I didn't see this coming, particularly in light of the Post-Gazette's recent reporting that the Pirates were aggressively shopping Sanchez:
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.
But the clock is ticking.
If the parties are to agree on extensions, they will need to do so far enough in advance of the deadline so that, if the Pirates decide no agreement is possible, they still can pursue a trade for one or both. That likely means something must get done within the next week to 10 days.
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 know the Pirates really have no one to replace Wilson or Sanchez right now, but a team in the Pirates' position has no business offering extensions to a pair of middle infielders in their 30s, particularly when they already have options on them in 2010 anyway.
And let's be honest: the Pirates have made some noises recently about Sanchez and Wilson's 2010 options being expensive, but they aren't terribly. Wilson's is effectively for $7.8 million ($8.4 million minus a $600,000 buyout), which is a little steep for a player who hits as little as he does, but not completely unreasonable. And Sanchez's option for $7.4 million ($8 million minus another $600,000 buyout) is a good deal. Just because the Pirates aren't used to paying players real money doesn't mean other teams won't.
So whatever's going on here, I don't think it's purely about reducing their salaries to a more reasonable level in 2010, because that already should be pretty close to a non-issue. If it's about keeping them beyond 2010, I think that's a very dumb thing to try to do right now. Neither Sanchez nor Wilson are terribly likely to age well.
Second basemen in particular tend to age poorly, and Sanchez, with his injury history, is probably more vulnerable than most. His upside going forward is that he plugs along for three or four more years and continues to hit for average, kind of the way Mark Grudzielanek did. I don't see him improving.
Wilson's having an above-average year for him, but that just means he has a .704 OPS instead of his .688 career mark. He's very helpful to the Pirates' young pitchers, but again: if the Pirates want him in 2010, they can have him. Guessing that he'll be helpful on either side of the ball after that seems like a fool's errand.
Signing Sanchez and Wilson would be so wildly out of character for Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly that I can only speculate about their motiv ations, but there are a couple of possibilities:
1. The Pirates are doing this for public relations purposes, so that if they do trade Sanchez or Wilson later they can go to the press and say that they tried to sign them to extensions but couldn't agree on a figure.
2. The Pirates are trying to get leverage in potential deals for Sanchez or Wilson by claiming to trading partners that they're willing to take their middle infielders and go home.
3. The Pirates really do believe the best way to develop the young talent they do have is to keep Sanchez and Wilson around. This option doesn't make much sense to me since, again, the Pirates have 2010 options on Sanchez and Wilson, but I suppose it's a possibility.
4. Someone in the Pirates' front office is tired of the grief they're getting from the fans and the press over the unpopular trades of Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett, and they're changing course.
I'm sure you'll come up with others in the comments. But: 1 or 2 would be fine. Option 3 doesn't make sense. Option 4 would be a disaster, because it would mean that we're going to see lots of the sort of zigging and zagging that will surely fail to produce a winning club.
By the way: the article also raises the possibility of including no-trade clauses in these contracts. Wow would that be an incredibly stupid thing for a rebuilding team to offer a couple of over-30 middle infielders.