Pirates, Sanchez have large gap to fill
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Outfielder Xavier Nady and reliever John Grabow yesterday agreed to one-year contracts with the Pirates to avoid arbitration, but second baseman Freddy Sanchez did not.
And might not for a while.
At Major League Baseball's noon deadline yesterday for arbitration-eligible players and teams to exchange salary figures, Sanchez and the team wound up $800,000 apart, Sanchez submitting $4.9 million and the Pirates $4.1 million. The process requires each side to submit a figure, and a three-member panel chooses one or the other during hearings Feb. 1-20.
The sides also can reach an amicable settlement at any point leading up to the scheduled hearing.
The gap between Sanchez and the Pirates was the 14th largest of the 47 arbitration-eligible players still unsigned in the majors.
Why the disparity?
"With a player like Freddy, things aren't going to be clear-cut," his agent, Paul Cobbe, said last night. "He's a unique player, a back-to-back All-Star coming off a sensational year and a very good year. It's hard to find another middle infielder coming off two seasons like that who is in his second year of arbitration. Those types of players, like Chase Utley or Michael Young, are locked up to long-term deals."
Sanchez, 30, was the 2006 National League batting champion and had a .304 follow-up last season, when he was paid $2.75 million.
The Pirates expressed internal interest in exploring a long-term deal with Sanchez as early as September, but that never materialized into anything more than a preliminary discussion. Neither side will divulge why, but it is likely the team was wary of what Sanchez might command beyond 2009. His rights belong to the Pirates through arbitration the next two seasons but he can test the open market after that and might be worth eight figures annually.
The current talks have focused entirely on a one-year deal, and that is unlikely to change, by all accounts.
Despite the large gap, there is palpable optimism among Sanchez's side and the Pirates that they will settle before going to arbitration. And there is cause for that: For one, they had an even larger gap when exchanging figures last year -- $950,000 -- and found middle ground at $2.75 million five days before their schedule hearing. For another, arbitration hearings are rare. The Pirates have had only two -- third baseman Jeff King in 1993, shortstop Jack Wilson in 2004 -- in the past 15 years.
The Pirates' other two arbitration-eligible players as of yesterday morning also went past the noon deadline, but they settled by midafternoon.
Nady, 29, will make $3.35 million in base pay in 2008, plus as much as $250,000 in incentive bonuses if he makes 600 plate appearances. He made $2.15 million last season, batting .278 with 20 home runs and 72 RBIs despite missing significant time to injuries and ailments.
Grabow, 29, will make $1.135 million, plus as much as $75,000 in bonuses if he makes 75 appearances. He made $832,500 last season, posting a 4.53 ERA in 63 appearances.
Each, like Sanchez, was in his second year of arbitration eligibility.
First Published January 19, 2008 12:00 am