Sanchez, Wilson reject contract offers
Infielders haven't made counter-offers; Bucs not optimistic
PITTSBURGH -- Both Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson have rejected the Pirates' contract offers, and as of Sunday, neither has come back to present a counter-offer. The absence of any sort of counter-offer, general manager Neal Huntington said, does not leave the organization optimistic that a deal will be reached with either player in the coming days.
Just days ago, the Pirates approached both Sanchez and Wilson about signing extensions with the club. The idea was that if both players accepted, the Pirates would take them off the trading block in advance of the July 31 Trade Deadline. If both rejected -- currently the case -- then the Pirates would move forward and entertain offers for the two middle infielders leading up to the final day of the month.
Sanchez's offer consisted of a two-year deal worth about $10 million and would have voided his $8 million option for 2010, which will be guaranteed once he makes 600 plate appearances this season. Wilson's offer was also for two years and worth $8 million. It would take the place of his $8.4 million club option for next season, an option that the Pirates have already confirmed will not be picked up.
With no counter-offer from either player, Huntington is left to assume that the organization's value on each player does not match either infielder's expectations.
"We felt pretty strongly that our structure was essentially in place, but that we were open to some adjustments off of it -- not significant adjustments, not huge differences in years or dollars, but if there was something that added value to the deal for the player, we were open to that," Huntington said. "We've not received a counter to this point, so in our minds, they are not interested in even the foundation that we've laid. The response is such that they don't even feel we are in the same ballpark because they feel like years, dollars, the foundation is so far off their expectations that it's not worth countering."
Huntington had given both Wilson and Sanchez a deadline to negotiate, something that was dictated largely by the fact that the organization wanted time to go out and receive offers on both players if they didn't accept.
Huntington said on Sunday that he is still open to negotiating with either player if they are interested. Huntington also stressed the fact that the organization felt two-year offers for both players were more than fair, citing the fact that only four free agent position players signed offseason deals that covered more than two years.
"We've made offers that we feel will be realistic given this year's offseason," Huntington said. "We understand that they feel like they are going to get more this offseason, and they're certainly entitled to that. That's what makes an in-season extension so tough -- you don't have a competing market to compare guys."
It is not guaranteed that either or both Wilson and Sanchez will be dealt by the end of the month, as the Pirates still have to find a package that they deem as an appropriate value for the players. The interest shown in Sanchez has been significantly more than that directed at Wilson, which suggests that the second baseman is the more likely of the two to go.
If the Pirates do not trade Sanchez and do not come to a new contract agreement with him, they will most certainly continue to accept offers for him this offseason. As for Wilson, he'd likely be lost in free agency. Listening to Huntington assess the situation, it's clear that he does not want to be handcuffed next season by doling out too much money to either middle infielder, even though the Pirates do not currently have any internal replacements at either position.
"We have to be realistic in our evaluations and put deals on the table that makes sense for us," Huntington said. "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. [If] we take the dollar difference in the investments for the shortstop and the second baseman and reapply that somewhere else, we arguably feel like we can be a better team with two players or three players instead of one."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.