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Time ticking on extension talks with Sanchez, Wilson

Pirates/MLB Videos

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Pirates have created only a tiny window of opportunity for second baseman Freddy Sanchez and shortstop Jack Wilson to remain teammates beyond this season.

The team has offered to talk with both players about contract extensions, but it wants firm deals in place within the next few days.

"This is something that needs to be resolved quickly, one way or the other," general manager Neal Huntington said Friday. "If there isn't common ground, I think we'll know pretty quickly. We can't let it linger and inhibit the trade process."

The non-waiver trading deadline is July 31. Huntington has been listening to offers involving both players -- and knows Wilson and Sanchez are at, or perhaps even beyond, their peak value.

"Instead of trading and wondering what could've been, we decided to step forward and see if there's something that could be done to keep them here," Huntington said.

The Pirates normally do not negotiate with players during the season. They did not act during spring training when Wilson asked to rework his contract.

Management made its negotiation offer only after Sanchez got an All-Star berth, which was one of two conditions that together will automatically trigger his $8.6 million contract option for 2010.

Is the Pirates' last-minute invitation to talk a ploy to soothe fans who would be upset if either Sanchez or Wilson is traded?

"Obviously, I hope that's not the case," Sanchez said. "But, you never know what anybody's intentions are. You hope it's a genuine offer, and it's going to be a genuine negotiation.

"We've got to see what's brought to the table. We've got to see how genuine everybody is about this. People know that Jack and I are truly genuine about it. We love the city of Pittsburgh, and we want to be here. Most important, we want to see this team turn around. We want to win."

Wilson, 31, is in the final season of a four-year, $24.4 million contract. He has an $8.4 million option for 2010, but the Pirates already have told him they will not pick it up.

Sanchez, 31, is in the final season of a two-year, $10.25 million deal. However, his option for 2010 will activate if he makes 600 plate appearances this season. Sanchez came out of the All-Star break with 337 plate appearances.

The Pirates are willing to extend those contracts -- but only if the salaries are drastically reduced.

"The realities of the market have changed from when these contracts were signed," Huntington said. "The landscape is very different."

The incentive for Sanchez and Wilson to rework their deals is the chance to keep their productive double-play tandem intact.

"We love playing with each other," Wilson said. "We take a lot of pride in what we do. (I had) some tough times the last couple of years, and having somebody like Freddy go through those times with you, keeping it fun, keeping it together out there on the field and in the dugout, it's a huge plus."

Wilson referred to the contract talks as a "package deal." Sanchez, however, did not go that far.

"You can't look at it like that," Sanchez said. "It's something that Jack and I feel strongly about, but you can't say, 'Both or none.'"

Said Huntington: "If a perfect world, we bring them both back under contracts that are favorable to them and favorable to us. But if we get one, then we get one. If we can't either, we can't get either."




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