For 2010, there will be a club option that would involve another raise if the Pirates exercise it, a buyout if they do not. But that comes with a large asterisk: If Sanchez performs at a certain level in the first two seasons of the contract -- believed to be based on a reasonable threshold of plate appearances -- a provision in the contract automatically triggers that option.
Hmm. The contract could be worth a total of about $19 million, Kovacevic reports. I'll have to see the breakdown before I pass judgement, but basically it sounds like the Pirates are paying about what they would've paid anyway for the first two years, and then some mysterious stuff happens in the third year. The problem I'm having is that it's pretty likely that, if the Pirates had taken Sanchez to arbitration, he wouldn't have made much more than the $11 million or so (including the 2010 buyout, which we may as well just go ahead and tack onto the first two years, since he's guaranteed to get it anyway) he'll make in the first two years of the contract. So it looks like what they're doing here is setting themselves up to tack on an extra year in 2010 at $8 million or so if Sanchez plays a lot. That wouldn't be bad if the Pirates were a contending team, but are the 2010 Pirates going to need an aging second baseman who costs $8 million.
As I said, I'll wait to pass judgment until I see the specifics. I'm somewhat pessimistic about this, but it doesn't look like the worst thing in the world by any means, and it's possible this contract could end up making Sanchez easier to trade in the long run. As someone pointed out earlier today, it also insulates the Pirates' management from criticism if they trade Jason Bay or Xavier Nady or someone like that.