Francisco Cervelli has a new backup, as the Pirates activated catcher Chris Stewart from the disabled list and demoted Tony Sanchez to Triple-A.
Sanchez was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft, but the Pirates have never felt comfortable turning to him as a regular (even though Sanchez tweets about being ready for an expanded role every year, like clockwork).
He’ll be 27 years old next month, yet Sanchez has logged just 155 plate appearances in the majors spread over three seasons and now rather than keep him a backup role over a light-hitting journeyman like Stewart the Pirates are sending him to Triple-A for a fourth season.
Phillies left fielder Ben Revere has turned himself into quite the power hitter. After ending a streak of 1,466 homerless at-bats to begin his major league career, Revere homered at the end of May last year against Boone Logan. He added a second towards the end of the season against Rafael Soriano, which was the final straw that motivated the Nationals to take him out of the closer’s role.
The Phillies played their first home game of the season on Friday night, an exhibition game against the Pirates. The Phillies entered the bottom of the ninth inning behind 5-4, but a Cesar Hernandez lead-off double and a throwing error by catcher Tony Sanchez on an Andres Blanco sacrifice bunt caused the game to knot up at 5-5. After Grady Sizemore flied out and Odubel Herrera struck out, the Phillies appeared to be squandering a great opportunity. Then Revere stepped to the plate.
The game, of course, doesn’t count for anything so Revere will enter the 2015 season still sitting on two career home runs. Pity.
Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that, during a Q&A session, Pirates GM Neal Huntington said that catching prospect Tony Sanchez will get some work at first base in the upcoming season. Sanchez won’t exactly be replacing Gaby Sanchez, as Pedro Alvarez is expected to play every day, even against left-handed pitchers, Brink writes. With Francisco Cervelli likely to get the starting nod behind the plate, Sanchez would be the back-up at two positions and would serve as a right-handed bench bat.
Sanchez, 26, ranked among the game’s 100-best prospects going into the 2010 and ’11 seasons according to both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. In limited action at the major league level, Sanchez has underwhelmed, hitting .252/.295/.378 with four home runs and 18 RBI in 146 plate appearances.
For three straight offseasons the Pirates have acquired a catcher and for three straight offseasons catching prospect Tony Sanchez has immediately gone on Twitter to show what a good attitude he has about the whole thing.
Pirates blog Forbes to Federal put together the full collection:
Sanchez is 26 years old and has played a grand total of 46 games in the majors five seasons after being drafted No. 4 overall by the Pirates.
The Pirates aren’t known for opening their wallets, but they’ll have to dig deep this winter to keep Russell Martin, arguably their second most important player in their last two postseason runs.
Martin is coming off the best offensive performance of his career, a .290/.402/.430 campaign in 111 games. However, it could prove to be an isolated performance. Martin had similar seasons in his first three years with the Dodgers from 2006-08, but since then his OPSs read: .680, .679, .732, .713, .703 and .832. The last mark sticks out like a sore thumb, and Martin has quite a bit of mileage on his soon-to-be 32-year-old body.
Making things more problematic for the Pirates is that not only is Martin the best catcher available in free agency, he completely laps the field. The fallbacks as potential starters are Nick Hundley, Geovany Soto and A.J. Pierzynski.
The Pirates don’t have a quality internal solution either. Former first-round pick Tony Sanchez isn’t known for his defense, and it’s not like he really makes up for it with his bat, either. Light-hitting Chris Stewart remains under control, but the backup role is all he’s really suited for.
If the Pirates can’t get a deal done with Martin in the coming weeks, the Rockies and Rangers figure to target him in free agency. Other suitors could also emerge, with the Dodgers, Angels, Cubs and Astros possibly jumping into the mix.
Besides Martin, the Pirates face losing starters Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez in free agency this winter, which would leave them looking at more buy-low candidates to go along with Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton in next year’s rotation. They’ll also have to make a decision on how to handle first base, which will probably involve non-tendering either Ike Davis or Pedro Alvarez.