Freddy Sanchez Sweepstakes: Second Baseman Is Pirates' Best Trading Chip

Nate RoseCorrespondent IJuly 10, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 09:  Freddy Sanchez #12 of the Pittsburgh Pirates bats against the New York Mets on May 9, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Pirates 10-1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

At the beginning of the Pittsburgh Pirates' 2009 season, it was a given among fans of the team that certain players would be traded by the deadline.

While nobody expected Nate McLouth to be dealt, players like Jack Wilson, Adam LaRoche, and, to a lesser degree, Freddy Sanchez, were all expected to be on the trading block.

What's been the biggest surprise is the varying levels of interest received for these players.

If asked in the offseason, most Pirates fans would have said that Adam LaRoche would be the team's biggest trading chip at the deadline. He's a left-handed power hitter who's notorious for being one of the best second-half hitters in all of baseball. If that trend continues, he would be very valuable to contending teams down the stretch.

The way it's played out, though, is that LaRoche hasn't attracted much attention, despite having one of the better first halves of his career.

Instead, the Pirate player on most teams' radar is the former batting champ Sanchez.

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Rockies and Giants are the two confirmed teams that have been in talks with the Pirates regarding Sanchez, but he says that there are as many as five other teams interested. He goes on to say that no deal is imminent, however.

Other sources have reported that the Twins are interested.

Not many potential returns have been listed for Sanchez thus far.

Most sources say that the Giants are willing to part with left-handed pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, but the Pirates don't think that would be enough.

Rightfully so, in my opinion.

Jonathan has always been a strikeout machine, but significant control issues have plagued him for his entire career. In contast, Sanchez has always been a consistent hitter.

Colorado, who are rumored to be willing to part with Carlos Gonzalez, Casey Weathers, and Eric Young, Jr., could put together the best package.

I'm not sure if they're willing to part with this whole package or if it's just a list of players they'd be willing to move. If they're all being offered, though, the only player on the major league roster that I wouldn't pull the trigger for would be Andrew McCutchen.

Weathers is out with Tommy John surgery this year, but he was the Rockies first-round pick in 2007 and has put up good numbers during his ascent through the minors. He would be a good candidate to take an injury flier on, but trading for just Weathers would be unwise.

Gonzalez is currently with the Rockies' major league club after batting .339/.418/.630 in Triple-A. He's struggled in 90 plate appearances so far, but that's to be expected for a 23-year-old coming up to the majors.

It's a bit surprising that the Rockies would be willing to move him, as he was a big part of the Matt Holliday trade and has big-time home run potential.

Young is like a younger, better, faster version of Freddy Sanchez, so I would honestly do a Sanchez-for-Young trade straight up. His minor league numbers are a bit inflated due to playing in hitter-friendly environments, but one thing that can't be denied is that he has an excellent batter's eye.

Throughout his minor league ascension, Young has a career on-base percentage of .384. It's not inflated by a heavy batting average, either, as his career average is .293. He has compiled 266 career walks to 372 career strikeouts—a 133/186 ratio that has remained unscathed at every level.

Young's calling card, however, is his speed on the base paths. While Young doesn't have home run power—something this team desperately needs—he has gap power and the speed to take the extra base.

He also has the ability to steal a plenty of bags. He has 208 career steals in the minors, with his lowest total in full-season ball at 46, and he is getting caught less every year.

This year, Young has 48 steals compared to nine caught stealings—an 84 percent success rate.

Oh yeah, and he's a switch hitter.

In Pittsburgh, Young would likely play second base on arrival. The system has no middle infield prospects at the high levels, and Young would fit into a Pirates lineup that is built around speed and the ability to get on base.

Where this trade doesn't make sense is on Colorado's end. Aside from the fact that manager Jim Tracy worked with Sanchez when he was the Pirates' manager, he is not a major upgrade over Clint Barmes.

This package would be a lot to give up for a minor upgrade, which has led The Denver Post to speculate that it may be closer Matt Capps that the Rockies are interested in, not Sanchez. This would make more sense, as General Manager Neal Huntington has said that, barring an amazing offer, he would not move Capps.

At any rate, Sanchez has attracted a good deal of interest from buyers at this year's trade deadline. It will be interesting to see where he goes and what the Pirates will receive for the player that's shaping up to be their biggest trade chip.