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Pirates traded Sanchez at the right time

My wife’s car is about to drive me crazy.  Last week she called me from work to tell me that her car wouldn’t start up.  After checking the battery, which was fine, we towed it to a mechanic, where we discovered that the car needed a new fuel pump.  We were also told that the rear brakes needed to be replaced.  So a few days later I got the rear brakes fixed, only to discover the next day that the speed sensor on the right front tire suddenly stopped working, which deactivated the Anti-Lock Braking System.  So next week I will be going in to repair that problem.

My dad also has a car repair to make.  During the snow storm a few weeks ago he was in a store parking lot, slid on a patch of ice, and went in to a snow bank.  The front of the car saw some damage, which he is getting repaired.  Here we have two cars, both “injured”, but I think we can all agree that the “injury” to my dad’s car is just a fluke occurrence, while you could easily classify my wife’s car as “injury prone”.

It’s kind of like the comparison between the Pittsburgh Pirates’ old second baseman, Freddy Sanchez, and their new second baseman, Akinori Iwamura.  This week it was announced that Sanchez had shoulder surgery, and may not be ready for Opening Day, possibly missing time until early May.  This follows left knee surgery back in late September, repairing a torn meniscus.  Sanchez had knee and shoulder issues during the 2009 season, even before the trade to the San Francisco Giants, which brought back top prospect Tim Alderson.

It’s not like Sanchez just had a rough couple of months.  He missed six games with a back injury in July. He missed five games with back spasms in August 2008.  He had a right shoulder injury to start the 2008 season, and had an eye issue all year.  In 2007 he dealt with a shoulder injury, and spent some time on the disabled list to start the year with a left wrist injury.  You could very easily call Freddy Sanchez “injury prone” the last few seasons.

Then we’ve got Akinori Iwamura.  Iwamura is coming off a major injury in 2009 in which he missed 81 games with a torn ACL.  You could hardly say that’s an issue of Iwamura being injury prone.  It was more of a fluke incident, where he collided with Chris Coghlan at second base, kind of like how my dad’s car collided with a snow bank.

In comparing the two cars, my dad’s car had the most damage done to it, both physically and monetarily. However, if you ask me which car I would take right now, it’s my dad’s car.  Maybe that’s because I prefer Volkswagens, but it’s probably because my dad’s car doesn’t show much potential for future problems, while my wife’s car seems like another “injury” could be right around the corner.  That’s kind of how I feel about Sanchez and Iwamura.  If you ask me who is going to miss more time due to injury in 2010, I’m going to say Sanchez.  Sure, Iwamura is coming off a major surgery, but he looked fine at the end of 2009, and it’s not like he’s had a lot of nagging problems like Sanchez.  Sanchez on the other hand will probably start the season on the disabled list, and after two surgeries since September, he will either be off his game, or prone to more injury issues.

Over the last three seasons, Sanchez has been rated slightly higher than Iwamura, according to WAR statistics provided by FanGraphs.  Sanchez has combined for a 6.3 WAR from 2007 to 2009, while Iwamura has combined for a 6.2 WAR in that same span.  Sanchez did see a hit in his poor 2008 season, in which he dealt with some nagging injuries, but then again Iwamura missed half the 2009 season, so his WAR numbers are lower than they should be as well.

When healthy, I’d probably rate Sanchez as the better of the two, simply because his UZR/150 numbers on defense look better.  The problem is that Sanchez has rarely been healthy the past few seasons, and if this off-season is any indication of future issues, it doesn’t look like his health will be top notch in 2010.  Iwamura on the other hand has been healthy, and just had a fluke collision that sidelined him.  There’s no guarantee that he avoids a similar injury in the future, but the odds of that happening are much less than the odds of Sanchez having another minor injury.

If you ask me, the Pirates traded Sanchez at the right time.  Not only that, but they dodged a bullet when he turned down the two year, $10 M offer they proposed to him, before eventually trading him to the Giants.  Sure, Sanchez got an extra million per year from San Francisco, but that’s probably due to the price the Giants paid for him (Alderson) and the fact that Sanchez was injured most of the final two months of the season, providing very little return from that trade.  To top things off, the Pirates added a second baseman who is also coming off an injury, but who isn’t injury prone like Sanchez.  Odds are the Pirates upgraded their second base situation for the 2010 season with the set of moves, not to mention the upgrade to the system by adding Tim Alderson to the mix.

The 2010 Pirates have a lot of question marks already.  We can all breathe a sigh of relief that Freddy Sanchez and his injury issues aren’t going to contribute to those question marks.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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