The Pirates are jerking Sanchez, Wilson and their fans around

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On Friday
I relayed the news of the contract offers given by the Pirates to
Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson. When I did, I said “I can’t recall an
instance of Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington playing games with players.”
Well, here’s an instance of it:

The Pirates yesterday pulled back their contract extension offers to
Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez and, though they remain open to new
negotiations, there was no indication any are forthcoming. “That time
has come and gone,” general manager Neal Huntington said of the offers’
lifespan. “They feel like we’re awfully light both in years and
dollars. In our minds, the conversations are at a standstill . . .
Typically, in a negotiation, you get a counter-offer. That’s how
conversations continue. We’ve not gotten that to this point.”

I love how Huntington is trying to make Wilson and Sanchez sound like
the bad guys here. But listen to Wilson: “Answer me this: How can we
respond with counter-offers when we were told that those were
take-it-or-leave-it offers? How do you counter that?” And then listen
to Huntington again:

“A year ago, I was an idiot for extending Freddy for $6 million. And
now, I’m an idiot for not being willing to give him a heck of a lot
more than that. In Jack’s case, he has played terrific defense for us,
maybe the best of his career. But this is the fourth of five years that
he’s been a below-average league bat for his position. So, we’ve got to
be realistic in our evaluations.”

Except that, according to the wire reports, he wasn’t offering “a heck of a lot more than that”:

Sanchez was offered $10 million over two seasons, a deal contingent
upon him shelving the $8.4 million he will be owed in 2010 if he makes
600 plate appearances this season. Wilson, the most tenured Pirates
player with nine seasons in uniform, was offered $8 million over two
years – or less than his club option of $8.4 million for next season

To sum up: Sanchez was given an option by Neal Huntington that rewarded
good consistent play, and he has delivered it. The new offer he was
given, however, takes that away and stands to pay him far less than he
can expect to get over the next two years regardless. Wilson is also
being asked to drop his option and take a pay cut, all while being
bad-mouthed by his boss. Neither of the offers ever stood a chance of
being accepted and Huntington had to know it.

Not that they’re necessarily terrible offers on some objective
level. In fact, they probably represent decent approximations of each
players’ value going forward. The problem, though, isn’t the offers
themselves. It’s the way in which they were communicated: publicly, and
in such a way as to put Sanchez and Wilson on the spot and to make them
sound like bad guys when they were rejected.

A GM in Huntington’s position sometimes has to make unpopular moves,
such as parting with popular players like Sanchez and Wilson. He should
have the guts to simply do so, however, rather than make a big phony
show of wanting to keep them in an effort to win the P.R. game.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.