Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates tried to extend Gregory Polanco during the early part of the season, but the two sides were never able to complete a deal. The Pirates reportedly offered a deal that could have paid Polanco up to $75 M over a ten year period, with a lot of that being non-guaranteed and coming through option years at the end of his deal.
Jon Heyman reports that the two sides have started talking about a deal again. He didn’t give any details, although he did say that the two sides don’t want the discussions going long into the season.
To get an idea of Polanco’s market, you’d have to look at the recently signed contracts of Christian Yelich and Starling Marte. Yelich, who is entering his age 23 season, put up a 4.3 WAR last year. He received a seven year, $49.5 M deal, with a $15 M option and a $1.25 M buyout in 2022. That would make the deal worth $63.25 M over eight years, with the possibility for that option to increase based on his standings in MVP voting.
Marte also signed after his first full season, and after putting up a WAR over 4.0. He received $31 M over six years, with two option years that could add an additional $21 M. That would make his deal worth $52 M over eight years, although Marte was entering his age 25 season when he signed the deal.
Polanco hasn’t had the big breakout year that Yelich and Marte had, so it might be difficult seeing him getting the same type of guaranteed money. He’s actually three months older than Yelich, and doesn’t have the advantage of the breakout year, which hurts his negotiating power at this point.
It would be great if the Pirates could lock up Polanco. This is the best way for them to spend money right now. But they might have to be aggressive to get a deal done soon. If Polanco has a breakout season this year, just like Yelich and Marte had in their first full seasons, then he would be able to command a lot of guaranteed money, along with additional money through option years. My guess is that he’d be worth what Yelich signed for if he has a breakout year and signs next season. So it might not be a bad idea to get aggressive and offer a deal similar to what Marte received, with an extra year thrown in since Polanco would be signing a year earlier.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
I can’t help but think the contract talk is putting added pressure on him.
Sometimes pressure is good. A lot of players have their best years in “walk” seasons when pressure to produce is at it’s greatest. That said, I hope they get a long term deal done with Polanco soon
If they can’t get him signed, they’ll have Meadows coming fast behind him!
Regardless of the outcome of these talks, the Bucs will have control of Polanco for 2 years longer than they currently have control of Cutch
It’s kind of a risk, obviously, to sign him before he proves himself, but the reward side is enormous and makes it worthwhile. Even paying him Yelich money, with the quality and low cost of that outfield, impacts in the middle of the order, great on the bases and in the field, wouldn’t be too bad if he gets to somewhere in the vicinity of Marte production.
There is definitely some risk in signing him now, but the management team seems to like his potential nearly as much as we fans do. In the immortal words of Larry the Cable Guy, “Git r done!”
I agree. Offer a deal similar to Marte’s, see if that can get it done. To offer more would cause problems with Marte. To offer less may not be enough.
piraddict: Let’s remember this is a guy who posted a 0.3 WAR in a partial year in 2014. I like his upside, and looking at the contracts of Yelich and Marte can be helpful, but he cannot be worth more than what was offered last year.
Yeah, the entire point of going hard to try to sign him really quickly would be to get him for less than Marte (to some degree).
I’d be floored if the Pirates signed Polanco for less guaranteed than Marte.
If they are negotiating a deal right now, id say its almost a sure thing to have less guaranteed money.
I agree Luke. Marte had 5.8 WAR in less than 1 1/2 seasons when he signed. Polanco hasn’t proved he can cut it in MLB. Being a top 10 or 20 prospect is great, but success in the show is much more important.
Marte has $31 million guaranteed, it was rumored that Polanco’s guaranteed money in the offer he turned down last off-season was around $25 million.
A players first 300 major league at bats really shouldn’t change either sides position.
Well it absolutely will change the FO side of it, because they wont go into that talk with a guy with tremendous overall skills and upside but without a proven ML season and admit “yeah, you will likely be that player so…”. I think a wise FO will, to a certain degree, push the idea that he hasnt exactly proven to be a big league star yet. Pay him well and fairly, but i think a guy that is coming off a 3 WAR season is dealt with somewhat differently than a guy coming off a rookie season.
Think about that from the player side, why would they accept that?
And if the Pirates truly believe that Polanco is going to struggle against velocity why would they be offering an extension buying out at least some free agent years.
Polanco has a low floor similar to Marte because of base running and defense but these things aren’t paid highly through arbitration, offense is paid. I also feel there is a certain amount of hindsight creeping in, Marte doesn’t exactly have a normal skill set or much margin for error in his offensive game, any more trading contact for power is going to lower his average and thus on-base. Polanco’s offensive ceiling is higher hence his much higher prospect pedigree.
I think its normal give and take for the player. He surely wants to get paid well but even his agent realizes what showing up to negotiations at this point means. They can, and should, argue he has a higher floor than some, but the lack of proven production will dampen that argument. I’d think they would look to offset some of the “lower” costs by heckling over years, and ensuring the player enters FA at a decent age to ensure a huge payout after a “good” one. Pirates would love a long deal (if they trust his talent) but for Polanco they could say “we’ll take slightly less than Marte but i want my client with a chance at FA before he is 30.”
Andrew, are you saying you think the Bucs will/should increase their guaranteed money by more than 28% even though Polanco’s a year older and hasn’t taken any step forward since rejecting the last offer?