Will Gregory Polanco’s Extension Be a Steal? Putting Extensions in Perspective

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Pirates officially announced Gregory Polanco’s five-year extension today in a press conference with Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington and Polanco. Huntington started off by saying that this was a great day for the Pirates, and for Polanco, along with his agent, Rafael Nieves, who was also in attendance.

“This was a long time coming,” Huntington said. “Both parties had Gregory’s best interests at heart. We’re excited to announce today the five-year extension, beginning in 2017, for Gregory. It allows us to have him be one of our building block players. It allows us to build around him.”

The topic of a Polanco extension has been around since before he arrived in the majors. There was a rumor that came out before he arrived that the Pirates offered a deal for up to ten years and $20-25 M guaranteed. Since that time, every off-season and Spring Training has involved some sort of Polanco extension discussion.

“It’s been multiple years in the works, and it’s been start and stop, based on timing, based on time of the season, based on progression of conversations,” Huntington said. “Both sides felt strongly about appropriate valuations, and we were able to put that together this spring. We found that common ground, and both sides felt pretty good about it.”

Prior to the extension, Polanco discussed the deal with Starling Marte, who signed a similar extension prior to the 2014 season. According to Polanco, Marte told him that the extension was good for him, “because it’s insurance for your life, and you play more confident.”

Polanco said that he finally signed now after getting to know the city and the players on the team in his first year and a half in the majors.

“You just wait for the right time,” Polanco said. “Now that I know the city, I like to play here, and I love to be here. So now I decided to sign here.”

Any time an extension like this comes up with a young, high upside player, the immediate reaction is that the team got a steal, and that the player could have received more money by waiting. Clint Hurdle said that he doesn’t believe you have to try to maximize everything in life, especially with the risk of injury or performance involved here.

“The one thing that blows my mind is about where you’re going to miss opportunities about earning money,” Hurdle said. “That question gets asked, I get it. But what happens when the player gets hurt? Does that same person who asks the question care? That the career gets shortened by five years, that he never gets close to his potential, that something out of his hands gets taken away from him, where it’s not fair?”

Huntington expressed the same sentiments, noting that these deals don’t always work out as steals.

“There seems to be a myth out there that these are one-sided,” Huntington said. “There’s risk for the player, there’s risk for the club. There’s reward for the player, there’s reward for the club. When both sides find that mutual ground, and they share that risk, agreements like this happen. For us to have a person the caliber that Gregory has shown us to be, and a player the caliber we believe he’s going to be, the ability to know how we build around him, and how he becomes one of those key players for us as we go forward, it is helpful. Now we have to work to make sure that we help him become that player, and we know he’s going to put in his time.”

Gregory Polanco and Neal Huntington talking to the media today after announcing the deal.
Gregory Polanco and Neal Huntington talking to the media today after announcing the deal.

Polanco is a popular breakout pick this year, and if he does break out, then he would have been in line for a lot more with an extension by waiting a year. But for someone who has made less than a million dollars in his seven-year career so far, it adds some personal relief to get the money he has now. As someone who was in a similar situation, Marte was able to put that in perspective.

“I’m extremely happy for my friend, but especially because where we come from, money is not much,” Marte said through team translator Mike Gonzalez. “A lot of people depend on us. Our land, our city, our people, our family. I’m happy that he’s going to be able to help a lot of loved ones back home. Just a lot of people who are in need of his help.”

But there’s a reason in this case where people are already talking about this deal as a steal. Polanco looks like he could be heading for a breakout season. In the second half of the 2015 season, he increased his hard hit rate. That led to results in July and August, but a knee injury derailed him in September. It also didn’t help that he had some of the worst luck on the amount of outs on hard hit balls in the majors.

Polanco carried the hard hitting through Spring Training and into the season, picking up hits at 109 and 112 MPH on Sunday’s opener.

He’s a tall player with a longer swing, and the Pirates have worked to shorten that swing a bit. This has led to some of the results, although most of the success has come from adjusting back to the league.

“They made him do some things to try and punch back,” Hurdle said of the league adjusting to him. “It took him a bit longer than it has in the past because of the quality of competition. Now he’s in a much better position from a maturity standpoint, from experience within the league to punch back.”

Polanco looks like he could be an impact bat, and his big frame allows you to dream on his power potential. But the Pirates don’t like to focus on home runs with any of their players, and Hurdle noted that Polanco is at his best when he uses the entire field with line drives, rather than focusing on hitting over the fence.

“I think he’s going to be a good hitter with power,” Hurdle said. “Nobody that I’ve run across in our organization has asked him about being a power hitter, or talked to him about being a power hitter. We want to maximize the gap power. He needs to be a 40 double kind of guy. Try to score 100 runs.”

The extension for Polanco could help him towards that breakout, as it is one less thing to worry about this year.

“I have to keep working hard everyday,” Polanco said about reaching his ceiling. “Now that I have a contract, that’s made me feel better. I just have to keep working hard everyday, and keep playing hard.”

One issue Polanco has had in the past was the fear of being sent down when he’s slumping. Hurdle has had to assure him that he’s not going to Indianapolis, and that he’s got a spot on the team and in the lineup every night. But the contract can say that in a different way, as Marte noted when reflecting on his deal.

“It brought extreme freedom, especially sometimes as a ballplayer you have rough days, and your mind starts wandering off, and just thinking negative things that doesn’t help the rest of your production,” Marte said, via Gonzalez. “Fears of being released, or just let go. After signing that contract, it helped me so much just to know that this is home, and even if I have a bad day, this is still home and I’m going to do my best.”

Now that the extension is out of the way, the next step will be seeing if Polanco can actually break out this year. If that happens, then the Pirates will absolutely be getting a steal with this deal. But even if they’re getting a value, this is a deal that really helps Polanco, and it would be hard to have regrets in his situation after making such a move to secure his financial future.

  • Is it just me or does Polanco’s sports coat seem really small? maybe he can buy some new threads with his new contract.

    • It looks like a loaner to me, bet he couldn’t fit one in his bag with the winter coat, balaclava, gloves…

    • For the love of god, someone please tell Bob to button his shirt.

  • Small sample size…but through the first two games he has a triple a double and an absolutely blistered single. His exit velocity numbers are great…hopefully he keeps it up all year and has a monster breakout year

  • joebaseball
    April 6, 2016 1:13 am

    it will only be good for Pirates if Polanco learns how to take good routes to the balls hit to right field, learns how to play balls off the wall and in the corner, learns how to run the bases, and especially how to slide. Most little leaguers have better instincts. How can he make it through the minors and not gain this knowledge?

  • Totally off subject…

    Tim,

    Just a thought….

    As there’s no forum here…maybe a “Gameday” post whenever the team is playing so the extremely bored amongst us can chat it up as the game goes on?

  • Sometimes I really do not understand the media and fanbase. Immediately after this deal was leaked/broken the media talking heads and fans were all upset because “that means they wont sign Cutch…” well guess what? If you listen to what NH says the chances were not great they signed him anyways. This isn’t about Cutch this is about Polanco and the Pirates and keeping a young player controllable on a team-friendly deal while they work to maximize his huge potential and, hopefully, get a HUGE player at a great price. NH has said that the first mistake clubs make is “falling in love with their own player” and “paying on past performance instead of future performance.” Well with THIS deal the Pirates bought into Polanco’s FUTURE…

    • Were there that many fans really upset? I saw about 95% of people really happy and shocked at how cheap this was done.

      • Maybe it is just the select few who call into sports radio. Haha

        • Oh gotcha gotcha.

          Thems a scary bunch of fan lol.

          • Haha! I called into Cook and Poni show once and got call of the day…wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or if I should be concerned for my wellbeing. Haha

  • Scott Kliesen
    April 5, 2016 8:31 pm

    Money aside, this move is yet another signal the Pirates are more than willing to do what’s reasonable to keep the window of contention open as long as possible.

    Every Pirates fan should be standing and applauding this signing as a win-win.

  • Fine move by both sides Hope it mirrors Cutch and not Tabata. Great seeing Hurdle support both sides as he seems to always favor the player and that certainly plays well in the locker room. Congratulations Gregory, I’m sure you have changed the lives of your entire families future. Baseball is great and this is a feel good story. Glad to be a Pirate fan today.

    • HartHighPirate
      April 5, 2016 7:27 pm

      Congratulations Gregory. Someday they may have a statue of you next to Roberto Clemente. In the meantime you will be guarding the Clemente Wall and hitting balls over it. May you have a happy and healthy life playing the game you love.

    • Polanco can’t be Tabata- not even a neck tattoo can change that.

      • Scott Kliesen
        April 5, 2016 8:27 pm

        How soon I had forgotten about the neck lips! One would think that image would stick.

  • Wish only the best for the young man. He is a fascinating player to watch – and could be a steal – or a nice value player – worth his contract and a complimentary piece. But however it plays out I hope he finds joy in playing a game – have felt it pained him at times when he did not play well or made a mistake.

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