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Pirates top prospect Gregory Polanco remains in minors after rejecting seven-year contract

May 6, 2014, 8:16 PM EDT

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The Pirates began play Tuesday night with a 9 1/2 game deficit in the National League Central standings and a .687 team OPS that ranks 20th in the major leagues. They could use a big bat and have a perfect internal fit in top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco. But he’s not a consideration yet because the Bucs don’t want to risk him gaining an extra year of salary arbitration via Super Two status.

And the 6-foot-4 youngster from the Dominican Republic is not willing to put a cap on his potential future earnings by agreeing to a team-friendly, pre-debut contract. Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports has the full story

The Pirates recently offered the 22-year-old Polanco a seven-year deal with three club options that would guarantee him a little bit less than $25 million, a source with knowledge of the team’s plans told Yahoo Sports. Polanco rejected the deal and remains at Triple-A Indianapolis, a casualty of Major League Baseball’s service-time rules that continue to give teams an incentive to bury some of the best prospects in the minor leagues until June.

Pittsburgh’s tack with Polanco mirrors a trend of offering the best up-and-coming players long-term major league contracts before their debuts. While no player has signed such a deal, the Houston Astros proposed a multiyear deal for outfielder George Springer during spring training. When he turned it down, the Astros kept him in the minor leagues for the first 2½ weeks of the season, delaying his free agency by a year.

Polanco, 22, is batting .397/.449/.621 with four homers and 26 RBI in 29 games this year at Triple-A Indianapolis. Some type of change needs to be made to this system in the next collective bargaining agreement. Passan suggests tying Super Two status to performance rather than strictly service time.

The Cardinals seem to be pulling a Polanco with their own top outfield prospect, Oscar Taveras.

  1. kardshark1 - May 6, 2014 at 8:25 PM

    I really do hope they change this dumb rule. It almost cost the Giants a World Series title in 2010 because they kept Posey in the minors for the first 2 months of the season and went with Benji Molina instead. They made the playoffs luckily by one game. But teams like the Angels 2 years ago tried to do the same with Trout, and this cost them the playoffs by one game. Was Trout worth 1 win in the first 20 games he missed? Yes.

    I don’t blame Ownership for doing this, so change the rule so they don’t have to.

    • apkyletexas - May 6, 2014 at 11:41 PM

      This story and the Yahoo story are both BS. The Pirates brass said before the season that he was going to play in AAA for about half the season to learn his new corner outfield position and work on some issues with plate discipline and with certain pitches. They haven’t deviated from their development timetable for other players just to make an impact on the major league roster, and they aren’t going to do it for Polanco.

      Everyone knew he wasn’t going to sign for 7 years and $25 million, but they had to try anyway. You’ll be seeing him in June or July, right on schedule. And in one or two years, he’ll sign a nice big fat contract just like Marte and McCutchen have done.

      • apkyletexas - May 7, 2014 at 12:37 AM

        Attention downvote lunatics –

        1. Polanco started last year at the A+ level, and only had 68 games at AA and 2 games at AAA in 2013.
        2. Polanco has only had 9 games playing Right Field in his minor league career at any level above rookie ball.
        3. He’s going to have to man right field in Pittsburgh.
        4. He’s going to see wicked pitches in the majors that he never saw in Altoona or West Virginia or State College or Bradenton or at the Dominican Adademy.

        Don’t be in such a hyper panic to accelerate his progress by 1 or 2 months based on the idiot ramblings of a Yahoo writer. Yes, he’s hitting well so far this season, but AAA success doesn’t always result in success with the bat in the majors, as Pirate fans know far TOO WELL (see Andrew Lambo as recent Exhibit #1, along with Jeff Clement, Alex Presley, Matt Hague, and many, many others).

      • apkyletexas - May 7, 2014 at 12:43 AM

        And the end result of this will be, if he plays well in the majors, he’ll get paid a lot MORE with a much bigger contract within 1-2 years. The Pirates have been showing they are more than willing to spend on their great young talent to keep them.

        How is this even a problem? This is an incredibly poorly researched, manufactured story based on a total of 31 games and 136 plate appearances at the AAA level. If you can’t even trust the team’s management to decide to develop a guy a tiny bit longer than that, then your expectations are just absurd beyond any rational basis.

      • kardshark1 - May 7, 2014 at 12:50 AM

        When players come up and rake right away and don’t stop (Trout, Puig, Posey, Piazza, Ryan Howard), it means they were in the minors too long. There’s no other explanation.

        If the Pirates had any other option, fine. But they don’t. Snider and Tabata are horrible. And if you want to compete with the likes of the Cardinals, you should put your best 8 players on the field – Cause 1 or 2 wins could make all the difference in the world. And I think the Pirates would do that… Unless money is involved, which it is. To think otherwise, you’re only kidding yourself.

      • apkyletexas - May 7, 2014 at 12:50 AM

        Drew Silva should be ashamed of his writing in this article. “Pulling a Polanco”??

        If the Cardinals “force” a player to spend more than 31 total games facing AAA level pitching, they are somehow harming his career????

        It would have taken 1 minute to do the basic research necessary to see how absurd these statements are. I know HBT isn’t in the fact-checking business, but a statement like that just makes the writer look like a completely uninformed troll.

      • apkyletexas - May 7, 2014 at 12:57 AM

        @kardshark1 – “When players come up and rake right away and don’t stop (Trout, Puig, Posey, Piazza, Ryan Howard), it means they were in the minors too long. There’s no other explanation.”

        No – it means you and your little fantasy league buddies have no clue what you are talking about.

        The dude had 2 GAMES at AAA level before this season. And before last year, he spent 4 entire years wandering around the minor league system when he was definitely not “raking”. His first 3 seasons in the minors, his batting average was usually in the low .200’s, and he exhibited almost zero power. Your statements are wildly off-base.

      • kardshark1 - May 7, 2014 at 1:49 AM

        You just don’t get it.

        If he struggles mightily, then send him back down. How is that so hard? Are the bats of Tabata and Snider so valuable, the Pirates can’t survive without them in the lineup?

        But you know what? He might be ready… As were a lot of prospects who wasted the first two months of the season tearing up AAA pitching. What if Polanco keeps hitting and hitting and helps the Pirates win?

        The ONLY downside of bringing him up is that the Pirates lose that extra year of control – Therefore, that’s why it hasn’t happened yet.

        Just quit being stubborn and accept reality.

      • apkyletexas - May 7, 2014 at 2:54 AM

        No you just don’t get it. The Pirates signed both McCutchen and Marte as teenagers just like Polanco, and worked them through the minor league system until they were 22-23 and ready to contribute, just like Polanco.

        Polanco is following the exact path of Marte – signed to the Pirate’s Dominican Academy as a teenager, struggled for a few years as his body grew stronger, and then the excellent coaches in Indianapolis polished him off for 3/4 of a season in Indianapolis while Pittsburgh fans were screaming for him to be brought to the majors. I recall – I was one of the loudest voices calling for Marte’s call-up in 2012 when he was destroying Toledo Mud Hens’ and Louisville Bats’ and Columbus Clippers’ pitching.

        The Pirates don’t send guys to the majors until they’ve had a minimum amount of time at AAA – period. They trust their coaches at Indianapolis to polish these guys into true major league-ready players. Gerrit Cole’s call-up last year was a perfect example. He was winning games in April and May at Indy and looked ready to join the team out of Spring Training, but the Pirates wanted him to work on specific pitches at AAA for a bit longer. When he ultimately joined the team, he won his first four starts and was their top pitcher by the playoffs.

      • apkyletexas - May 7, 2014 at 3:14 AM

        And your examples don’t make sense. Trout spent 3 years in the minors – he hit .326 in a full season at AA in 2011 after hitting .341 the year before. Why didn’t the Angels call him up right away instead of sending him to AAA the next season?

        Ryan Howard spent 5 seasons in the minors, and didn’t make it to the majors until he was 25. His inaugural season in 2005 he played the first 61 games at the AAA level.

        Piazza spent 4 seasons in the minors and didn’t make it to the majors until he was 23. His inaugural season in 1992 he played the first 125 games at AA and AAA, including 94 games at AAA Albuquerque.

        Posey was a 3-year starter at Florida State University and a 21-year old before he ever hit the minors, and the Giants left him in the minors for parts of 3 seasons including 82 games at AAA before calling him up.

        Puig played for 3 seasons at the professional level in Cuba before he ever hit the minors, and the Dodgers still didn’t call him up until 40 games into his second season in the minor leagues with them. He never played at AAA, but faced competition at least that good in Cuba for far more games than Polanco has had.

        Polanco should be given at least the breathing room of the guys on your list to work out any kinks in his game before he is thrust into the spotlight as the Pirates’ newest savior this season.

      • kardshark1 - May 7, 2014 at 3:31 AM

        That’s my point. That’s everybody’s point: They didn’t call those players up when they should have. They were all obviously ready, just like Polanco, but are being held back because of a dumb rule that allows one extra year of control if they start the season in the minors and are not promoted til June.

        Mike Trout should have been on the Angels on opening day in 2012 (Everybody knew this, even the Ownership). Instead the team was greedy and tried to gain an extra of year of control by keeping him the minors (as is with Polanco). So Julio Bourbon and Vernon Wells stunk up the joint for the first 20 games of the season and it cost the Angels the playoffs missing out by 1 game (I believe they were 8-12 without Trout to start the season). With Trout, they had the best winning % in baseball.

        If the Pirates miss the post season by 1 or 2 games, you and I will know why.

        And maybe the Pirates should rethink this min at bats in AAA requirement system you say they have… They’ve finished over .500 once in the last 20 years, I wouldn’t be trusting any coaches or systems in that organization.

      • apkyletexas - May 7, 2014 at 3:54 AM

        Tim Williams with is a blogger who isn’t afraid of doing a little research before he writes. In today’s column on the Polanco contract offer, he made some interesting points about the offer relative to other similar players:

        “Polanco’s guaranteed deal through his sixth year of service time would have paid him $25 M.
        Startling Marte will receive $22.5 M guaranteed through his sixth year of service, and that is including his 2013 salary before the extension. It doesn’t include his partial 2012 salary. That total also includes his signing bonus, and his buyout prices.
        Andrew McCutchen’s price is $25.375 M. Again, that includes his 0-6 contracts, including what he earned prior to his extension. It also includes the signing bonus and buyouts.”

        “As we saw with Starling Marte, plus a lot of other players recently, the market for hitters with more than one year of service time, but less than two years is $30-35 M. McCutchen’s extension is a few years old, but as we saw with Matt Carpenter and Jason Kipnis, the market for players with more than two years and less than three years is still in the $52 M range. There’s not really much of a market for players with less than one year of service time, since there aren’t many players who sign extensions that early.”

      • apkyletexas - May 7, 2014 at 4:08 AM

        @kardshark – “If the Pirates miss the post season by 1 or 2 games, you and I will know why.”

        We will know why, but it won’t have anything to do with Polanco. The most you could expect from the guy is he’ll have a season similar to Marte in 2012 – hitting about .280 with a little power as he struggles with MLB pitching.

        As Craig has said many times on this blog, you should stop comparing guys to Trout. Trout is a once in a generation talent. To expect Polanco to launch the Pirates to the best record in baseball for the rest of the season is not only absurd in the extreme, it’s also far too much pressure to put on the young kid.

        This team needs to do what they did last year when they fell to 18-16 and 3rd place in the division on May 9th – straighten out their pitching and defensive shifts and get their batting order sorted out. Putting Harrison at the top of the order and Marte at the 5-spot is a good move in that direction, and it’s paid off with 3 offensive explosions in 5 games and a game winning swipe of home plate after Starling’s triple in the bottom of the 9th last night.

      • jrbdmb - May 7, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        Wow. Nine long winded posts ignoring the obvious – that the plan for Polanco no matter how well he does is to keep him in the minors until June so as to avoid a possible Super Two status and the millions of dollars that would cost the Pirates.

        All the garbage you are spouting are what GMs tell us since they aren’t allowed to tell the truth.

      • apkyletexas - May 7, 2014 at 2:19 PM

        You want to see him fail? You are talking to a Pirates fan – I’ve seen lots of hot prospects come to Pittsburgh and fail. I’ve seen lots of guys hit .400 for a couple weeks and then fail at the Major League level.

        I want this guy to succeed. If Clint Hurdle and his Indy coaches and Huntington say that he needs more than 31 games of AAA seasoning, I’m willing to go along with it. I want him to be the right fielder for the next decade, and play like Roberto Clemente or Willie Stargell. Give the dude a break – he knows he’s going to get paid very well. He’s already been offered what McCutchen and Marte were given for their first 6 years, and he turned it down. He knows he’s going to do just fine with the money.

      • nikedunks13 - May 7, 2014 at 2:39 PM

        lol and you honestly think that’s why he’s in the minors apkyletexas?

      • apkyletexas - May 7, 2014 at 8:48 PM

        I think this would be a real issue if Polanco hadn’t taken four seasons before he hit above .235 with 9 total homeruns in the low minors. As it stands – either May or June or July in his 5th season to get a call-up – the difference is negligible. If he was raking at AAA early last season, you would have a better argument, but he only batted .263 in 68 games at AA last year, and only had the two games at AAA.

        Based on his body of work, he’d be wise to sign the deal, as the option years bring it up to about $60 million, very close to what McCutchen is making over the same years. Some of the writers that follow the Pirates minor league system have already stated that the team will probably sweeten the deal and try to get something done again in the next week or so.

      • nikedunks13 - May 8, 2014 at 12:37 AM

        Apkyletexas, you sound stupid. First it’s not near the same value as Mccutchens contract. Mccutchens contract will end up being 7 years over 65 million, Polancos full contract if they pick up the options would be less than 60 million over 10 years. He would be smart to wait, he can make well over twice that if he reaches his potential. Even if he doesn’ he can still easily get that contract in a few years.

      • Reflex - May 8, 2014 at 11:58 AM

        Just keep in mind folks, Apkyletexas believes the Mariners ruined Griffey by bringing him up at 19. He’s got some absolutely bizarre ideas about player development and aggressively defends them with a lot of words that say the same things over and over and over. As others have pointed out, the Pirates are an atrocity in right field. Even league average or below production from Polanco would be an improvement, possibly a win or two’s worth, and that could be enough to win the division. But apkyletexas has his own ideas about player development, and facts be damned.

  2. mrbiz8505 - May 6, 2014 at 8:35 PM


  3. jrob23 - May 6, 2014 at 8:43 PM

    Scumbag GMs and organizations. Hope he and Taveras in STL play out the string and leave for big money elsewhere.

  4. billybawl - May 6, 2014 at 8:47 PM

    So…. someone please correct me if I’m wrong. $25M for 7 years plus three club options would have potentially tied Polanco to the Pirates through 2023, when he would be 31 years old. It could have bought out four years of free agency. If he doesn’t sign and comes up later this year, he would be eligible for free agency in 2021, at age 29. Shoot, by then a decent player will command $15M per year. No thanks.

    No need to change the rule, but owners should sweeten their offers or call up prospects and live with the consequences of the rule they agreed to.

    • tjwilliams - May 6, 2014 at 10:17 PM

      Seriously. Look at a guy like Gerardo Parra. A slightly below-average hitter (95 career OPS+) and he’s probably going to earn $15 million before he hits free agency. Add three years’ worth of inflation to those numbers and I see no reason why an average outfielder shouldn’t be able to earn $20 million in his first six years in the league.

      And if Polanco is everything they hope he will be? Well Chris Davis just got $10 million in his second year of arbitration. Giancarlo Stanton just got $6.5 million in his first. And Freedie Freeman got $135 million in his second year of arbitration (over 8 years, obviously).

      I could see him taking 7 years, $25 million. That seems like a fair deal given the chance of injury/under-performance. But the extra options (unless they were $20m-$25m options) make this a pretty crappy deal for Polanco.

      • jperry9896 - May 6, 2014 at 10:44 PM

        This is a horrible deal for a prospect like Polanco. 3.5 million is rip off. The pirates should at least up the offer to 5 or 6 million a year. They gave Starling Marte a 6 year 31 million contract tat could end up netting him 53 million. Polanco is a better prospect then Starling. The pirates made a big mistake now they will pay for it when this guy mashes. Pirates shouldn’t be too greedy and shell out a little more money that could save them a lot more.

  5. tomwarns - May 6, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    everyone is blaming the GMs and owners, but the players are just as much at fault for this. the players and owners reached an agreement that included arbitration, team control of rookies, etc. through a collective bargaining agreement. The player’s union is made up of current players, so it makes sense that they would sell out the prospects and rookies not yet in the league by bargaining away the prospects’/rookies’ power in exchange for concessions they want as veterans such as 10/5 rights. the bargaining system has developed that way in other sports too, such as the NHL which has restricted free agency for young players while older players have unrestricted free agency.

    • esracerx46 - May 6, 2014 at 10:39 PM

      In the NHL it isn’t nearly as restrictive as mlb. In the NHL its 7 years of service time or 27 years old. So between 25 and 27 years old to become a UFA. The NHL also has a qualifying offer system where a player can sign with any team and the controlling team can choose to match or accept whatever compensation would follow. The compensation given up is weighted based on salary the team offered. I like that system as it gives players a little more control. Unlike MLB teams can trade draft picks, which I never understood why MLB doesn’t allow.

  6. icanspeel - May 6, 2014 at 9:21 PM

    Is it really the teams fault? Most of these players get decent signing bonuses just to go to the minors.. So teams try to max out their investment.

  7. musketmaniac - May 6, 2014 at 9:34 PM

    Neal Huntington works, its that simple. see you in july polanco

  8. rcali - May 6, 2014 at 10:07 PM

    Yet people still spend money and support the team by showing up at the gates. I suspect the ballpark was publicly funded as well?

  9. jkaflagg - May 6, 2014 at 10:40 PM

    After all the hue and cry about Springer, the Astros called him up – and he’s currently getting dominated nightly by big league pitching. While he will likely improve, it’s a reminder that it involves risk both ways; if Springer had taken the deal the Astros could have been stuck for 7yrs./$23 million for the next Brandon Wood.

    • yahmule - May 6, 2014 at 10:45 PM

      I’ll bet you haven’t seen George Springer take a single at bat.

    • timmmah10 - May 7, 2014 at 11:07 AM

      Springer’s swing is too long for MLB pitching. He needs to learn how to go with a pitch vs over swinging every time.

      He looks legit, he just needs a little more seasoning.

  10. SBoy - May 6, 2014 at 10:44 PM

    Another reason the rule should change is because it provides a disincentive to put the best product on the field. The NBA gets flack when teams try not to win games… well when a team doesn’t field it’s best player is that kind of throwing the game, just a little?

    Yes the players negotiated that in but you don’t always know how things will work until they are implemented… How is that draft pick attached to a free agent signing working out? Fair to say they will hold out to get that changed… The arbitration/ time of service was shield that is now being used as a sword by teams… it needs to be changed.

  11. yahmule - May 6, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    Hopefully Pittsburgh misses the playoffs by one game.

  12. thepittsburghkid - May 6, 2014 at 11:01 PM

    Actually this contract is comparable to Marte’s and McCutchen’s contracts if all three option years were picked up.

  13. trbmb - May 7, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    This is not a problem for the New York Yankees. Thanks to their outstanding General Bozo, Brian Cashman, the cash man, they haven’t got, and never have, a single prospect that they have to hold back until June. In this respect, Cashman, is brilliant.

  14. papacrick - May 7, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    Cashman had Austin Jackson waiting in the wings but Yankees don’t wait for prospects to develop so they opted for the seasoned Curtis Granderson. Now he sucks and Ajax is thriving. Another brilliant move in the life of Dumbrowski

  15. sparty0n - May 7, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    ” Some type of change needs to be made to this system in the next collective bargaining agreement. Passan suggests tying Super Two status to performance rather than strictly service time. ”

    Yet no one ever has a solution for a player to give back salary when they have a huge contract and suck.

  16. steelpenbucs87 - May 7, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    To borrow a phrase from John Calipari (or it might have been Pitino), “If he wants to do what’s best for him and his family, he’ll hold out on a better deal. If he wants to do what’s best for me and my family, he’ll take the deal now with the promotion.”

  17. disgracedfury - May 7, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Springer is dealing with his first taste of MLB and should have been brought up last year to get beat up but the Astros wanted to secure the first overall pick.Trout was terrible he’s first time in 2011 in Sept when they brought him up but the next year he started fresh.

    Let these prospects get beat up and learn.Some guys are Trout.A-Rod and Pujols who have great years early but fall apart early and than there guys like Maddux and Edgar Martinez who take a long time to develop but last long.This isn’t Football where prospects are forced to develop quickly.

  18. nikedunks13 - May 7, 2014 at 2:39 PM

    lol nice try Pittsburgh

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