Pirates, Sanchez close to agreement on three-year deal
Burnett taken off roster but likely to stay in system
Saturday, February 02, 2008
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pirates and Freddy Sanchez are close to agreement on a three-year contract and could have a deal early next week.
Such a contract would allow the team and its All-Star second baseman to avoid an arbitration hearing Feb. 11 and, more important, keep Sanchez in Pittsburgh through 2010. Sanchez currently is eligible for free agency after the 2009 season.
The sides had limited talks to a one-year deal until eight days ago, when the Pirates approached Sanchez and his agent, Paul Cobbe, with an offer of two years plus a club option. That was upgraded to guarantee the third year.
There remains a chance the agreement could crumble, but optimism seemed strong enough yesterday that there was talk of having a news conference at PNC Park as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday. Traditionally, the Pirates have had news conferences only for major signings.
The Pirates do not publicly discuss ongoing negotiations, and Cobbe declined comment.
Also yesterday, the Pirates claimed infielder Ray Olmedo off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays and, to make room on the full 40-man roster, designated starter Sean Burnett for assignment. Burnett, the Pirates' first-round draft pick in 2000, almost surely will remain with the organization.
By designating Burnett, the Pirates have 10 days to waive, trade or release him, but their plan is to keep him if he clears waivers and outright him to the minor-league roster. He already has been assured that if that happens he will receive a non-roster invitation to spring training and remain in the mix for a bullpen spot with the Pirates. Another team could claim Burnett, but that seems unlikely as Burnett has not pitched in the majors since 2004 after elbow and shoulder surgeries.
Olmedo, 26, is a switch-hitter with a .228 career average in 198 major-league games, including .216 in 27 games for Toronto last season. He spent most of the year with Class AAA Syracuse, batting .290. Most of his defensive duty was at shortstop.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Olmedo "adds experience and gives us additional depth up the middle."
On another front, free-agent catcher Paul Bako, who had been pursued by the Pirates, yesterday signed a minor-league contract with the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates can be expected to keep seeking catching depth, even deep into spring training as more players become available.