Talks between Pirates, infielders stall

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates have cut off contract talks with shortstop Jack Wilson and second baseman Freddy Sanchez after the player didn't respond to multiyear offers, increasing the chances the double-play duo will be traded before the season ends.

Discussions could resume if the players' agents make counter proposals, but Pirates general manager Neal Huntington cautioned the team will not move far off the two-year offers made last week. The players believe the money is so below market value, there is no reason to negotiate unless the Pirates substantially upgrade the dollars.

"We've not received a counter at his point, so for our minds, they're not interested even in the foundation we've laid," Huntington said Sunday. "Typically in a negotiation you get a counter offer and that's how conversations continue, and we haven't gotten 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 alone.

"We made an offer, we put a deadline on it, as I've done with every offer I've made," Huntington said. "You can't leave it out there indefinitely and we're a little time sensitive here because of the looming [July 31] trade deadline."

The Pirates discussed a trade involving Sanchez with multiple clubs before the All-Star break, but no deal was made. Sanchez's potentially big salary next season is one obstacle -- unless he is injured, he should easily make 600 plate appearances -- and so is Wilson's $7.4 million salary this season. Any team adding Wilson must pay about one-third of that, unless the Pirates add money to the deal.

The Pirates believe their offers will be in line with those made to similar free agents following a season in which the tight economy is reducing revenue for many teams.

"They don't feel we're even in the same ballpark, so it's not worth countering because they feel like years, dollars, the foundation is so far off what their expectations are, it's not worth countering, and that's understandable," Huntington said. "We've made a quick attempt to try to sign players for what we feel works for us; if it doesn't work for them, they don't accept."

Sanchez declined to discuss Huntington's comments following the Pirates' 4-3 loss to the Giants. Wilson also hasn't talked about his contract situation.

The Pirates lack major league-ready prospects at second base and shortstop, and moving either player or both would require them to sign or trade for one or two experienced infielders.

Huntington pointed out the Tigers signed Adam Everett for $1 million, and that Wilson -- despite his popularity in Pittsburgh -- has been below the league average offensively among NL shortstops four of the last five seasons.

"There's going to be somebody available, maybe not to the level of Jack and Freddy, but now we take the dollar difference between the investment in the shortstop or second baseman and apply it somewhere else," Huntington said. "We arguably feel we'll be a better team with two or three players, not just one."

The Pirates drew considerable fan criticism last month for trading former NL All-Star outfielder Nate McLouth, not long after he signed a contract extension, and outfielder Nyjer Morgan. By offering Wilson and Sanchez a chance to stay, they may be trying to lessen any fan unrest should they be traded.