Minutes after manager John Russell posted the Pirates' lineup for Tuesday night's game -- a lineup that didn't include either Jack Wilson or Freddy Sanchez in it -- speculation that Pittsburgh had spun a deal to trade one or both of its middle infielders intensified.
As it turned out, it was empty speculation, for now at least, as Sanchez confirmed that his tender left knee was keeping him out of the lineup Tuesday and almost surely on Wednesday, too. Wilson, Russell said, was just getting a scheduled day off to rest.
The fact that both middle infielders sat in the dugout at AT&T Park on Tuesday, though, doesn't mean that both are sure to be around for the rest of the week.
The Twins and particularly the Giants are known to have been engaged in talks with the Pirates about Sanchez. For Minnesota, which is also looking for some relief help, it's likely that John Grabow has also been a point of interest.
The Giants seem to be the best possible trade partner for Sanchez -- interesting considering the Pirates are playing in San Francisco through Wednesday -- though much can change in the next three days before Friday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline. The potential for Sanchez's $8 million option for 2010 to automatically trigger is not believed to be as large a concern for San Francisco, which is expected to shed a good amount of its payroll through departing free agents this offseason and therefore have some financial flexibility.
The Giants also have some Minor League depth and can likely afford to offer a package of young players in return. One baseball source, in fact, said that he believes the framework of a deal is already in place for the two clubs to make a trade by Friday.
The holdup, the source believed, is likely Sanchez's knee. The second baseman has missed three of the last five games and is expected to sit out Wednesday, too, because of left knee soreness.
A source confirmed that Sanchez had an MRI on that knee administered by the Giants medical staff Monday. While it is often common for the home medical staff to assist with injuries to visiting players, the Giants will at least now have first-hand knowledge of the severity of Sanchez's injury. And by all indications, the injury is not serious enough to deter San Francisco from continuing in its attempts to trade for the second baseman.
Still, despite Internet reports that the Pirates are actively seeking a trade for one or both players, Pirates president Frank Coonelly reiterated Tuesday it is not a foregone conclusion that either is traded by the Trade Deadline.
"We have by no means concluded that we have to or even should trade Jack and/or Freddy," Coonelly said. "To the contrary, both players have significant value to us and we have made it very clear to clubs that have inquired that we will trade Jack and Freddy only if we receive appropriate value in return."
Prior to Tuesday's game, Sanchez said that neither he, nor his agent, had heard of any impending deal sending him to the Giants.
"As far as I know, it's just speculation," Sanchez said. "I don't know any more than anyone else right now. There has been a lot of speculation on guys who haven't gone anywhere at all. Speculation is speculation, but it is a little different when you are in the place that they're talking about."
The fact that the Pirates are not aggressively trying to deal either middle infielder also leaves the organization open to reopening the contract extension talks with each should they remain with the club past Friday.
Though neither side has prompted any further negotiations since Wilson and Sanchez rejected the club's initial offers about 10 days ago, Coonelly confirmed that that can change.
"If both the non-waiver Deadline and the waiver trading period pass and the players remain with the organization," Coonelly said, "we would, of course, remain open to dialogue on the topic of extensions that we had broached."
However, no more contract extension talks are expected to happen before Friday.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.