Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that Gregory Polanco was offered and rejected a long-term deal in the spring with the Bucs. The deal was for seven guaranteed years for nearly $25M with three option years, thought to be worth $10M, $12M and $14M tops, making it a ten-year deal worth $60M+ and carrying Polanco into his age 31 season.
In 29 games at Indy, Polanco, 22, has hit .397 with four home runs, 23 R, 26 RBI, six stolen bases and a 1.070 OPS.The Pirates are currently playing spin-the-bottle in right field, keeping the spot warm until June when Polanco can come up without cracking Super 2 status.
And there's the rub. Everyone - especially Polanco - knows he's ready for MLB. The Pittsburgh FO has used a strategy of signing guys long term to team-friendly deals, like Cutch, Starling Marte and even Jose Tabata. It's almost a necessity for small-revenue markets. But Polanco knows that not only is he MLB ready, but if lives up to the hype, he might double what the Pirates are offering him in the next ten years.
It's the new tactic of MLB teams - to offer contracts under market value to counter Super Two status, assuming some risk and allowing the youngsters to start plying their profession. As they say, it's hard to turn down your first fortune. But for guys in the fast lane like Polanco, it may well be worth the shot at the golden goose rather than the long-term security of an under-market deal.
And a point to consider is that the deal is comparable in many ways to Cutch's; it may be under-valued compared to free agency, but a fair deal to a guy without an at-bat in the show. But value is in the eye of the beholder. And it does show the Pirates and Polanco are talking; like Marte's contract, it's probably a starting point for further negotiations.
The Houston Astros offered a similar seven-year, $23 million contract to their top minor
league prospect, outfielder George Springer, who also turned it down. Like Polanco, he didn't start the season with the club, and risks losing Super 2 status, but has bigger professional and financial goals in mind. And his recent call-up was because the contract offer gave him grounds to claim that he's being kept in the minors for financial reasons (a no-no that teams manage to dodge rather easily); we'll see if Polanco takes the same tact.
The practice itself isn't inherently a ploy to short change players; not all, like JT, will pan out. But it is inherently a response to Super 2, and that special status is the problem. Passan suggests it be tied to performance rather than time; we think it should just be eliminated for a straight two or three year pre-arbitration period for young players.
Then maybe we'd get to see Gregory Polanco in right field at PNC Park instead of killing time at Victory Field in Indianapolis.