Pirates looking at 1-year deal for Sanchez
By Rob Biertempfel
Saturday, January 19, 2008
This offseason, the Pirates are not trying to lock up second baseman Freddy Sanchez to a long-term contract. Instead, the team is working to sign Sanchez to a one-year deal and avoid a salary arbitration hearing in February.
"All our discussions have been about one-year plans," Sanchez's agent, Paul Cobbe, said Friday. "There has been no conversations between us about a multi-year deal."
Cobbe said Sanchez is not demanding a long-term contract.
"Freddy takes the perspective that (the Pirates) do not owe him a multi-year contract," Cobbe said. "He's going to go out and play and they'll pay him what he's worth, and he won't worry too much about it."
General manager Neal Huntington did not return a phone call for comment.
Noon yesterday was the deadline for teams to exchange salary figures with agents for their unsigned, arbitration-eligible players. The Pirates began the day with three such players, then quickly came to terms with two of them -- outfielder Xavier Nady and reliever John Grabow -- on one-year contracts.
Nady, 29, will receive $3.35 million this year and another $250,000 if he meets incentive clauses based on plate appearances.
Nady made $2.15 million in 2007, when he hit .278 with 20 homers and 72 RBI despite a chronic hamstring injury. He also missed 10 games with a concussion.
Grabow, 29, will get $1.135 million this year, with the potential for another $75,000 in performance bonuses. In 2007, the left-hander made $832,500 for 63 relief appearances but was limited by recurring elbow pain.
When salary figures were exchanged yesterday, the Pirates and Sanchez's camp were $800,000 apart. The Pirates offered $4.1 million; Sanchez asked for $4.9 million.
It's a sizable gap, but Cobbe does not consider it too far to close.
"I think the Pirates are putting forth an effort and I'm putting forth an effort," Cobbe said. "Freddy, because he's had kind of a unique career, it can be difficult to figure out what your formula is to value him.
"There are some items that we strongly disagree on, but there also are items that we agree on."
At this time last year, the two sides exchanged salary figures that were nearly $1 million apart. Sanchez, who won the National League batting title in 2006, eventually settled for a one-year, $2.76 million deal.
Sanchez missed most of spring training and the first few days of the 2007 season with a knee injury. He rebounded to hit .304, but was shut down after having shoulder surgery in the final week of the season.
Pirates management may have decided it is not worth the risk to offer a multi-year deal to Sanchez, who turned 30 last month. Sanchez will be arbitration-eligible again next year, then may test free agency in 2010.
"Pittsburgh has a plan and Freddy is a part of that plan -- at least for the next two years," Cobbe said.
Arbitration hearings will be held Feb. 1-20 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The two sides may continue to negotiate up to the day of their hearing.
If the Pirates must go to an arbitration hearing with Sanchez, the team will have a powerful weapon it didn't have in previous years: president Frank Coonelly.
Coonelly joined the Pirates last year after a nine-year stint as Major League Baseball's top labor lawyer. When he worked for MLB, Coonelly often attended hearings as a management consultant -- and, by all accounts, he was a hard-nosed, well-prepared negotiator.
This week, the Pirates avoided the arbitration process with Adam LaRoche and Jose Bautista by coming to terms on a one-year contract with each player.
Bautista agreed Thursday to a $1.8 million contract. Three days earlier, LaRoche got a $5 million deal.
The Pirates are exploring a multi-year deal with LaRoche, who has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining.