What are the Pirates' plans with all-star second baseman Freddy Sanchez?
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
All was atypically quiet on the Jack Wilson/Freddy Sanchez front yesterday, with neither player hearing back from the Pirates after general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday he would be open to new contract talks.
That silence could be taken to mean that neither side wants to blink first.
Or it could mean, as one industry source said last night, that Huntington is pausing to take one more crack at seeing what the trade market could bring, particularly for Sanchez.
A trade, by all accounts, will not be easy because other teams are wary of Sanchez's $8 million vesting option for 2010, one he is virtually certain to trigger by making 600 plate appearances this season. From the Pirates' perspective, that complicates -- possibly negates -- making a true baseball trade, one in which it is plainly clear that they receive equal return in talent regardless of the money issue.
If a true baseball trade is not made, then moving Sanchez could be widely viewed as a salary dump by a fan base still stinging from the trades of two other All-Stars, Jason Bay and Nate McLouth, in the past year.
The above factors might best explain why the Pirates remain interested in negotiating further, even if they have not yet acted upon it.
Wilson, Sanchez speak
Wilson and Sanchez addressed the media with what each called his final public remarks on the matter.
Wilson reiterated that he and Sanchez made no counter-offers because the Pirates called their initial offers "best-shot." And he stressed anew that he will not sign unless Sanchez does.
"I let them know I'm interested in staying a Pirate," Wilson said. "I've loved putting this jersey on every day for nine years. But the direction of the team is what's most important, and breaking the streak is what's most important."
That was a reference to the Pirates' 16-plus losing seasons.
"Without Freddy, that would be pretty tough to do. We'd be taking a step backward."
Of the contract status, he added, "We're both very interested in being Pirates. It is a negotiation, and it definitely shouldn't be a public thing, which it has kind of turned into. I don't think it's dead, though. I think all sides are still willing to talk and, hopefully, we can get something out of it."
Sanchez addressed the counter-offer aspect, too.
"I didn't know it was negotiable," he said of the Pirates' initial offer. "I think we all thought that we couldn't even make a counter-offer. But I also think now that we might have had a miscommunication. That's fine. I'm leaving it all up to my agent."
• Even if Virgil Vasquez falters tonight, expect Jeff Karstens to stay in long relief. "To be honest, I like him in the bullpen because he gives you a lot of options," manager John Russell said. "He can pitch long, pitch the eighth, pitch a tied game in the ninth. This guy has done a phenomenal job for us. That being said, I don't want to close the door on him being a starter."
• Russell spent nearly a half-hour on the field talking one-on-one with slumping first baseman Adam LaRoche: "Adam's played great defense for us, but, offensively, yeah, we'd like him to contribute, as well as some other guys."
• Andrew McCutchen has started all 40 games since his promotion from Class AAA Indianapolis. Will he ever rest? "We'll just see how he goes," Russell said. "Right now, he seems to be very strong. When you give a younger kid a day off, it's more of a mental break than physical. He seems to have handled everything, mentally, very well."
• Indianapolis outfielder Lastings Milledge was named International League player of the week after going 9 for 17 with five RBIs.