First Pitch: The Pirates Would Be Struggling Now, Even With Gregory Polanco

The Pittsburgh Pirates lost again tonight, falling 4-1 to the Cincinnati Reds and Johnny Cueto, and dropping to 9-12 on the season. I wasn’t following the game closely tonight, since I was focusing on John Kuchno and Ryan Hafner in Bradenton. I was following along on Twitter, and in the process, was also following the big night that Gregory Polanco had. Polanco had three hits, including his third homer of the year. Predictably, the combination of Polanco hitting well, and the Pirates struggling offensively against Cueto, led to cries for Polanco to arrive in the majors immediately.

We’re now to the point in the season where Polanco could be called up, and still have an extra year of control. We are also at the point where it is only six weeks until the unofficial Super Two deadline. As I’ve written before, calling Polanco up early enough to give him Super Two status is a move that could cost $10-15 M extra over the long-run. That’s $10-15 M extra, all for six extra weeks of production. To put that in perspective, paying someone $10-15 M for six weeks of work would be the equivalent of giving someone a $40-60 M contract for one season.

Let’s just say there’s a reason why almost every team holds their impact prospects down until they’re clear from Super Two status. Sure, the $10-15 M isn’t going to be paid right away. And sure, the Pirates could afford to pay Polanco that extra money without going broke. But having money available isn’t justification for making a stupid financial decision. And there’s nothing that Polanco could do in six weeks to justify Super Two status.

I’ve been following Polanco for a long time, and I’ve been high on him for a long time. I don’t think there are many people who are looking forward to his arrival in the majors more than me. This job involves a lot of predictions on the future performance of players, and in a lot of cases those predictions are made when there is very little reason to make such a prediction.

When I first saw Polanco, he was extremely tall, extremely skinny, very fast, and had no stats that suggested he would ever be anything more than lower level depth. There’s something about seeing a guy like that, saying he will be a major leaguer, and then watching him turn into a guy who people can’t wait to see in the majors just a few years later. It’s reassuring. It makes you think you’re not crazy the next time you project good things for someone who isn’t getting a lot of love in other prospect rankings.

So I’m looking forward to Polanco arriving in the majors. In a perfect world, I’d like that arrival date to be yesterday. I’m not just looking forward to that because I’ve been following Polanco for a long time. I’m looking forward to it because I know that Polanco is a good kid, and you always hope for good things to happen to good people.

At the same time, it’s not my job to pull for certain individuals, or write based on that person’s specific personality. It’s my job to analyze the situation, explain why the Pirates might be taking a certain course of action, then discuss whether I agree with that course, or whether I would go a different route.

In this case, I agree with keeping Polanco down for Super Two purposes (although to be clear, the Pirates aren’t officially doing that…this is just pretty common speculation and it exists with every team). I’m agreeing with that because of the additional dollars and the fact that one player can’t possibly provide that much value over six weeks. I’m agreeing with that because it’s not just the Pirates doing this, but it’s all teams, which means I’m not the only one who thinks these top prospects can’t provide a lot of value in six weeks.

Most importantly, I’m also agreeing with the decision to keep Polanco down because the idea that the Pirates desperately need Polanco is false. Gregory Polanco isn’t the reason the Pirates are currently 9-12. If Polanco was up already, the Pirates would probably still be 9-12. Take a look at their recent losses:

4/22 – Johnny Cueto pitched a gem and the Pirates lost 4-1.

4/20 – Jason Grilli blew a save and the Pirates lost 3-2 in 14 innings.

4/19 – Jason Grilli blew a save and the Pirates lost 8-7.

4/18 – Charlie Morton ran into problems the second time through the lineup, giving up five runs in six innings, and the Pirates lost 5-3.

4/16 – Johnny Cueto shuts down the Pirates, and they lose 4-0.

4/15 – Gerrit Cole gives up four runs in the sixth inning and the Pirates lose 7-5.

Polanco isn’t going to make a difference in either game against Cueto when the rest of the offense is struggling. He’s not converting saves for Jason Grilli against Ryan Braun. He’s not going to come in and pitch for Gerrit Cole or Charlie Morton the second or third time through the lineup. He might provide some offense, but in non-Cueto games lately, offense hasn’t been the problem.

The Pirates have scored 42 runs in seven non-Cueto games since the start of last week. That’s an average of six runs per game. The problem for the Pirates isn’t the lack of Polanco on the roster. The problem is that they’re in a team-wide cold stretch. The starters are struggling, and surprisingly Edinson Volquez is the only consistent guy in the rotation. The bullpen has also struggled in the last week, with Grilli blowing two saves against Braun and the Brewers. The offense can’t hit Cueto without 40,000 fans wearing all black, taunting the right-hander. Bringing Polanco up solves none of these problems.

What you have to ask yourself is whether you think this is just a slump, or whether the team is actually going to continue struggling like this. Either way, it doesn’t make sense for Polanco to come up. If this is a slump, then guys like Morton, Cole, and Grilli will rebound going forward, and the Pirates will get back to winning. If it’s a sign that they’re not that good, then why would you bring Polanco up early and risk Super Two status for a team that is probably not going to win with him on the roster?

If you’re in the camp that thinks one player can make a massive difference, just look at Ike Davis. He has hit well since arriving in Pittsburgh, but the Pirates are also 1-3 in that time. That has nothing to do with Davis. It has everything to do with the understanding of the value limitations that one player can have. Polanco will be no different. He’ll be a great guy to have on the roster, but expecting him to be the difference between a winning team and a losing team right now is an expectation that shouldn’t be placed on any player — especially not a rookie making his debut.

We’re probably six weeks away from Polanco arriving in the majors. In that six weeks, I think we’ll see better performances all around the roster, compared to what we saw in the last week. I think the last week was a bad week, and not a sign of future doom for the Pirates. I think if last week happened in the middle of June, it would be called what it was — a cold streak. As for Polanco, I’m looking forward to his eventual arrival in the majors. At the same time, I can’t fault the Pirates for taking the same approach with their top prospect that pretty much every other team takes with their own top prospects.

Links and Notes

**Is Bryan Morris a Future Closer For the Pirates?

**Russell Martin and Travis Snider Suspended

**Prospect Watch: Three Hits and a Homer Each For Gregory Polanco and Stetson Allie

**Minor League Schedule: Kingham Goes In Altoona Tonight

**Prospect Highlights: Fine Defensive Play By Alen Hanson, Big Night For Altoona Bats

**Minor Moves: Zack Dodson Placed on the Altoona DL

**Injury Updates: Luis Heredia, Jameson Taillon, Austin Meadows

Tim Williams

Author: 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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  • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

    I was with you when the season started. I am still for the most part with you, however, you have to ask if punting on the playoffs for this season is worth saving the money.

    The lineup as constructed has a major hole in RF. The difference, both offensively and defensively, between Polanco and what we currently have in RF is vast. Being able to plug Polanco in the #2 hole allows us to drop Walker and Martin down in the order, lengthening it and balancing it out between LH and RH hitters. I strongly believe it would/will make a huge difference to the quality of the lineup, to say nothing of the huge defensive upgrade, if he is here sooner rather than later.

    I have to believe the Bucs will try hard to sign Gregory to a long term deal fairly quickly, if they have not already tried to do so. If this is the goal, and it is attainable, then the Super 2 thing is not as big of an issue.

    If the team continues to play at the level that it has, then they will be out of the wild card race pretty quickly. Six weeks could make a huge difference, and I think it’s something they have to strongly consider. I believe the lad is ready, and they are only holding him back for financial reasons. I can understand that, but if they do this, then this will be a season where we take a step back before we are truly poised to make a prolonged championship run.

    • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

      Bryan I hear what you’re saying about the pitching, but we’ve had a lot of one run games, and a RF with an .800OPS might be the difference compared with our current guys who are performing at about a .600ishOPS clip. To say nothing of the defensive improvement that Gregory represents.

      I think that, much like 1989 and 1959, this team might be due for a step back before they take the big step forward regardless of Gregory or anything else- this is a common characteristic of franchises that are reversing long losing trends. But I think that if they call Gregory up now, they might have a chance of stemming that. Just a chance. Nothing guaranteed, and probably not worth the extra 8-10 million longer term, but it could make a big difference.

      • moose7195

        One player cannot make that much of a difference. If they are to regress, Greg Polanco can not singularly stop it as a rookie. This is why the Taillon injury hurts as much as it does. Maybe both of them could stem a regression and motivate a turnaround, but I do not think that one can do it alone. It is up to the cornerstones of this team to change their current standing. Putting it all on one rookie is foolish.

    • mak_dc

      Agree with the second to last paragraph. If the Bucs sign him to a pre-arb deal, the cost of super two is much less than $10 million. I think fangraphs estimates it at $5million, which is less than a million a year spread over the life of a deal like that. Nothing that should prevent them from calling him up

      • Andrew

        I am not sure this is the way it works, if a player is Super Two this dramatically raises the negotiating floor. If a player is guaranteed four trips through arbitration this will be factored into the negotiations, buyouts and extensions provide cost certainty and hedge against Ryan Howard like arbitration salaries but Super Two is still expensive.

    • sweetleb

      did you see sniders play on ludwick fly ball, polanco may hold bruce at second or throw him out, lunch box throws a 2 hopper to the cut off man bla.

    • Kent Ries

      Good points. The Super2 argument is way overstated. Many players have been called up regardless of that reason. Risking the next 40 games is a much bigger cost. As you say, the hole in RF is huge, even on defense. Making up some argument that Polanco isn’t a reliever is just distraction from the main point, which is winning games. Polanco playing in the next 40 games creates an alternative universe where Williams arguments have little merit. Other than maybe financial.

    • Douglas Byrd

      I can’t say it much better than this. Put the best team on the field. Polanco will be under contract for 6 years. The team will be better, maybe much better with him. I don’t buy the argument that games were lost only due to pitching. What if we had scored more runs? Both matter. In terms of the money: we don’t know what one win will be worth. What if we win the division by one game? What if we miss the playoffs by one game? How much is this worth? I’d keep him down if he was getting better, but he’s ready.

  • emjayinTN

    The pirates are experiencing a season opening slump where they do not seem to get it all together at the same time. The other day I listed the last 2 starts of Liriano, Rodriguez, and Morton and the number of earned runs allowed – Liriano and Morton were at 4.85 and Rodriguez was out of sight. At the same time, ‘Cutch was struggling, but he has had 2 or 3 straight games lately and is now around .280+. But, Marte is hitting .227 in his last 10 games with only 2 Walks and 16 K’s – can we win with leadoff production like that? Our Shortstops combined are hitting .197 so far this season, Ishikawa was .143 in his last 10 games with 1W/ 8K before leaving, and Pedro in his last 10 games is at .162 with only 1 HR and 3 RBI, 3W/10K’s. No, Gregory Polanco should not be called up to try to come to the rescue of MLB players who are underperforming. What might help more is someone who is going to preach the gospel of making contact with the baseball more often. Quite simply, we have way to many gaps in the lineup to think that one kid might be the difference in whether we get to the playoffs. He may help, but this team needs to have some closed clubhouse meetings with themselves and maybe figure out what their goal will be for 2014 and commit to that goal. When they were playing Milwaukee I was thinking that the Brewers “wanted” it much more than the Pirates – they have the hunger the Pirates had in 2013. The season is still very early and we have the pitching and hitting/fielding talent to win the Central, but it is going to take effort on an every AB or pitch thrown basis.

    • piraddict

      It’s time that the Pirates reconsider using Pedro at the cleanup spot in the lineup. His OBP is simply too low to occupy the 4 spot, he isn’t on base enough to be driven in by the 5, 6 and 7 men. Pedro has never shown a high enough OBP to bat cleanup in his major league career. That is not to say he isn’t a valuable player. Clearly he is a strength at 6th or 7th on the card. Now that Ike Davis is on board I think it makes more sense to list 1B (Davis/Sanchez) consistently in the 4th position and move Alvarez down the order to 6th or 7th until he actually demonstrates an OBP of .340 or better.

      • smurph

        I completely agree, addict. In addition to getting better production in the cleanup spot, moving Pedro to the #6 spot means the #4 and #5 hitters will not only get more chances to drive in runs, but maybe also get more hittable pitches because having Pedro hit behind them still creates the fear of the long ball in that spot in the lineup.

  • sweetleb

    the pirates have a budget so if you spend money on polanco by locking him up and he is a productive player, you have less chance of wasting money on non-productive players in the future.

    • Leefoo Rug Bug

      Or NOT having money for another key piece?

      • sweetleb

        All key pieces should come from there stack minor league system.

        • Leefoo Rug Bug

          In that case, why did we trade for Ike? You’re also assuming Polanco would agree to such a deal, which, although its a good idea for the Bucs, it is hardly a sure thing.

  • mak_dc

    If i was running the team (or an analyst), then I would totally agree with everything Tim says. But I’m neither of those things…I’m just a fan and I want to see Polanco called up ASAP.

    I also think that if Polanco adds even a little to the offense, then there is a bigger cushion for the pitching staff…so saying Polanco couldn’t help because Grilli blew a save is pretty bad logic.

  • RightSaidTed

    “If you’re in the camp that thinks one player can make a massive difference, just look at Ike Davis. He has hit well since arriving in Pittsburgh, but the Pirates are also 1-3 in that time.” Without Davis, they would have been 0-4 in that stretch. That is a meaningful difference.

    • Leefoo Rug Bug

      Would Polanco have gotten those key hits Snider got? Or those HRs?

      We can “play this game” all day. :). :)

  • johndw28

    I agree with mak dc- I think the logic is not especially compelling. I appreciate the fact it’s probably not worth the cost to bring up Polanco until June. But I do not agree that we would most likely be 9-12 if Polanco was in lineup batting #2. Would he have made a huge difference, probably not. But we are getting very little from right field and I don’t think it’s crazy to suggest that we may have won another game or 2 with Polanco in the lineup taking quality at bats and getting on base at a considerably higher clip than Snider/Tabata. How do we know one of the Milwaukee games wouldn’t have been a 2 run lead instead of 1 run lead going into the 9th. Maybe we have another run or 2 saved in right field because of his defense. I’m simply saying there is logical ground somewhere to say he could have made a difference without necessarily being a miracle worker.

  • IQB

    But they have all of this pitching depth! LOL. Just shows that they made a huge mistake by not bringing Burnett back.

    • Leefoo Rug Bug

      The guy signed to replace him has outpitched AJ, who has pitched one good game so far.

      • lonleylibertarian

        Huh?

        Last two starts 13+ innings 2 earned runs – have we seen better than this from Morton or am I missing something

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

      If they would have signed Burnett, they wouldn’t have signed Volquez, who is the best pitcher in the rotation so far. At best, they’d be in the same situation they’re in right now.

      And they do have pitching depth. But you need someone to struggle or get injured to turn to the depth. That’s what we’re seeing with Wandy Rodriguez and (probably) Brandon Cumpton right now.

      • emjayinTN

        Tim: Agree with your point as far as pitching is concerned, but AJ was worth much, much more to the 2013 Pirates as a Clubhouse Leader, and this 2014 edition has not settled on a leader as yet. I also thought that The Fort was a solid team guy, and Jeff Locke was quiet, but you rarely saw him separated from Burnett in the dugout. I do not consider not signing AJ as a big loss in the Rotation, but his attitude was contagious. I want to see Charlie step up and be that leader to the younger guys, and I think he has what it takes to handle that responsibility. As far as the arm, he gives the Pirates everything that AJ brought last year – just my opinion.

        • IQB

          They came into this season depending on Wandy and banking on Volquez turning it around. That’s playing with too much fire and they’re flirting with getting burnt. Volquez has been very good. But counting on Wandy was ignorant by the FO. All of the depth you talk of is unproven at the mlb level. Cumpton has done well in a very small sample size. Who knows about Locke. Taillon is in Tommy John hell. But the pitching is irrelevant when your offense can’t hit. 3 or less runs in 13 games. Better start hitting bc the Shark Tank is taking a step back and the rotation is shaky.

  • Leefoo Rug Bug

    What Tim fails to mention is that, for all of Polanco’s promise, there is little guarantee that he will have this awesome OPS for us. Been a zillion highly thought of AAA prospects that have bombed out in the majors! Or, at the very least, struggled mightily.

    Basically, the FO would be taking a very expensive gamble for those 6 weeks.

    • csnumber23

      I agree Lee but I think Polanco is about as can’t miss as there is. I also completely understand why they would wait 6 more weeks. I do hope they put Snider back in most of the time until June. I feel he is a much better player than Tabata.

      • Leefoo Rug Bug

        Barry bonds was can’t miss and hit .233 his first year.

        • http://cityplanning.tumblr.com brendan

          And was still a 3.5 WAR player

          • http://cityplanning.tumblr.com brendan

            And that was only in 113 games (per baseball ref). He was much more valuable player than his batting average alone might suggest.

            He was also a year younger than Polanco. His rookie year was his age 21 season, whereas this is Polanco’s age 22 season. A year certainly makes a difference.

    • stickyweb

      What do you mean Lee? Just because he couldn’t OPS .800 in 130 games last year between High A and AA, somehow you think he’s not gauranteed to do it in MLB the following year? You’re crazy.

      • Leefoo Rug Bug

        Sticky…I’m assuming you were being sarcastic.

        • stickyweb

          Good assumption. Yes he’s been en fuego and I can’t wait to see him in black and gold, but people assume he’s gonna be Cutch as soon as he arrives, and that’s just not realistic. He’ll probably be an upgrade over Snider, but that’s not even guaranteed. The only guarantee is he’ll be better defensively, and that will be nice to see. But thinking it’s likely he’ll OPS .800 right from the get go is dangerous.

          • Lee Young

            “guaranteed”…operative word…if it was…then, by all means, bring him up.

      • Pghfan987

        LOL OPS.

        Look at this K rate, BB rate, ISO, and BABIP.

  • glassers

    Simply put and as many that post here and other Pirate sites know ” it is always about pitching ” . Right now we are not getting it on a consistent basis and when we do get it the bullpen has not performed as expected . Your point about Davis is a good one .

    • Monkshot

      The Pirates did the same thing last year, the only difference was they were winning the one run games early in the season when the offense sucked, and obviously the bullpen kept it at one run. Here’s what I’m confused about, the Pirates have a game plan when it comes to a pitcher, right? Are the players not capable, or is the plan bad? Or are the players pressing and not following the plan? Regardless, they need to start making contact more often and striking out less. I feel like this team is a Michael Wacha away from being no hit.

      • https://www.facebook.com/steve.peipock Bonds Top Hand

        I’ve been wondering how much of their approach at the plate comes from Hurdle and how much from the hitting coach? Because this team sure looks alot like the Ranger teams when Hurdle was their hitting coach. A ton of HR’s and a ton of K’s. Complete feast or famine.

  • dr dng

    What do you see the roster looking like June 1, August 1, September 2?
    What happens to Snider? While I would like to see more production from him, I have to admit, after he takes a two game suspension for the team how do you tell a guy he is done? The Pirates need some guys with some fire.

    Also, when does someone say, “we have a big hole at shortstop?” I like both guys, but what about some production from the position both on offense and defense.

    • stickyweb

      I’d probably give it more than 50 ABs before declaring the huge hole at SS, especially since Jordy’s hitting .357 in his last 7 games after the horrendous start. Plus it’s not like there are a ton of great options out there at SS. Drew is obvious, but there’s no reason to think he’d be much better than Jordy (Zips and Steamer had them basically equal and neither over reacts after 50 ABs). Gregorius is possible but is he any better? And does it then become the organizations procedure to trade away prospects to replace a guy with 400 quality ABs but starts the next season poorly in 50 ABs? I don’t think the farm system will be top 3 in baseball very long if so.

  • johndw28

    The more I think about the more I think we would have won probably at least one game with GP up here. This team has abundant power- where we are deficient is in terms of getting on base. Him drawing a few walks or slapping a single easily could have been the difference in a game, not to mention his defense. Forget about Lunchbox- just look at Tabata’s game logs and ask yourself if switching him out for Polanco MIGHT have made a difference. Tabata’s 0-3 vs Brewers on Friday night and 1-6 with 2Ks on Sunday come to mind. Furthermore, having GP in lineup would put a lot of guys into more natural roles in batting order as far as I’m concerned.

    That being said I understand the very logical financial reasons for not doing it. I just don’t buy it wouldn’t have made any difference if he would have been up here.

    • Leefoo Rug Bug

      You can’t “forget” Lunchbox, because he has contributed to some wins/leads.

      And, you’re also assuming that Polanco would have hit better than Tabata.

      You would HOPE he would hit better, but it is NOT a sure thing. Big diff btwn AAA AND MLB even for the most ballyhooed.

      • johndw28

        I’m saying forget Lunchox to intentionally weaken MY argument- The production you are getting from right field even when you add in Lunchbox is BAD- it rates at a -.5 WAR which is 27th in entire league. Tabata has been flat out awful with a .526 OPS- so I don’t think it’s illogical to suggest Polanco would have outpaced that performance.

        • Leefoo Rug Bug

          Travis’ OPS is .719. That is not awful. Not great, but….

          And while GP has been en fuego, he has hardly faced the likes of Cueto, et al.

          I am a GP fan, but to expect him to come up and have an .800 OPS, while possible, is not likely.

          • johndw28

            The OPS we have had between Snider and Tabata is 635 with an on base percentage of .290. It is not unreasonable to expect Polanco to have outperformed that. It’s really not unreasonable to have expected a typical “replacement” player to slightly exceed that.

            • Lee Young

              I never said it was ‘unreasonable’….however, for all we know he could do worse…that is my point. You can’t just assume he is going to be replacement level his first year.

              Bonds had an OPS of .746 his first year, just slightly ahead of where Travis is now. And, while not a Tabby fan, his career OPS before this year was above .720. I doubt he will stay in the .500 OPS range.

              I am a HUGE GP fan, but to assume he is going to come up and blow away NL pitching IS illogical, historically. Is it worth turning GP into Super Two, for .020 OPS (IF he is like Bonds).

              • johndw28

                Why do you insist on mischaracterizing my assertions? I never said he would “blow away NL pitching” I said with him in fold it is logical though not GUARANTEED to think he would have better than a 635 OPS from right field and also better defense.

  • realist001

    Saying ALL teams are keeping guys down to save Super 2 status is not factual. The Astros just called up Springer. Whether you agree with it or not , they felt they had a need and addressed it , regardless of ramifications five years from now. Do the Bucs not have a NEED for Polanco?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

      All teams do this, but not necessarily with every player.

      As for Springer, the Astros were facing potential legal trouble from him, since they offered him a long-term deal to be in the majors right away, then sent him down after he declined. Hard to justify keeping a guy in the minors for development when you previously offered him a deal to be in the majors.

      Also, since when did the Astros become a model organization?

      • Andrew

        They have collected a surprising amount of talent in the form of former Baseball Prospectus writers.

      • Kevin_Young

        Don’t forget the Astros have a crazy amount of cash to play with right now too

      • Pie Rat

        If he had signed they would’nt need to worry about super 2. When he didn’t sign they wanted to protect it then.

  • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

    It just had to be approved, since that was your first comment.

  • Andrew

    Can Polanco pitch?

    Pirates starters ERA 4.22 (13th in the NL), FIP 4.41 (14th in the NL), when you are ahead of only the Diamondbacks you are not very good, Volquez has performed the best but he is not striking anyone out, and has .235 BABIP.

    • Leefoo Rug Bug

      If we would’ve had Polanco in right at the start of the season, we would’ve been so far ahead, we wouldn’t have needed Grilli in ANY game!!

      :). :). :)

    • glassers

      EGGSACTLY

  • Kent Ries

    The Pirates have scored 2 runs or less in 10 of their 21 games. They are 2-8 in those games, and 7-4 when they score 3 runs or more. I think the offense is a major problem.

    • smurph

      The Pirates offense is well ahead of where it was last season at this point. They were on a pace to set records for offensive futility. Yet they had a better record than they do this year. It is unrealistic to expect the entire pitching staff to perform as well as they did last year, but at this point, the difference from last year is less effective pitching.

  • Pghfan987

    I’ve read that if Polanco signs an extension, that Super Two status could be worth as little as 5 mil. That’s less than one win. Polanco could very well be worth that over Travis Snider for two months.

    Not to mention, if the extra win or two Polanco provides gets the Pirates to the postseason, or slightly increases ticket sales, the decision becomes even easier.

    There are other variables to consider beyond WAR, Tim.

  • Pghfan987

    The point of this article wreaks of confirmation bias to me. Sure, Polanco can’t close out games. But if ever there’s a game where an impact bat can make a difference, how is it not a 14 inning low scoring game? When Tabata went 1-for-6 with a single? If Polanco hits like he did in the Minors, he probably IS the difference maker in several games. Grilli doesn’t blow those save if he has 3 run leads instead of 1 run leads.

    • Lee Young

      “If Polanco hits like he did in the Minors”

      Big IF….not saying he won’t, but…..

      • Pghfan987

        The whole premise of this article was that “If the Pirates performed exactly the same around Polanco as they did without him …”

  • momsmerkin

    I stop reading these Polanco articles as soon as Tim feels compelled to suggest that he is the only person in the world who ever saw potential in the young player. It usually happens around the second paragraph. Please assume that we all get it and that we all credit and validate you exactly as much as you’re craving. And then drop it.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

      Not craving anything. Also not saying I’m the only person who ever saw potential in him. Just explaining how I’m looking at the situation, and how I’m removing my own personal desire to see Polanco in the majors to look at this objectively.

    • Lee Young

      moms…perhaps you should quit reading them, then?

  • DG Lewis

    As Pghfan987 says, signing a Super 2 guy to a long-term deal pre-arb could cut the increased cost of Super 2 in half. (I was a bit skeptical about this, but looking up the arb numbers that guys like Lincecum were asking and getting offered, and what they ended up signing in terms of short-term contracts, compared to something like Cutch’s deal, I think it’s not totally unreasonable). So $10M-$15M, if they can sign Polanco long-term pre-arb, could be $5M-$7.5M.

    Plus, there’s discounting – that $5M-$7.5M is paid out largely from 2017-2020, while the benefits are realized this year. Taking some SWAGs on discounting rates, the present value of that $5M-$7.5M is more like $4M-$6M.

    There’s no real reason to believe, based on what Polanco’s doing now in AAA, that there will be a significant difference in his MLB performance if he got called now or if he got called up in June. In either case, the six weeks you’re getting is “Polanco’s first six weeks in MLB”. If he gets called up in June, you get Polanco’s first 15 weeks in the major leagues. If he gets called up now, you get Polanco’s first 15 weeks in the major leagues, plus six weeks of Polanco after about half a season in the major leagues. So what you’re “buying” with that $4M-$6M of PV is “six weeks of Polanco after about half a season in the major leagues”.

    The question, therefore: Is six weeks of Polanco performing at that level about 1 win better – which prorates to about 4 wins for a full season – than whatever he’s replacing? And in my mind, that’s a very different question from whether Polanco will play like Mike Trout when he gets called up. I’ve been beating the “Polanco needs AAA time” drum as loudly as anyone – but upon further analysis, it’s not quite as cut-and-dried as I’ve thought.

  • R Edwards

    Although I agree that the Pirates’ current hitting struggles go far beyond RF production issues, the team needs a spark to turn things around. To date, unlike last year, we cannot count on our starting pitching to win a lot of low scoring and close games. Our bullpen is also not as effective, thus far, as it was last year. So, here is what I would advocate doing to spark the team (hopefully)…..

    (1) Call up Polanco now. That is the easy part…the harder part is figuring out who gets sent down or released to make room for him. Choices seem to be Tabata, Snider, Barmes, or Harrison. I think we need Harrison for his versatility in the infield. As much as I would like to see Barmes let go, that is not likely to happen. So, my guess the odd man out will be Tabata – as Snider may be more versatile and may have outperformed Tabata to date. But, by not much. Question is…does Tabata even have an option or do we have to waive him? If the latter, he will be picked up.
    (2) Send down or release Stewart and replace with Tony Sanchez – NOW – we cannot afford to have all of these weak bats and low batting averages either on the bench or in the lineup. The other day, it was awful that the lineup included Stewart and Barmes – I think they were a combined 1-13 or 2-13. We do not score enough runs, and our SP has not been as strong, to be able to put lineups like that out there. Tony Sanchez is a good defensive catcher and can at least hit some. Will the Pirates be too stubborn to make the move?
    (3) Replace Gomez with Vin Mazzaro. Mazzaro is the better reliever and with Pimentel in the bullpen, we don’t need Gomez’s ability to start as much as we did last year. If he as an option, send him down and see if he can get straightened out. Otherwise, waive him and see if he gets through.
    (4) Wandy has already been DL’d, so no need to post that. He never should have come north, he obviously is not right and was taxing our bullpen and costing us games.
    (5) This will never happen…but, I would waive Barmes and replace with him with d’Arnaud. No, Chase is not the caliber of fielder as Barmes, but he is a better hitter, can run and steal bases, and could provide a spark. I remember 2-3 years ago, he and Presley sparked the team until both got hurt.

    • stickyweb

      R Ed,
      (1) it will be curious to see the corresponding move when Polanco arrives. Harrison’s the only one with an option left, but if it’s him, then they’re carrying 5 OFs and 2 1B, so position coverage is very strained. I’m sure they’re hoping Snider shows more so some team would trade for him, though the return would be pretty low. Or that Tabata continues to do poorly so he could slip through waivers with his contract. Or that one of them gets a minor injury, either real or imagined (sore back anyone?)
      (2) Did you happen to see Tony Sanchez’s last couple games at catcher? He cost them runs each time and definitely didn’t look MLB ready on defense. Yes, Barmes and Stewart combined went 1 for 11 that game, but they’re the 7 and 8 hitters. The 1st, 3rd and 4th hitters went 2 for 19, so they pretty much kept pace with the big boys.
      (3) Replacing Gomez with Mazarro is almost the definition of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
      (5) See #3. The back up UT IF is going to spark them?
      Everyone’s frustrated and searching for ways to improve the team. They’ve already done so by getting Ike. Polanco will help, but probably not as much as many think. If Marte, Alvarez, Mercer and Tabata start hitting to their ability, the team will be fine. And if Morton, Liriano and whoever replaces Wandy do the same pitching, they’ll be better than fine.

      • R Edwards

        Sticky, I do have disagree with a couple of your assertions – surprise! :)

        (1) I think we both agree, if Polanco does get called up, Tabata or Snider have to go. Both have flaws, but given the choice of one or the other, I think I would take Snider – seems to be more versatile, a high energy guy, and possibly more content to be in a supporting role.
        (2) Sanchez may have indeed had a couple of errors, but he also won two games with his bat. Balancing out both hitting and fielding, i consider Sanchez much more useful than Stewart. Stewart, Barmes, and the pitcher represent 1/3 of the lineup – we don’t score enough runs or pitch well enough right now to be competing with 2/3 of a lineup. Granted Cole had two singles in that game, but how often will that happen from the pitcher’s spot?
        (3) I disagree on Mazzaro – he would be a huge improvement over Gomez right now, who hurt us badly in at least two games. Mazzaro pitched in over 70 games last year with a sub-3 ERA. He is a quality reliever and would give us much needed depth in the bullpen.
        (5) I wasn’t suggesting bringing up d’Arnaud to sit on the bench. Given Mercer’s hitting woes, I would let d’Arnaud split some games with Mercer and see if can provide a spark – I would bat him #1 or #2.

      • R Edwards

        Also, as has been very well documented, I am not convinced that Davis has made the team significantly better – the jury is still out on that – way too early to say. We also don’t know what the true cost of acquiring him will be, so once we know who the PTBNL is and Davis has 75-100 AB’s, we will likely be able to better assess his addition.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ron.heichel.9 Ron Heichel

    The pirates are 4-2 against the cubs, 2-1 against the cards, 4-4 against the reds and 6-1 against the brewers. 2 things here 1) ifyou even that series out this div. Is a dog fight once again. 2) the pirates have a month where every game exept the last 2 are against div. Teams, that is a very tough row to hoe. Imo if the pirates finish this month at or near .500 they will be fine. So relax and enjoy baseball.

  • smurph

    The fact is that these baseball players make such embarassingly high salaries, why should the Pirates be made to look cheap for trying to save some money when they can? I mean, really. These players make as much money in 2 or 3 seasons as most people make in their entire lifetime. And sure, they have to train 12 months a year, but heck, I have to work 12 months a year. And they only “work” 3 hrs. a day for 162 days. Out of those 3 hours, they spend maybe 35-40 minutes doing something other than sitting in the dugout or running onto the field.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ron.heichel.9 Ron Heichel

    Second comment ever here. Tim bags the first one just in case. ( understandable mr. Williams) First off I have been a pittsburgh fan since conception,so my joy and misery with all things pirates is a lifelong exp. Just like most of you. Now on to my comments (1) the pirates are 4-2 against the cubs,2-1 against the cards,2-2 against the reds and 1-6 against the brewers. If you even up the series against the brewers this div. Is once again a dogfight. 2) the pirates have a very tough schedule to start the season where every game exept the last 2 are against central opp. imo if the bucs finish this first month at or near .500 they will be fine. So relax and enjoy the games.

  • Lee Young

    and here we sit with over 70 comments…apparently we aren’t as tired of them as you? My advice? Don’t read them. You. Are. Allowed. To. Not. Read. Them!

    • Richard Parker

      And, Lee, that would make you one of those rare breeds that don’t know anything about MLB and the Pirates, yet spend a lot of time following them. I feel bad for you. He shouldn’t be up, he won’t be up, and no one of any degree of intellect thinks he should or will be up. So…….

  • https://www.facebook.com/clementewall21 N_Cap

    Until the philosophy changes with runners on base which hasn’t for three years now nothing will change

  • lonleylibertarian

    Do you operate/manage your team to win – or do you manage it to make the most money possible. Does anyone who is posting on this thread believe the Pirates are managing to win? If they do please explain to me why they have not called up Polanco?

    Do you really think that the odds of the Pirates making the playoffs this year are better with Polanco arriving in mid June or worse?

    I defy ANYONE – including Tim to come up with a logical arguement that holding off on bring up the next Dave Parker six more weeks IMPROVES the chances this team will make the playoffs.

  • michaelbro8

    Completely agree. And the main reason why is that baseball is in a different era now. It’s all about pitching. The reason the Bucs were successful last year ? Pitching. I love Polanco’s potential, but he won’t have near as much impact as most think. The real reason the Bucs are under .500 is that Liriano, Cole, Morton and Rodriguez have been, overall, ordinary or less. I expect them as a group to improve. But I think the choice of a 5th starter is much more of an issue than whether the team should bring up Polanco or not.

  • bucsws2014

    The 2 hole is producing at a .242/.310/.319/.629 clip. Sorry, but that sucks. Leadoff isn’t looking too good either. So any help at 1-2 is help Bucs can use desperately.

  • johndw28

    I think people are nuts if they don’t think Polanco would make a difference- how many games have we scored 2 runs or less with pitiful at bats from Tabata in lineup.

  • johndw28

    Leadoff homerun for Polanco tonight- crushed it.