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Pirates' Sanchez not worrying about arbitration

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates third baseman Freddy Sanchez won the
NL batting championship last season with a .344 average, yet was
paid less than one-half of one percent of Phillies infielder Chase Utley's new contract.

A case of cross-state checkbook envy, perhaps?

"I don't know how other people look at it but, to me, it was a
great contract for a great player," Sanchez said Friday. "Good
for him."

Perhaps bad for the Pirates' finances, though.

Utley's $85 million, seven-year contract was settled just before
the Pirates started talking to Sanchez about a two-year contract.
While Utley hits for more power -- he had 32 homers to Sanchez's six
-- Sanchez is a better all-around hitter and his 85 RBIs last season
compare favorably to Utley's 102.

Sanchez and the Pirates could go to arbitration on a one-year
contract, and the infielder would make either the $3.1 million he
wants or the $2.15 million the Pirates are offering. He earned
$342,000 last season.

Whether the Utley contract pushes the Pirates into agreement on
a two-year contract remains to be seen.

"I can't really talk too much about it. I respect the
organization too much and the process too much to say anything,"
Sanchez said. "We'll figure it out. Something will be done before
spring training and that's all that matters."

A year ago, Pirates outfielder Jason Bay chose to sign an $18.25
million, four-year deal that covered his remaining
arbitration-eligible seasons. He risked missing the salary
escalation that has taken place this offseason, but guaranteed
himself long-term financial security.

"I don't regret it at all," Bay said. "I got some security,
and that was the tradeoff -- you're going to give up a little to get
a little. I knew that from the get-go, and that's part of the
game."

Utley's big-dollar deal illustrates how the marketplace has
changed in a short time. But if Bay hadn't agreed to the longer
contract, he couldn't have played last season with the peace of
mind that he was set financially should a bad injury occur.

"I applaud all the guys who go out and make that kind of money
and, hopefully, someday, it will get back to me," Bay said. "It
is nice to see as a player -- it puts a smile on your face -- but
I'll deal with that when I get there."

Should Sanchez go to arbitration, he is determined not to let
the negative arguments the Pirates will make get to him. Only two
Pirates players, Jeff King in 1993 and current shortstop Jack
Wilson in 2004, have gone to arbitration in the last 15 years.

Wilson came out of the process a little roughed up, but won his
case.

"As much as I don't like it, there is a business side to
baseball, and this is it," Sanchez said. "You've got to have
thick skin through this process and I don't take anything personal.
[Former Pirates first baseman] Sean Casey said he kind of wishes
everybody would go through it, to get the experience and see how it
is. That's fine with me."

The Pirates, meanwhile, unveiled on Friday their new red
alternate home jersey top. They introduced red into their black and
gold color scheme for the 1994 All-Star game, but had gotten away
from using the color during recent seasons.