Gregory Polanco Still Open to Extension With the Pirates

Ever since before he arrived in the majors, there has been one topic that has surrounded Gregory Polanco: Will the Pirates extend him?

There were reports before he came up that the Pirates had offered him a deal that would have been worth up to $75 M over ten years. That deal obviously never happened, and there have been off and on rumors about extension possibilities since then.

Polanco was at Pirate City for mini camp today, and the topic of an extension came up when he met with reporters. He said that he hasn’t heard anything lately, but that he’s still open to an extension.

“I’m open for anything. Whatever they bring, I’ll check it out,” Polanco said. “I’m just for right now focusing on getting my body right, getting my mind right, getting ready, and be more consistent, be smarter in the game, and [getting] established in the Major Leagues.”

Polanco is here hitting and checking out his knee after receiving a Platelet Rich Plasma injection this off-season. He had been dealing with soreness in his left knee throughout the season, and that caused him to miss a game in July and slump a bit down the stretch. Polanco said the soreness was difficult, and that he had issues pushing off the knee when running and hitting.

“I feel a lot better. I’ve been working out. I don’t feel anything right now,” Polanco said of his recovery.

He rested for all of October and November, and just recently started working out in December. Polanco described the experience as something that made him tougher, since it made him feel like he could play in the majors without being 100%.

The 2015 season wasn’t a total loss for Polanco. He picked up his hitting in the second half, with a lot of hard hit contact. In fact, Polanco probably should have been better, as he had some unlucky numbers when it came to hard hit balls not going for hits.

“Where it goes? I don’t have control over that. I understand that,” Polanco said of the unlucky stretch, which really hit him in September and the Wild Card game. “I keep trying to hit the ball hard and keep trying to make good swings, and whatever happens, happens.”

Polanco’s numbers were better in the second half, and he attributed that to more confidence, thanks to a talk with Clint Hurdle after a slump in May.

“In May I had a slump, so I lost my confidence,” Polanco said. “Clint called me to his office and he told me ‘You aren’t playing like you’ve always played.'”

Hurdle said he noticed Polanco was worrying, and wasn’t smiling. He told the outfielder to play like he always plays and not to worry about the results, instead focusing on having a good at-bat every time. That seemed to have worked, as Polanco’s three best months for hard hit contact were July, August, and September.

That second half success and a healthy knee both lead to hope that Polanco could finally break out in 2016 and become the impact player he was projected to become. Polanco is hoping that this will be the year that all happens.

“This year is good for me,” Polanco said. “I want to be more consistent, and this is the year I want to play like I had been playing in the minor leagues, like a star player.”

I’ve written already this off-season about how Polanco could be the most important Pirate in 2016, with the biggest chance for the team to make up for lost offense or see a boost in offense over the 2015 season. A breakout would be a huge thing for this offense, not just now, but for the entire time he’s under control. He’s already under team control through the 2020 season, and if they can find a way to work out an extension, then a breakout could pay dividends for years to come.

  • If all the “value moves” the pirates have been doing this off-season lead to extending Polonco, I am all for it. I think he’s a tremendous player and that they absolutely should lock him up long-term

  • Can the Pirates pay Gregory Polanco more than Starling Marte? If they pay them both the same for the next 5 years, both would get $3, $5, $7.5, $10, $11.5 (option year for SM). That’s $37 mil and if you want at least 2 years of GP FA years do you jump to $15 mil for GP in year 6 and $18 mil per season in year 7? That would be 7/$70 mil and then throw in a signing bonus and it may be possible.

    • Can, will, and should are three totally different questions.

      The market has changed since Marte signed his extension…so, basing Polanco’s return on Marte’s isn’t applicable.

      What’s Polanco’s value?

      Meh, no idea…but let’s say he blossoms…

      2016: .5M
      2017: .5M
      2018: 5.5M
      2019: 12M
      2020: 15.5M
      2021: 24M
      2022: 24M

      Let’s say he doesn’t:

      2016: .5M
      2017: .5M
      2018: 3M
      2019: 5M
      2020: 7M
      2021: 7.5M
      2022: 7.5M

      That’s a 7/82 and a 7/31.

      That’s a helluva difference. If the Pirates want to guarantee the first two years of free agency, I see them getting Polanco for 7/$70-75M. If they want to do options, Polanco’s AAV up to 2021 is going to have to exceed the best expectations…say, $40M guaranteed plus 2 option years in the $20M range. So, playing with options might cost them $10M if Polanco puts it all together…and it might save them $30M if he doesn’t.

      • Whichever way they agree to the numbers, I think he is worth the 7/$70 or 7/$75. Seeing the numbers for JHey that the Cubs put out makes this move for GP a good move. And, the big bucks come after the new TV deal is in place

  • Also, just a side note, I dont know for sure, but I think Cervelli and Polanco are represented by the same agency. Maybe they can get both extensions done during the same time this offseason.

  • Half of those 100mph line drives land somewhere last year and Polanco would be a .273 hitter with an OPS over .725, OPS+ around 100, and a WAR around 3.0. A few improvements and some luck and he should be a 100 run, close to 60 xbh .350 OBP guy in 2016.

  • Exit velocity is everyone’s favorite shiny new toy, myself included, but do we really know what it means or how to use it?

    I mean obviously higher is better than lower, but is launch angle more important? Is exit velocity predictive? Is there a stabilization point?

    Polanco finished with a .308 BABIP overall and had 15 hits under 80 mph. Does that mean his “luck” and soft hit balls simply balanced his “luck” on hard hit balls?

    Also, how “unlucky” was he in September if he had more weeks far below average exit velocity than above?

    It’s certainly interesting data to look at, but it seems premature to assume too much from something we really don’t understand.

    • Lot of RH starting pitching in the division at the moment. Wonder how that skews the numbers with GP?

    • Fun 3D graph of BABIP by exit velocity and launch angle. Clearly both are important and somewhat complementary. Not that this is the final statement on the matter…

    • Wasn’t going to mention it because I don’t play with these things much…but since you brought it up….

      One of the above lists has him slightly better than Logan Morrison and the other has him chasing Ryan Howard…

    • I really do not think the shiny new toy numbers makes sense. If you would continue to factor who was tossing him these balls and how a defensive shift takes place then it could be a discussion. I prefer the “hit it where they ain’t” batting strategy. Defensive shifts take many a hard hit ball away. I prefer a hitter who uses the entire field. I do not know where Polonco fits into this type of hitting but give me a batter with a high level of control. So I concur with your comment the data is interesting but it’s too early to asses a statistical trend. There is also not a snowballs chance in Bradenton that he signs an extension.

    • Good points. Hopefully the dip in September was due to the knee issue–it certainly makes sense that a LH better would see a drop in exit velocity if he didn’t have full strength/stability in his left knee.

      It probably is true that a hitter could have great exit velocity that doesn’t translate to hits if his trajectory tends to be low (e.g., Tabata) or if he tends to pull everything into shifts (e.g., Howard). But as I recall, Polanco had a lot of line drives and has shown the ability to drive the ball the other way.

      • This chart might help explain:

        To my eye, it looks like a lot of his hardest contact were ground balls or low liners, and I’ve read that this data could be sketchy.

        Take this video, for instance:

        ^That is, apparently, what a 99 mph batted ball looks like. A seven-hopper that can’t get past the infielder in the hole.

        Is this ball indicative of breakout skill? Is this ball characteristic of the other “hard hits” Polanco registered.

        It doesn’t seem like anyone really knows.

      • Chart also shows that – while this definition could mean different things to different folks – not a lot of his oppo contact was driven, more slashed. His swing backs that up as well.

        • Thanks for the chart. I find it encouraging to see as much pink in LF and the L-C gap as the chart shows. Obviously not as much as to RF, but enough for me to believe in his ability to drive the ball that way.

          • Ha, see, this is what’s fun about data…I see the same thing you do and come away with the exact opposite conclusion.

  • I think any extension with Polanco comes with an opt out a couple years after his 6 year/2021 FA mark. Basically the Pirates could get his ’22 and ’23 FA years but after that he could walk. Just looking at the way deals are now, he might get some gaudy figure but it might not mean much. Feels like the agents have swung the pendulum back on team friendly deals with these opt outs.

    • No point in doing an extension for a player like him if theres opt outs, defeats the purpose. Either theres an extension or there isnt, no opt outs. If I were NH, I wouldnt go for that.

      That’s good if youre a proven star, but if youre a young player like Polanco, theres some level of risk in buying out his entry level and arbitration years. Pirates offer more upfront for a guaranteed contract/money, Pirates get the assurance that they have somebody who is under control for a longer period of time. That’s the trade off, an opt out clause throws that out of wack in this scenario I think.

      • “No point in doing an extension for a player like him if theres opt outs,
        defeats the purpose. Either theres an extension or there isnt, no opt
        outs. If I were NH, I wouldnt go for that.”

        Which is why there probably wont be one. For him or Cole. Just my take, looking at the FA deals and extensions the last two years.

        • Cole and Polanco are completely different circumstance I think. Cole is already a star. He’s the #1 overall pick. He’s represented by Scott Boras. Cole’s career and his future earnings have been much less in question and have been managed since the day he was drafted.

          Polanco was some kid Rene Gayo dug up in the DR for very little money. He surprised people, moved up the ladder fast, and he’s showing promise, but he’s not there yet. He’s also not represented by Boras and arguably one of his best buddies, Marte, took the extension that was offered. I think they’ll find a middle ground and make a deal for Polanco.

          • I can agree with that. I just think that the new thing is opt outs, trying to maximize your earning power.

            The other thing is these team options. While I think Cutch is a no brainer to see his exercised, i’ll paraphrase Bill W. below and say it will snow in Bradenton before we see Harrison’s exercised. Something GPs people need to think about.
            GP’s an interesting case. Boom or bust feels like. If im his agent, i want to give myself a crack at even bigger deal if he ends up booming. Comes down to NH taking that chance I guess.

            • Its a risk for him without question. If he breaks out this year, then great, he’ll be getting big money in 4-5 more years if that can sustain itself. But if he has a year worse than this one (and this year was okay, but not great by any means) or he gets hurt, the offer the Pirates make to him now will be less in the future. Whatever offer the Pirates, the money thats offered will be based on future potential not on present performance. I think something around 35-40 mil gets the deal done.

              • Sounds like he’s betting on himself, no?

                You know, I thought Cervelli was a done deal and he looks like hes betting on himself too, so I dont know. I think a lot of agents tell their guys ” Look there is a ton of money in the game right now, dont end up like McCutchen.” Seriously.

                • Not sure where you heard about Cervelli, all I know is that he stated he wanted to finish his career here. I think if the Pirates want to get a deal done with him, they will be able to. That’s more on the Pirates than on him I think.

                  • Dan Zangrilli has said it on the radio a few times now. To me it makes perfect sense. Provides insurance to Diaz and Mcguire and shouldn’t break the bank. But, maybe not.

                    • I dont think it would break the bank either, its more on the Pirates to justify for themselves paying him 3-4 years to be a part time player in the future. If either Diaz or McGuire become what they hope they will be, then Cervelli is a highly paid back up. I’d be fine with it, but I dont if the Pirates would be.

                    • Well you can trade either Cervelli, Diaz or Mcguire.

                      But mention that here and heads explode, I’ll start swearing, and invoking the Constitution, and Hillary will start emailing Tim Williams and the world will go to hell.

                • There’s alot of money in the game if youre a pitcher, I dont think theres as much for other players. Theres been some push back within the market lately, I think theres fewer position players who are going to get record deals like some pitchers have gotten. The only guy who got a huge deal is Heyward and frankly I think theres an element of hype surrounding him that helped his cause.

  • Here’s the question. Is he worth more this year or last? He had a good season last year and there are reasons to be encouraged, but did some of his shine fade? I certainly don’t think he should cost more. Still 75M for 10 years?

    • Was that the number that was offered before? If so, if I’m Polanco, I take that deal. That’s alot of money and would still give him an opportunity to make more after that contract, he would still be 34. Pretty much all regular MLB players are millionaires , but few last long enough or are good enough to have earned over 100 million over their career. You have to durable and good for a long time to make that kind of money. See A.J. Burnett. There’s only 25-30 active players who have earned that much right now. Polanco could potentially make that if that was the sort of offer made to him

    • Fantastic question.

      I almost want to say *both*.

      2015 showed – if single-year defensive metrics are to be believed – that Polanco can be a roughly league average player without hitting much, which should elevate his floor price. 2015 also showed that he’s far from certain to reach star status, which is really what seems to drive the upper end of these extensions.

      I really don’t know what the answer is.

    • I’m more of a believer based on the hard-hit balls data. Just look at the company he’s in. Plus, he showed the ability to handle a slump and put up a very good second half despite the knee issues.

      He’s worth more in my book, but not so much more than an extension shouldn’t be doable. (In fact, the knee injury could help–it shows the Pirates he can play through pain but it shows Polanco that health can’t be taken for granted so maybe sign for the tens of millions while you can.)

  • Anyone want to comment on the statistics
    that they feel that he is capable of producing?

    • 285 18 homers. 35 SB

      • I’m taking the under on that line. I don’t think we will see such an increase in power this season. And I’d be more inclined to be around .260-.270

        • I think the average will be in the 265 to 275 range but will get on more and flirting with 20 hrs, but I think he will be in the conversation for leading nl in sbs. 45 plus.

      • not bad….OPS .745 15 homers 30 sbs.

      • I’m actually bullish on Polanco. I’m going to go a little lower on the average and SB…but higher on the HR’s.

        .275/24/28sb OPS = .804.

        I think this is his breakout year. Easily could be wrong…but I just think this is where it all comes together for him.

    • If he gets back to his AAA attitude and approach, the sky is the limit

    • .275 with 15 HRs and 30 SBs. That+his defense is a lot of value.

    • At FGs, I gave Polanco a feasible ceiling projection:

      .315/.400/.525 with 40 SB and ≥ 10 runs from his defense.

      I can’t say he’ll achieve this production in 2016 or any season. But those numbers reflect what I believe his ceiling to be.

  • Extending either Polanco or Cole would certainly trump any other moves made this off season. Cole seems unlikely so hopefully the Bucs can lock Polanco up

    • I have no doubt that Cole will sign an extension…the thing is…it won’t be discounted.

      If the Pirates want to lock him up through his first two seasons of free agency, I’d be guessing his pay from now to then without an extension would like:

      2016: .5M
      2017: 5M
      2018: 12M
      2019: 16M
      2020: 29M
      2021: 29M

      So, 6/91 looks like a reasonable extension. While the Pirates don’t like paying market rates, they can prorate the deal and basically pay him Liriano + S. Rod money…and Cole gets a guarantee. I think that’s a win-win.

      Of course, if the Bucs don’t do that this season and try to get a six year extension next time around…and Cole plays just as well in 2016…then you’re looking at losing the .5M and adding another 29M. That makes it a 6/120…and I surely don’t see the Pirates doing that.

      • I think Boras just tells NH and Nutting to pound salt and pretty much strong arms them into a trade with a year and half left. If Cole isnt in CA before 2020 ill be surprised.

        • For all the knocks on Boras…he does get his players every last penny he can.

          You may be right, but this is a six-year plan that isn’t team friendly. If anytime between the day this is signed and October of 2021 that Cole gets that nasty twinge in his elbow…this pays him.

          • Coles on track to get 1 million+ a start one day, the way this crap is going. Id be stunned if the Pirates had him any longer than what he is currently obligated.

            • Agreed…it may be possible ti atleast get a conversation going about it, but I dunno. I’m with you, as I said above, Cole, I think loves playing for the Pirates, theres no issues there, but its just business and he’s going to wait for the best offer possible.

      • I think there is zero chance of a cole extention. By the time he becomes a free agent and he’ll become a FA he will be in the top 5 pitcher discussion. He will get a price/greinke type deal from dodgers where he is from. Enjoy him while you got him he’s gone.

        • Funny…I don’t see Cole as being the hold up…I’d see it as the Pirates.

          If a deal like this went through, Cole would be just about in the middle of Price and Greinke’s ages when he hit free agency.

          If production stays the same, at today’s rates, he could still be expected to pull in 6/180…at a minimum.

          A guaranteed $90+ with the potential for double that, I think, would be more than enough to satisfy Boras and Cole. Especially since it’s a major hedge against injury. Conversely, this would be the biggest guaranteed money the Pirates had ever offered…heck, Jason Kendall is still the current sure-money contract in Pirates history. And…though prorated…is still a market-rate contract.

          So, yeah…if someone is going to blink on the deal…I don’t think it’s Cole’s camp.

      • I’d love to see Cole sign an extension. But even at the reasonable amounts you’re suggesting, it’s probably not wise. As good as he is and as strong as he appears, the team would still be one arm injury from being crippled with a huge portion of their payroll wrapped up in a player unable to play.

  • Resigning Polanco is, I think, a major necessity.

    Having a guarantee that both he and Meadows are locked up through the ’23 season and Marte though ’21 pretty much solves the outfield question for another almost a decade.