The Pittsburgh Pirates have officially announced the Neftali Feliz signing. In a corresponding move to make space on the 40-man roster, they have designated Tony Sanchez for assignment. Sanchez was the first round pick in 2009, in a move that was highly criticized at the time, and has been criticized endlessly ever since. The Pirates took Sanchez over one of the many prep pitchers available that year, opting for a signability pick that would allow them to spend money in the middle rounds. They spent that money on a lot of over-slot prep pitchers, with none of those guys working out.

Sanchez had the upside to be a strong defensive catcher and a potential starter with his offense. The irony of this is that his offense eventually clicked and became the strong part of his game, with his defense being the question mark. The specific question mark came with his throwing issues, which started up in 2012-13. This led to the Pirates turning to Russell Martin in 2013, and then led to them trading for Francisco Cervelli in 2015 when Martin left, with Sanchez never getting a chance to start due to his defensive issues.

The move to DFA Sanchez isn’t a surprise. He clearly moved behind Elias Diaz on the depth chartΒ this year, when Diaz was called up in September, and Sanchez was left in the minors. He is out of options in 2016, and won’t make the MLB roster, as he is behind Diaz, Chris Stewart, and Cervelli.

There is a chance that the Pirates could keep Sanchez in the organization, although that seems unlikely. I’m guessing some team out there will claim him to give him a shot at being the backup catcher, or with hopes that he clears waivers and can be stashed as a number three. The Pirates have a strong situation behind the plate, so the fact that he wasn’t in the mix here doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be in the mix anywhere else. If he does clear waivers, and can be retained, then the Pirates could keep him around as additional depth. However, they project to have Jacob Stallings and Ed Easley as Triple-A depth, so Sanchez isn’t really needed for those purposes.

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114 COMMENTS

  1. Huntington must feel at least a little awkward in releasing both his 2008 and 2009 #1 picks this year. Not being able to trade them for any value at all … Well I would at least expect a discussion from my boss on that topic shortly.

    • He’s a genius though. I completely trust his ability to evaluate talent and field a competitive team for years to come:),

  2. The price of FA has gone up this year. They better have the depth for the 2017 season. I fear both catchers will walk. Who are the Yankee catchers for 2017?

    • I would say our worst case would be Diaz as starter and a resigned Stewart as his back up. Stallings would be in AAA with McGuire in at least AA to start the season

      • I hope they resign one, and I think you are right it will be most likely Stewart. However, if Cervelli doesn’t duplicate last year his probability of resigning goes up.

    • Wouldnt rule out a Cervelli signing, he’s stated his interest in playing the remainder of his career as a Pirate. Might be able to get an extension with him that makes sense. Among the Pirates prospects, most of whom I really like, McGuire is the one who I have the least faith in…so I would keep Cervelli and work in Diaz for 2017.

      • No Free agent wants to limit his earning potential by making a smaller field bid for him. His comment does show how far removed the organization is from having Derek Lee choosing retirement over playing for the Bucs. The Culture has changed.

  3. I know this is a relatively minor deal and it could’ve been agreed to before this came out, but doesn’t it seem odd to announce the Feliz deal as official without apparently giving him a physical? For a pitcher with as much injury baggage as he brings?

    • Also, quite a hell of a lot of turnarounds for Ray Searage to steer. Think they are asking too much of the man this time around.

      • But Arthur, the #SearageMagic doesn’t take much time. Little bit of video, couple tweaks on flat ground, and these guys are ready to go.

      • Hey dude, I’m just trying to soften my comments so the minions don’t jump all over me for kicking Huntington’s dog and stealing his lunch money.

        • Don’t kick the dog, kick his knee and then steal his lunch money. Of course he probably only spends $2.00 for lunch, so you won’t be getting much at the dollar menu at McDonald’s πŸ™‚

        • This is one you can jump all over. With all the 3.9 million contracts the Pirates have for reclamation projects they could have one stud. May be the Pirates have a group of minions and a mad Dr working on a fuzer machine that will give them one genetically mutated pitcher. I thought they had learned their lesson at 1st also. Two players with opposite splits do not create one purebred 1st baseman.

    • Melancon, Hanson, Harold Ramirez for Ryu? Maybe Keller or Holmes with a prospect coming back to Pirates.

    • Moskos, easily.

      The Pirates terribly misread the market when they drafted Sanchez and did even worse in scouting players to spend what little money they ended up saving, but they at least had the right logic.

      • Lets be honest here – they didn’t misread the market, they decided to go cheap in the first round – as the previous regime did with Moskos. They both made the same decision – to not want to pay the going rate for a high first round draft choice with leverage. Now, NH, defended that decision by his strategy to draft HS pitchers and throw a lot of money at them (relatively) to get them to sign. That obviously, and some would say predictably, was a complete failure – and has been well documented here and elsewhere.

        • “Lets be honest here” very rarely is followed by someone actually being honest about any situation.

          Might as well be “let me be honest about how i see this”.

          • Speaking for yourself Luke??
            So, why do you think the Pirates decided to draft non-first round talent, according to just about everyone outside of Pittsburgh, in the top 10 of the draft both of those years? Do you really believe they though Moskos was better than Wieters and that Sanchez was good enough to be taken in the #4 spot of the first round?

            • I believe they thought Moskos would sign without any question and that he’d be some type of ML talent quickly (with low uspide).

              I believe they very poorly drafted for need and found a C even though he was late 1st round talent.

            • Of course not.

              With Sanchez, NH thought they could save money *on that pick* that could be used in later rounds.

              In reality, they saved very little on Sanchez compared to the vast majority of first rounders in 2009, but to their credit still spent in later rounds, albeit extremly, extremely poorly.

    • Both were very bad picks, and the team lied both times to the fans about why they chose each pick in their efforts to defend it – but Moskos over Wieters still makes me mad, since I live near Baltimore and I am constantly reminded…

    • Stan Savran tells the Moskos story a lot. How the Pirates own press release had his ceiling as a #3 starter. With the fourth overall pick. Says he still has the paper at home.

      • IIRC, DL called Bullington a possible #3 after taking him 1st overall!

        The Moskos “reasoning” was he’d be a dominant LH reliever, close to the majors. Unreal!

        • No, they took Moskos to be a starter. Stan tells the story a lot.

          Really weird NH cutting his first two #1s.

          • “We project him as a back-end guy,” Littlefield said, referring to relievers used in late innings. “He’s got a lot of weapons from the left side, which is something that’s hard to find in our industry.”

    • does it matter…both were bad.

      But, at least the philosophy behind the Sanchez pick, was sound. Who knew ALL those pitchers would flame out?

      • The philosophy was the same for both: price tag.
        If I remember correctly, Sanchez was picked because he didn’t have BoreAss as an agent, this following the Alvarez debacle the year before.
        Feel free to jump in if my memory is not serving me correctly.

        • I’d call that a half-truth, which qualifies you to run for President of the United States, fwiw. πŸ˜‰

          Yes, the philosophy *specific to the first round pick* was reduced cost for both Moskos and Sanchez, but Littlefield’s philosophy ended there and Huntington’s continued by adding money saved plus additional funds to later picks.

    • I’d say Moskos in a landslide.

      Moskos’ upside was Bastardo. Plus, he felt so confident that (and his job was relying on) Moskos moving quickly through the system

      Sanchez could have been (still might be) a middling catcher. Add to that the strategy to steal players like say Trout – oops I meant Brock Holt and Victor Black – in the later rounds

  4. What is rather puzzling to me is that the team supposedly lacked confidence in Sanchez defensively, yet they went out and got possibly the worse defensive catcher in the majors – Chris Stewart. Go figure…

    • If Chris Stewart is “possibly” the worst defensive catcher in the majors then I “possibly” have a chance to sign a million dollar contract as a power hitting first baseman.

      • Well, explain why he had more errors than most starting catchers had last year? Was that because he’s a great defensive catcher?

        • Maybe because errors, especially for catchers, are how my grandpa judged defensive ability?

          Hey, I’m not terribly impressed with his glove either, but worst? Come on…

          • Worst may be a slight stretch, but not by much if you review his fielding stats against all of the other catchers in baseball last year…we have a kid in Indy with a cannon for an arm, but we keep this overpaid bum on the roster….why?

          • People don’t like certain stats, when they don’t support whatever their argument is….there isn’t one defensive/fielding stat that you can cite regarding Stewart, that supports the contention that he’s even an average fielding catcher

            • Positive Defensive WAR every year since 2010, one of best pop times of any catcher in major league baseball. Had some throwing issues late in the season but is a VERY good defensive catcher.

          • Are you for real? Errors, fielding percentage, throwing percentage – Stewart was well below average in all categories…..but he is a great “pitch framer”….

      • Stewart had 9 errors last year, which was tied for the 4th most of any catcher in MLB. The four catchers who had equal or more errors than Stewart, all had anywhere from 230 to over 500 more total chances than Stewart. His fielding percentage was .976 – possibly the worst in baseball (if you drew a line somewhere as to a minimum number of total chances). His throwing was nearly as bad – approx. 24%, which was way below league average.

        • How many were throwing errors on throws he had to rush because the Bucs don’t want the pitchers to walk and chew game – make a good pitch and keep runners close.

      • Check his stats last year….he had more errors as a backup catcher than most starters had….not to mention his noodle throwing arm…but he’s a great “pitch framer”! πŸ™‚

      • in 2015, only the Cubs’ and Milwaukee’s catchers committed more errors than the Pirates duo – and Stewart had the majority, even though he played much less than Cervelli. In throwing out base stealers, the Pirates as a team were 23% – compared to league average of 30% – the Pirates were the third worst in all of baseball.

        In catching fielding percentage, the Pirates were 5th from the bottom…

        • Catcher defense is more than just errors and stolen base %. Blocking (preventing passed balls/wild pitches) and pitch framing, stolen base prevention (which is different from caught stealing % – it takes into account the number of times your opponent could have stolen on you but didn’t), and of course game calling are at least as important.

          It’s fair to ding Stewart for his errors and low caught stealing % (which go hand in hand, since many of the errors were on errant throws to 2B), but he was excellent at blocking (1 passed ball), just below average at preventing steals, is recognized as a top framer and is generally regarded as a good game caller (the team’s ace certainly thinks so).

          All told, believe it or not, Stewart graded out as an almost exactly middle of the road catcher defensively – 26th out of 56, and that doesn’t even include the framing. Which is frankly more than you should rightfully expect for a backup making just $700k above the minimum salary.

    • Ha ha…..oh man, if there is any comment made that shows your utter cluelessness, tha Stewart shot is it. Too funny for words.

  5. Well, the team finally closes the chapter on another one of its horrid first round draft pick – which just about everyone, outside the Pirates FO, said the moment the pick was announced. But, they defended it and gave us all so many reasons and alibis in trying to defend it. Just 6 years after the 2009 draft, and absolutely zero to show for it. Which is why this team needs to be more aggressive in the International free agent market, because their drafting has been subpar.

  6. Someone over at MLB Trade Rumors just said that he thinks Sanchez was the last remaining member of the Pirates 2009 draft class. I didn’t think that could be true, but I did some research, and Jeff Inman is the only name I recognize that I know for a fact isn’t gone, though I now see John Dreker’s Twitter account says he is.

    • I also noticed that in that draft, the Pirates selected current major leaguers Matt den Dekker and Jake Lamb, who didn’t sign with the team.

        • My memory is that the team agreed in principle on a deal with den Dekker, but MLB dragged their feet on okaying a couple of the over slot deals for prep arms (back when they did that). The MLB delay created uncertainty, and den Dekker decided to go back to Florida to finish his college career.

  7. Tony Sanchez’ Pirate Headlines : 2-4 round talent taken with the #4 pick in the first round (I wanted Aaron Crow, coulda had Trout), involved in two major fist fights in the minors that cost him valuable development time, 1st hit gets stuck in the scoreboard against Joe Blanton and the LAA, watched him in Indy last year and looked totally lost. But, I wish him the best, he is a good guy.

  8. I thought he should have embraced playing at 1b when he had the chance at Indy. I remember him saying he hated the change etc. He should have also tried to get some work in RF as well because his bat seemed like it could play.

    • Amen to that. He could have been a valuable guy to have on the roster — a good hitting RH 1B Platoon, #5 OF & emergency Catcher

      • But his throwing arm is wonky, just as much as Pedro Alvarez’s, maybe even worse. Can’t see how a guy with the yips is going to be any better playing first base. He needs to be a DH.

        • But the Pirates did give him the CHANCE to play there and he was highly critical of the move. I get that pride plays a big part of pushing yourself especially at that level, but in that instance I think it may have hurt him.
          The yips probably would have followed him to first but you never know. I think it’s less likely in the outfield because your throws don’t have to be as precise. I’ve dealt with the problem as a player and as a college coach….not fun.

  9. I always hoped he would figure it out, but this move is a no brainer.

    Here’s hoping Feliz is healthy. He seems to be one of those guys who lost velocity and now needs to learn how to pitch, I’m sure he used to get away with a lot of bad pitches due to his overpowering FB. I didn’t look up his metrics so I could be completely off base.

  10. Honestly, I was surprised that we hadn’t traded Sanchez for at least a six pack or two. And adding Feliz is just another one of those puzzling moves that have been made this off season.

  11. Ugh…so much promise to be a dependable behind the plate catcher for the big league club when we drafted him. Injuries at the beginning, offensive skill set, and between the ears just never seemed to catch up and make the jump to the MLB level needed.

    Now, we’re deeper at the catcher position then the organization has been in years and this one hasn’t been in the conversation for a few years…I wonder if someone low on organizational depth makes a trade for him in the next 10 days though.

      • Baseball America missed by a lot on that one. MLB network too. Then again, there was talk about him being fixed last spring too…then it all fell apart. Maybe he’s a little bit of a headcase…it happens. Some guys are just in their own head too much and baseball is the wrong sport for that. In his defense his offense was ok in his mlb appearances. +WAR player for his career! I think he will get at least a 1-2 more cups of coffee in the majors if he keeps grinding it out.

      • Those sorts of banal pre-draft descriptions are used to sell more subscriptions than anything. No catcher comes straight out of school ready to contribute to a Major League ballclub.

        • Hindsight is 20/20 but it was a bad pick all-around…offensively and defensively it didn’t work out. But they kind of altered their high upside approach…but that 2009 draft first round wasn’t a great first round minus Mike Trout and a few others.(Garrett Richards – The Angels killed it the first two picks.) That was a tough draft. Big money on ZVR, Evan Chambers passed away, and a bunch of other high upside arms didn’t pan out. Walker Gourley, forgot about him. Matt den Dekker didn’t sign and saved us one more miss. Brock Holt and Vic Black…their is your draft….although is Den Dekker a miss? He hasn’t been too bad.

          • That 2009 draft gets less respect due to pundits, and teams, poor talent evaluation rather than the actual poor quality of the draft. A ton of quality big leaguers have been pulled from the comp round to Round 3, plus the mid to late round finds from the Cards, etc.

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