Why It May Be Time for Pittsburgh Pirates to Cut Ties with Gaby Sanchez

There was a time when Gaby Sanchez was emerging as a reliable, everyday player at the major league level.  

In 2010, Sanchez broke onto the scene with a .273 batting average and 19 home runs in 151 games for the Miami Marlins, finishing fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year race.  

The following season, Sanchez played in all but three games, batting .266 with 19 homers and 78 RBI for his Marlins team.  

Then, suddenly, Sanchez was unable to get things going in 2012, and the Marlins traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates after he batted just .202 through 55 games played.

Still, both members and fans of Pittsburgh's organization were excited and eager to see if he could return to being the player he was over the two seasons prior.

For Sanchez and the Pirates, however, that wish never came to be true.  

In 50 games with the Pirates that season, Sanchez batted .241 with just four homers. Overall that season, he saw his home run total drop off by 12 compared to the season prior.  

Furthermore, Sanchez had just 299 at-bats in 2012, a major drop-off from his 572 at-bats in both 2010 and 2011.  

The major flaw in Sanchez's game is his inability to hit right-handed pitchers. Sanchez, who bats from the right side, has owned a career .238 batting average against right-handers.

Compare that to his .291 average against southpaws, and you can understand why he has not been given a full season's worth of at-bats.

To be fair to Sanchez, he has greater than twice as many at-bats in his career against right-handed pitchers. Still, his 609 at-bats against lefties is enough to show that he is a much better hitter against lefties.

After finishing this season with just 262 at-bats, it marked the third straight season that Sanchez has been unable to amass at least 300 in a single season.  
So, now that he will be arbitration-eligible this offseason and will become an unrestricted free agent in 2016, why don't the Pirates look to take some offers on the 31-year-old?

Other than providing as a backup first baseman who can come on to hit lefties, Sanchez really doesn't have much value to the production of the Pirates offense.  

With Josh Harrison emerging as a star in Pittsburgh after his incredible 2014 campaign in which he hit .315 in 520 at-bats and eventually became the starting third baseman, the Pirates could look to give Pedro Alvarez a lot more playing time at first base rather than third.  

lthough he was hurt for a large portion of the 2014 season, Alvarez is still one of the most important contributing factors in the Pirates lineup.

However, his fielding at third base has been below average, which is why the Pirates may elect to keep Harrison at third on a more consistent basis while giving Alvarez more starts at first base.  

Then there is Ike Davis, who is strictly a first baseman. The Pirates are hoping that Davis will return to his 2012 form when he hit 32 home runs for the New York Mets.  

The only reason that platooning Davis and Sanchez at first base worked out for the Pirates in 2014 was because of the fact that while Sanchez is better at hitting left-handers, Davis (who bats from the left side) is much better at hitting right-handers.  

Still, if the Pirates are serious about getting Davis back into form, he will need to play in the majority of games in the regular season, as he has been known to get off to a slow start in April.  

The fourth first baseman listed on the Pirates depth chart is the young Andrew Lambo, who has shown glimpses of fulfilling his great potential.  

Lambo was listed as the best power-hitting prospect in Pittsburgh's farm system by Baseball America entering the 2014 regular season.  

In just 39 at-bats for the Pirates in 2014, Lambo batted .256 with four doubles and one RBI. In 61 games with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians this season, though, he batted .328 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI. 

Lambo can play the corner outfield positions as well, but he is primarily a first baseman, and if he is going to become a difference-maker in Pittsburgh next season, he, too, will need many more at-bats.  

Heading into next season, it would make the most sense to start Harrison at third base while putting Alvarez at first. When Alvarez needs a day to rest, the Pirates could use either Davis or Lambo.  

So, where does that put a guy like Gaby Sanchez?  For a guy whose numbers have remained down for the past three seasons now, the designated hitter role would likely suit Sanchez best. 

With that being said, could the Pirates attempt to make a deal with an American League team that could use some extra pop in its lineup in exchange for some pitching, which the Pirates could always use?

That's a possibility, and it's certainly something the Pirates should consider before letting Sanchez walk in 2016 without getting anything in return.  

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