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 alone.
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.