Wilson, Sanchez tenures with Bucs end
Shortstop traded to Mariners, second baseman to Giants
SAN FRANCISCO -- It was an odd scene, a rushed one, too, at AT&T Park on Wednesday afternoon. The Giants ushered Freddy Sanchez into an impromptu press conference after slipping a Giants jersey over his head. Minutes before, Sanchez had been in the dugout with his Pirates teammates. Now he was preparing to enter the thick of a pennant race.
Just hours after watching his middle-infield partner and best friend, Jack Wilson, walk out the clubhouse door to join a new team, Sanchez was called into manager John Russell's office and informed that after all the speculation, he had indeed been dealt to the Giants. The Pirates received 20-year-old right-hander Tim Alderson for the second baseman.
The trade ended a frenzied afternoon for the organization, one in which the Pirates saw two of their three longest-tenured players traded away. Prior to the game, Wilson and Ian Snell were sent to the Mariners in a seven-player trade.
"There's been a lot made that these moves are fire sale," general manager Neal Huntington said, shooting down that notion. "They're going to be incredibly unpopular. This is how we are going to win, how we are going to rebuild this franchise. We have no interest of getting to .500 once and then losing for five years. Our goal is to put a team on the field year in and year out to keep talent in the system."
The two trades ended an interesting two-week sequence of events that saw the organization reach out to try to sign both middle infielders, followed by a last-minute effort from both players to make one more effort to stay.
Almost exactly 24 hours before he was traded, Sanchez asked his agents, Paul Cobbe and Matt Sosnick, to counter the initial two-year, $10 million offer that the Pirates had made to him during the All-Star break. They did, presenting the Pirates with a three-year, $20 million counteroffer, despite advising Sanchez not to sell himself that low.
"He just said that he loved playing in Pittsburgh and he knew that there was something in the works, and he had us present an offer that we felt was under market value to Pittsburgh because he said he wanted to take one shot at letting the fans in Pittsburgh know that he wanted to stay there," said Sosnick, who was at AT&T Park with Sanchez on Wednesday. "Freddy asked us to discount the offer, and we did. It was solely his choice to make a counteroffer. He loves Pittsburgh. He loves the fans there.
"Our advice was that he wait it out. He said, 'No, I don't want to get traded and not take a shot at at least staying in Pittsburgh.'"
On Wednesday morning, the Pirates formally rejected Sanchez's proposal.
Similarly, Wilson's agent, Page Odle, put a call into the Pirates on Tuesday to try to reopen contract-extension talks between the shortstop and the club. But by the time that call came in, the Pirates had already agreed in principal to deal Wilson to Seattle.
"Ironically enough, after we agreed to the trade, we got a phone call to reopen the door," Huntington said. "But we'd already agreed to the trade and ethically, we felt like we had to move forward. We'd already agreed in principal and felt ethically we needed to move forward."
Also ironic was that for all those times over the past three seasons that Wilson thought that he was surely on his way out, Wednesday morning wasn't one of those days. But it was while he was in the cab on the way to the ballpark that he received a call from Huntington.
"As much as you try, you definitely can't prepare for it," said Wilson, the organization's longest-tenured player. "[My wife and I have] been talking the last couple of days about exit strategies and stuff like that. None of them were, 'How do we get out of San Francisco?' I was pretty shocked, but at the same time, not completely overwhelmed. [There's] so many things running through my head right now."
After making his way around the clubhouse and exchanging an especially tough goodbye with Sanchez, Wilson left San Francisco on Wednesday morning to join his new teammates in Seattle.
He leaves Pittsburgh having appeared in 1,128 games as a Pirates shortstop, a total that ranks fourth in team history. Wilson, arguably the organization's most popular player and one strongly involved in the Pittsburgh community, has never played with another Major League team. He made his big league debut with Pittsburgh in 2001 and became the team's everyday shortstop a year later.
"I probably would have said [back in 2000] that if everything would go perfect, it would have gone exactly how it went, to come to a team and play that long," Wilson said. "Regardless of the record, I take a lot of pride in being a Pittsburgh person. I lived there, raised my kids there. Putting on that uniform every day, it sounds like a cliché, but it is an honor. It's special. It really is."
As it turned out, Wilson's last home game as a member of the Pirates came on July 20 against Milwaukee. The shortstop went 1-for-3 in the win.
"I would have loved to have had another chance to play in Pittsburgh, to go back home and say goodbye to the fans," Wilson said. "It's pretty upsetting that you don't have time to say goodbye to people who have really carried you through over the years, the good times and the bad. That's one thing you think about, not being able to go back. Hopefully in my career, I can come back and show my appreciation to them."
When asked if he would consider returning to Pittsburgh once he becomes a free agent, Wilson left the door open for the possibility. He might be a free agent in as soon as two months, if the Mariners decide not to exercise his $8.4 million club option for 2010, though Seattle is believed to be considering taking on that option.
"Yeah, I would [consider returning to Pittsburgh]," Wilson said. "We'll see what happens, obviously. They're building something in Seattle as well and they're in a playoff race. We'll see how that goes."
Seeing Wilson walk out the door on Wednesday visibly shook up Sanchez, who had tears in his eyes as he asked members of the media to give him a little more time to get a hold of his emotions before he spoke. Hours later, speaking to a large contingent of San Francisco media, Sanchez tried to sum up the emotions of the day.
"Emotionally, that was draining," said Sanchez, after learning he had been traded for Double-A pitcher Alderson. "I think seeing [Wilson] go made this move a lot less emotional for me to come over here, because he was gone -- that was my double-play partner for years and my best friend."
The three-time All-Star and 2006 National League batting champion left the Pirates after hitting .296 with 28 doubles and 34 RBIs in 86 games. He ended his career with Pittsburgh on an 0-for-20 skid, a streak that he admits was largely the result of his inability to keep his focus amid the swirling trade rumors. He did not play in the team's most recent series because of inflammation in his left knee, something the Giants medical staff examined again on Wednesday before signing off on the deal.
During Wednesday's introductory press conference with the Giants, Sanchez did relay one last message for the fans of Pittsburgh, whom he had played in front of since being dealt from Boston in a 2003 Trade Deadline deal.
"They know how I feel about them," Sanchez said. "Even though we haven't been a winning team in a long time, they still came out and gave us support like nobody else has. Unfortunately, we didn't get the job done. We didn't play well enough. I think we had some good players there. I contributed to that also. I could've played better."
Inside the Pirates clubhouse, the two trades, as expected, angered some and shook up others. Not everyone asked to comment on the deals agreed to.
"It's almost kind of like a dream," said Andy LaRoche, the only one left from the Pirates' Opening Day starting infield. "It seems like every day we're trading one of the guys who is a team leader. We just need some guys to step up."
It will also force some of those still left to now assume those leadership roles left vacant by the departures of Wilson, Sanchez, Adam LaRoche and Nate McLouth.
"We just don't know when it's going to be finally over to where we know we have the guys in here who are actually going to turn it around," starter Paul Maholm said. "Hopefully it's soon. We have a job to do. We have to play. We have to go win games. It's a turnover so far, but there are some of us that just need to make sure that things go as they need to be and not lose focus."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.