Jon Heyman of CBS and MLB Network reported yesterday that the Pirates and Gregory Polanco are back at the negotiating table to try and hammer out a long term contract.
That is no surprise to this writer as it is clearly in the interest of both parties to get a deal done. I suspect that Camp Polanco is going to be more amenable to a deal now that Polanco-fever has dissipated after his below par 2014. That too, is of no surprise to this writer.
Last year when Polanco-mania reached it™’s egregious pinnacle, which was around Mid-May, the Pirates approached the young prospect with an eight year deal that was rumored to have netted up to $70m when it was all said and done. It was laughed off by Polanco’s team and lauded by fans and local media ˜experts™ as a cheap stunt from the Pirate management.
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Why would Polanco who was slashing .373/.437/.593 at the time in AAA sign a deal that would rob him of his prime years and pay him half of what he was worth? Or so he thought. The fact of the matter was that Polanco was an unproven twenty something that has never taken a swing in the major leagues. He has not proven anything to that point other than he could ride a hot streak in AAA, and although he has all of the tools to become a great player, so have many, many, more before him that never panned out.
As I stated in this article back when Camp Polanco first said thanks but no thanks to the Pirates, he should have signed that contract.
Yes, I was vehemently attacked by fans and critics saying that Polanco was in the right by not signing. That the Pirates were trying to steal his talent, ruin his earning potential, and lowball the future all-star. Just look at some of those comments. The barrage was merciless. Of course, it was sheer nonsense, but merciless nonetheless.
Last year when Polanco-mania reached it™s egregious pinnacle, which was around Mid-May, the Pirates approached the young prospect with an eight year deal that was rumored to have netted up to $70m when it was all said and done.
However, I again was the voice of reason. While local sports media experts were saying that bringing up Polanco was the only chance to salvage the pirates season (yes, that comment was actually made multiple times on local radio) I was the one who had to remind everyone that Polanco was a 21 year old rookie. That even though he was enjoying a massive hot streak in AAA, he was inevitably going to cool down in the majors and come back to earth.
I was right.
What people need to realize is that there is no guarantee that Polanco is going to be an All-Star. He is asking for more money than Andrew McCutchen got, and Cutch got that contract AFTER he broke out in the majors. Let™’s get this out there right now. Greg Polanco may have extraordinary talent, but there is only two chances he will perform at the consistently high level McCutchen has. Slim and none. So by Polanco not signing that deal and getting a nice base salary increase, instead he decided he would™ rather play on commission. And by his performance last year, he lost money.
The Pirates were taking the risk here, not Polanco. There is a solid chance that Polanco does not reach his full potential. In fact, most real baseball experts would argue that it is a better than average chance that doesn’t happen. How many top prospects flamed out compared to top prospects who were perennial all-stars? The number is heavily weighted towards the former.
Polanco hit .231 last year. He’s hitting .265 in spring training thus far. He still is a long way from figuring this game out at this level and he will go through vast stretches this upcoming season where he struggles mightily. By getting an extension out of the way, he can just relax and play baseball like Starling Marte. He needs to remember that he has accomplished nothing yet and the Pirates own him through 2020. Although the future could be bright for Polanco, his bargaining chips are few and far between.
This contract is more important to Polanco because he needs to focus on getting better. The distractions and pressure of not having a guaranteed contract is not in his interest. And let™’s keep in mind that signing a contract through age 30 is not a death sentence!
Little did people realize that even when the potential contract would expire, if Polanco would have performed at the level he wants paid at, that a $200m contract would be waiting for him at the end of it. Robinson Cano signed a $240m contract at age 31. Andrew McCutchen will get a similar contract in 2019 at roughly the same age. The earning potential will still be there for Polanco should he live up to expectation. There is just one caveat.
He actually needs to earn it.