Giants acquire Sanchez from Pirates
Club parts with righty Alderson for '06 NL batting champ
SAN FRANCISCO -- An entirely new right side of the infield is the result of the Giants' efforts to improve the roster before Friday's Trade Deadline.
Wednesday's acquisition of second baseman Freddy Sanchez from the Pittsburgh Pirates complemented Monday's deal with the Cleveland Indians for first baseman Ryan Garko. Like Garko, Sanchez is regarded as not only a potential offensive catalyst for the club's postseason push, but also as a performer who can help the team at least through next season.To obtain Sanchez, a three-time All-Star who won the National League batting championship in 2006, the Giants yielded Double-A right-hander Tim Alderson, one of their most prized pitching prospects. But the Giants believe that they possess enough organizational pitching depth to withstand the losses of Alderson and Class A left-hander Scott Barnes, who was dealt for Garko. "To think that we got two players of this caliber for two Minor League pitchers -- albeit they're probably going to pitch in the big leagues -- we're very fortunate," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. Speculation regarding a Sanchez deal intensified through the week as the Giants entertained the Pirates in a three-game series at AT&T Park. Sanchez's inflamed left knee, which sidelined him for the series, reportedly concerned the Giants enough to jeopardize the deal. But a re-examination of the 31-year-old on Wednesday allayed the club's fears. Sanchez, who batted .296 with six home runs and 34 RBIs in 86 games, wasn't certain when he'll be able to resume playing. "It could be a day, two days or after the weekend," he said. The uncertainty explained why a corresponding roster move to Sanchez's acquisition wasn't announced. He technically has 72 hours to report to the Giants, and they might use part of that time to let him heal and attend to personal matters. When Sanchez does take the field for the Giants, he'll likely bat second, a berth that nine different players have inhabited this season. He'll also be easy to spot. Unlike most of the Giants, who swing freely and rarely work deep counts, the right-handed-batting Sanchez is what baseball people call a "professional hitter" who can hit to the opposite field proficiently and adjust to various situations. "That's something I feel this club needs," manager Bruce Bochy said. "When a guy is on second base, I do whatever I can to get him over," Sanchez said. "When a guy is on first base, I'll do everything I can to get him over." Having joined the Pirates in 2004 after beginning his career in the Boston organization, Sanchez is unaccustomed to participating in the postseason -- which the Giants, who hold a half-game lead in the NL Wild Card standings, hope to sustain. But Sanchez, a lifetime .300 hitter with a .995 fielding percentage this season, sounded ready for the challenge. "I'm not saying I can come in here and be a savior and hit .300 or .400," Sanchez said. "I'll tell you this: There won't be any plays where I'm not giving 100 percent." Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand hailed Sanchez's arrival. "It's definitely a huge addition, offensively and defensively," Rowand said. "You're adding a true baseball player and a guy who cares to this team." Sanchez is enduring a 3-for-34 slump. But he won't have to improve much to fill San Francisco's offensive void at his position. Giants second basemen entered Wednesday ranked last in the NL with 25 RBIs and next-to-last with a .604 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage), a .285 on-base percentage, a .229 batting average and 36 runs scored. The league averages for second basemen in those respective categories were 44, .744, .336, .268 and 53. Sanchez is also relatively affordable. San Francisco will owe him approximately $2 million this year, the pro-rated portion of his $6.1 million salary. His $8.1 million option for 2010 becomes guaranteed if he reaches 600 plate appearances. He has 382. Even if he fell short, Giants officials indicated that they'd sign him for a similar figure. That should be well within the Giants' budget, since they could be shedding the seven-figure salaries of free-agent eligibles such as Bengie Molina, Randy Winn, Rich Aurilia, Noah Lowry, Juan Uribe and the already retired Dave Roberts. "We expect [Sanchez] to be with us next year," Sabean said. The day was a whirlwind for Sanchez. Not only did he leave the club with which he had played 676 games, but earlier Wednesday, he also watched the Pirates trade shortstop Jack Wilson to Seattle in a seven-player deal. The Pirates had offered modest contract extensions to both players, which neither seriously considered. "Seeing him go made this move a lot less emotional for me," Sanchez said of Wilson. "He was my double-play partner and my best friend." Alderson, a first-round selection (22nd overall) in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was ranked as the Giants' fourth-best prospect by Baseball America entering this season. He was 7-2 with a 3.65 ERA in 18 starts for Double-A Connecticut and Class A San Jose. Sabean employed one of his signature phrases to describe parting with Alderson, calling it "the price of doing business."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.