Monday, July 6, 2009

FREDDY SANCHEZ: PORTRAIT OF LATEST "DEAD MAN WALKING"?




ABOVE: Freddy Sanchez acknowledges the cheers of the crowd.

I've never been one of those guys who study player contracts, but I heard an interesting nugget yesterday about the contract of Pirate second baseman, Freddy Sanchez, that certainly bears repeating.

Sanchez was just named by Major League Baseball as the Pirates lone representative to the All Star Game as a reserve. This will be his third trip to the midsummer exhibition. Hitting .316 for the year, Sanchez is currently tenth in the league in batting average and is having a much better season defensively with a stellar .997 fielding percentage, now that he has been healthy for the most part this year. While committing only one error so far all season, Sanchez has combined with Jack Wilson in turning 59 double plays. Here's where the interesting part comes in: Sanchez apparently has a clause in his contract that stipulates that he will receive an $8 million dollar bonus if he manages 630 at bats for the season. Over the course of the year, Sanchez would need to average 3.5 plate appearances per game. However, and it's a very large however, if he was named to the All Star Team, he need make only 600 plate appearances. Since Sanchez was just named over the weekend, his required plate appearances just dropped by 30 or approximately by 8.5 games.


LEFT: The "STAT RAT" weighs in on Freddy Sanchez.

This is what's wrong with this type of an incentive: Sanchez has just missed the past three games with back spasms and is still questionable versus the Astros. Obviously, with an incentive this big in front of him, he must be worried about meeting his performance clause. Will Sanchez come back too soon to stop the lost at-bats and potentially causing himself greater harm?

Even worse, let's say that he has 595 at-bats going into the last game. Do the Pirates start Sanchez and risk costing themselves $8 million or an additional 26% over their established payroll which is among the lowest in the league? Or, if they don't play him, do they risk causing an irreparable rift and lose all credibility with their players and fans?

This is the danger in signing these types of deals with players. Of course, in the case of the Pirates, this clause should merely be viewed as further reason why Freddy Sanchez should surely find himself as the next Pirate on the trading block. The Pirates won't want to have to face this scenario. Reports are circulating that the San Francisco Giants have already been scouting Sanchez. With Neal Huntington showing a penchant for turning over the roster that he inherited, don't be surprised to see Sanchez Jack Wilson, Adam LaRoche and possibly even John Grabow dealt before the trading deadline. This will also open up several more spots in the lineup for new acquisitions and promoted players to try and make an impact during the remainder of the season.. With the Pirates starting pitching looking better than its' been in quite awhile, don't expect the team to go into a freefall. They won't crack .500 again this year, but they definitely will in 2010. The following season (2011) could see the Pirates vying as a serious contender in the NL Central for the first time in 19 years as the Huntington acquisitions mature and congeal as a team.

Now for the delicious part of this story: Sanchez currently has 304 at bats during 82 games the team has played this year. He has averaged 600 at bats in his prior seasons as a pro and amazingly, at his current pace, he would finish with exactly 600 at bats in the last game of the season! Stay tuned Pirate fans!!

1 comment:

Hanlon7117 said...

Interesting analysis. I have no idea what the Giants have to offer in terms of prospects (or what the Pirates need, since they seem to acquire new "prospects" monthly), but I do hope Neil keeps making moves that seem have a purpose related to wins and loses and not the balance sheet.