the Tigers' regular shortstop and has committed eight errors, one more than Wilson.
"There's going to be somebody available," Huntington continued. "Maybe not to the level of Jack and Freddy. But now we take the dollar difference and reapply that somewhere else, we feel like we can be a better team with two or three players instead of just one."
Huntington also took umbrage -- again -- at the notion that the Pirates made the offers as a public-relations maneuver.
"There's only one good outcome for us in the PR sense, and that's if both players sign. For us to take a PR beating to make offers that weren't genuine wouldn't be a smart move. We made these offers with the understanding that we wanted these players to stay here. The first offer has expired. But, as long as they're Pirates, we'll be open to considering keeping them."