Gregory Polanco Rumors

NL Central Notes: Weeks, K-Rod, Pirates, Polanco

Rickie Weeks doesn’t think that he’ll be back with the Brewers next season, he tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Weeks, who has an $11.5MM club option that won’t be exercised, didn’t request a final appearance with the team in the season’s last game. “I told the manager if the time permitted itself during the game to put me out there, OK. If not, so be it,” he said. “Life still goes on. It’s not like this is the end of all (things). I’m the type of person that I move on. That’s the way it is. I don’t think I’m going to be here next year. It’s just for me to go out there and move forward with my life.”

Some more NL Central items as the playoffs loom…

  • Francisco Rodriguez also spoke to Haudricourt about his future, and unlike Weeks, who seems resigned to being elsewhere, K-Rod hopes to return to the Brewers in 2015. “I definitely know where I want to be,” he said. “I want to be here. But it is not my decision.” As Haudricourt points out, Milwaukee’s trade for Jonathan Broxton and his $9MM salary next season could give Broxton the inside track for the closer’s gig and push K-Rod out of the picture. The team additionally saw a breakout performance from Jeremy Jeffress and expects to have Jim Henderson returning to health.
  • MLB.com’s Tom Singer spoke with Pirates general manager Neal Huntington about the team’s lack of an impact trade this summer in a recent Q&A. Huntington wasn’t sure whether it was more satisfying to get to the postseason on the back of some well-executed trades (such as last year’s acquisition of Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau) or to get there by trusting his internal options. “This July 31 (non-waiver Trade Deadline) we wanted to, we were willing to, give up prospects as we did last August. We worked hard to find the right deal, large and small, and we couldn’t find the right impact coming in the door to match the impact that would’ve been going out the door.”
  • Huntington also touched on the timeline of Gregory Polanco‘s promotion to the Majors, noting that he wishes Neil Walker wouldn’t have gotten hurt. Had Walker remained healthy, Josh Harrison wouldn’t have had to shift to second base — a move that necessitated the promotion of Polanco, according to Huntington. “I hated [promoting Polanco]. I really did,” said Huntington. As the GM explained, the team thought Polanco was “borderline ready,” but he also stated: “There’s a reason why that Triple-A level exists, why most guys who have had success at the Major League level have experienced Triple-A beyond 250 at-bats.” Polanco got off to a blistering start in his first two weeks but has batted just .204/.275/.324 since and started just three games in September.

Central Notes: Polanco, Wada, Twins, Sox, Rodon

The Pirates will send top prospect Gregory Polanco back to the minor leagues today, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). However, Polanco’s demotion is likely to be relatively short-lived, as the 22-year-old could rejoin the team as soon as next Monday, when rosters expand. Polanco got off to a blazing start to his MLB career, but he’s cooled significantly since that time. He’s hitting .241/.308/.349 on the season as a whole, but he batted just .219/.276/.337 from July 1 through present day. Rosenthal tweets that Jose Tabata is expected to get the call to replace Polanco for the time being.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Though the Cubs have been making headlines by stockpiling high-upside young talent, the success of 33-year-old left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada is making the organization consider him as an option beyond the 2014 season, writes the Chicago Tribune’s Fred Mitchell“He is pitching very, very well. There are decisions that have to be made. He certainly has put himself in a good position,” manager Rick Renteria tells Mitchell. Wada, who signed a minor league deal this offseason, pitched to a 2.77 ERA in 113 2/3 Triple-A innings this season, and he’s continued his success in the Majors. Since being promoted, Wada has turned in an outstanding 2.56 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 37.8 percent ground-ball rate in 45 2/3 innings. Sabermetric ERA estimators FIP (3.55), xFIP (3.61) and SIERA (3.50) all feel that while he’s been a bit fortunate, he’s still been highly effective.
  • Speaking with Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Twins GM Terry Ryan clarified a comment that he made last week in which he suggested that manager Ron Gardenhire would return in 2015. Ryan explained that his comment was made off the cuff, without any consultation, and that no one’s job — including his own — was guaranteed in 2015. Twins owner Jim Pohlad did state last fall that Ryan’s job as GM was his for as long as he wanted to remain GM, but “everybody’s got a breaking point,” Ryan said to Miller. “I would never hold Jim Pohlad to that statement, because it wouldn’t be fair to him. We’re losing way too many games here for anybody to put that kind of faith in anyone.”
  • White Sox general manager Rick Hahn appeared on the Mully and Hanley show last Friday and said that his staff is pleased with the results of the 2013-14 offseason, and he expects to be active in free agency this offseason. Hahn also sang the praises of top pick Carlos Rodon, saying that he’s even more advanced than the team had anticipated, and his transition to pro ball has been nearly seamless. Hahn did downplay, to an extent, the rumors surrounding a potential September callup for Rodon: “…ultimately the decision to bring him up or not bring him up is going to be about what’s best for his long-term development. We’re going to have to be real cautious before we decide just to bring him up and run him out there in big league games this year.”

Pirates, Polanco Far Apart In Extension Talks

FRIDAY: Pittsburgh and Polanco appear to be at a stalemate in their negotiations, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The sides have exchanged several proposals, says Heyman, but remain far apart.

Several offers were made in the run-up to Polanco’s promotion. One offer from the Pirates would have given the team control over Polanco through the 2024 season, with Polanco able to earn up to $75MM, most of it through option years at the tail end of the deal. Though Polanco did make counter-proposals, though apparently there has not been enough movement in either direction to bring a deal within sight.

Generally, says Heyman, the continued discussions would not have delivered much more value than the club’s original efforts back in the spring. In part, Heyman says this could relate to the fact that the club had already waited out the Super Two deadline. It also appears that the Bucs looked at the recent Starling Marte extension (which was signed after a full season as a productive regular) as a rough ceiling on the deal’s annual value.

WEDNESDAY: The Pirates and recently called-up top prospect Gregory Polanco are still discussing a long-term extension, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (Spanish language link). The sides reportedly had serious negotiations about a deal before the season started, at a point at which Polanco had yet to receive his first promotion.

For his part, Polanco disputed characterizations that he had rejected an earlier extension offer, seemingly indicating that discussions were fluid and ongoing. “We’re still talking,” he said (translation from Spanish is my own). “I have not refused anything. … We’re negotiating, one never takes the first offer.”

Looking ahead, Polanco says that he is trusting matters to his representatives at Beverly Hills Sports Council. He gave no indication that any agreement was imminent, and instead emphasized that he is unsure how talks will ultimately proceed. “I have no idea, I do not know how [negotiations] will continue,” he said. “… I don’t know how much time this could take, it could take one month, five months, until next year, one never knows.” Ultimately, Polanco indicated that he is looking to earn a rate that is comparable to players of similar ability.



Should The Super Two Designation Be Changed?

USATSI_7949100_154513410_lowresThe Pirates’ decision to wait until June 10 to promote top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco set off a new round of debate, both in Pittsburgh and nationally, about the Super Two designation in particular and top prospect promotion timelines in general. The Pirates have said that their decision to wait to promote Polanco was due to developmental reasons, but whatever their motivations, the current system incentivizes waiting to promote top prospects even if they seem to be ready for the big leagues. That’s unfortunate, and MLB perhaps ought to consider reforming the Super Two designation. It’s probably impossible, however, to completely disincentivize manipulation of players’ promotion dates.

Overview

Teams must consider two thresholds when promoting a top prospect. A player is eligible for an extra arbitration season as a Super Two player if he has between 2.086 and three years of service time and he ranks in the top 22 percent in service time among players with between two and three years. The 22 percent clause means that the Super Two threshold is a moving target, but teams can usually feel safe about promoting a player in early to mid-June with the idea that he won’t be a Super Two player three offseasons later. A Super Two player can be eligible for arbitration four times rather than three, which means that a Super Two star player can make millions more in his arbitration seasons than a similar player who does not have that designation.

Teams must also consider a player’s free agency threshold. A player becomes eligible for free agency after six full years of service time, which means teams must consider a separate date in mid-April before which a player can become a free agent a year early.

We’ll leave aside, for now, the question of whether it’s wise for teams to delay promotion of top prospects in order to avoid Super Two status or free agency, and simply observe that the current system provides them at least some incentive to do so. The Pirates promoted Polanco on June 11, after months of criticism from analysts and fans who watched Polanco post great numbers at Triple-A while Jose Tabata and Travis Snider struggled in right field for the Pirates. (Josh Harrison handled the position for about a month before Polanco arrived and played much better.) Major League Baseball received some criticism, too, for creating the rules that made the Pirates’ decision rational (or arguably rational. Few commentators offered viable alternatives to the Super Two system, however, with Baseball Prospectus’ R.J. Anderson (subscription-only) being among the few to make a strong attempt.

If the Pirates held Polanco in the minors for two months longer than they would have without the Super Two system in place, that’s not nearly the tragedy many fans and commentators made it out to be. ESPN’s Dan Szymborski, the creator of the ZiPS projection system, tells MLBTR that based on information available in mid-April, promoting Polanco on June 10 rather than April 15 projected to cost the Pirates about one win. (And the Pirates might well have waited to promote Polanco even without the Super Two rule, given their longstanding record of allowing players time to develop in Triple-A before promoting them.) That’s unfortunate for the Pirates and their fans, but it’s hardly a travesty. A few cases like Polanco’s each year likely do not justify sweeping changes to the existing system.

Many large-scale rules involve thresholds that can be less than ideal on the micro level while producing good results on the macro level. For example, it isn’t ideal, or fair, for an irresponsible 16-year-old to be legally allowed to drive (if he or she can pass a driving test), while a responsible 15-year-old with excellent hand-eye coordination cannot. But the 15-year-old will soon be 16, and so that unfairness will soon be rectified. Meanwhile, the existence of a threshold that permits small-scale unfairness keeps the rules simple and helps prevent charges of arbitrariness.

Preventing teams from manipulating players’ service time is not a simple matter. As long as arbitration eligibility and/or free agency eligibility are tied to service time, and as long as teams control when their players’ service time clocks begin, teams will be able to use players’ promotion dates to manipulate their salaries and/or years of control.

So, for example, even if MLB were to eliminate the Super Two designation while maintaining current rules regarding free agency eligibility, teams could delay the promotion of top prospects who appeared to be ready in August or September and wait instead to promote them in mid-April. We would see fewer mid-June promotions for top prospects, but we would also see fewer mid-August promotions and more mid-April promotions, and the criticism of MLB’s rules would simply take place in August and September rather than April or May. If the goal is to prevent teams from delaying the promotion of top prospects who appear to be ready, simply changing the thresholds of arbitration or free agency eligibility will not work.

Untethering Free Agency, Arbitration Eligibility From Service Time

One solution to eliminate thresholds that can prevent teams from promoting players when they’re ready might be to untether free agency eligibility and arbitration eligibility from MLB service time. If a team were not worried about the number of years it could control a player, or about his salary during his arbitration seasons, it would be free to promote him whenever it deemed him ready.

This would, however, be a radical change with far-reaching consequences. With enormous payroll disparities between teams, MLB depends heavily on young players’ cost-controlled salaries to maintain competitive balance. Without cost control, it would be nearly impossible for smaller-payroll teams like the Athletics, Rays and Pirates to compete. The current rules regarding free agency and arbitration eligibility are the mechanism that allows player salaries to remain cost controlled. So if MLB and the players’ union were to agree to untether free agency and arbitration eligibility from service time, they would need some other mechanism to allow cost control.

One possibility would be to base free agency and arbitration eligibility not on service time, but on when a player was drafted or signed as an amateur, similar to the way Rule 5 Draft eligibility is determined. A player’s eligibility for the Rule 5 Draft in a given year depends upon his age on the June 5 before he signs and the number of Rule 5 Drafts that have passed since then. A similar system could be devised to determine free agency and arbitration eligibility. For example, a player under 19 by the June 5 before he signs might become eligible for arbitration after nine full years and eligible for free agency after 12 full years. A player who is at least 19 by the June 5 before he signs might become arbitration-eligible after eight full years and eligible for free agency after 11 years. (Players posted from Japan would continue to be exempt from these rules.) This system would enable the Pirates, for example, to promote Polanco whenever they deemed him ready, without concern for arbitration or free agency timelines.

Unfortunately, this rule would produce plenty of unintended consequences, and the cure would likely be worse than the disease. This system would be tremendously unfair to players who move quickly through the minors.

For example, the Expos drafted Chad Cordero in 2003 with the idea that he could make it to the big leagues quickly. He did exactly that and was a successful closer for several years before succumbing to injury. Because he was eligible for arbitration after his third full season, he was able to make over $11MM in his career, a total that seems reasonable, given the quality of his pitching. Under a system that connected arbitration eligibility to signing date rather than service time, he likely would have made only about a third that much, since he would have been close to the MLB minimum for his entire career. Meanwhile, a player who struggled in the minors and arrived in the big leagues after many years in Triple-A might become arbitration eligible after just one or two years. Also, such a system would dramatically limit the long-term earning capabilities of top players like Mike Trout who reach the Majors at young ages.

Allowing Neutral Parties To Determine Readiness

Another possibility might be to maintain the basic outline of the current arbitration and free agency timelines but to allow arbitrators to determine when those timelines might begin. So, for example, an arbitrator might have ruled that Polanco was ready May 1, forcing the Pirates to begin his big-league service clock then even if they did not promote him. Clearly, though, this is perverse and heavy-handed, putting the determination of the player’s readiness in the hands of an outside party who would have had far less information about the player’s development than his team did. Such a system would surely also create even more complaints of unfairness than the current one.

The problem here, of course, is the existence of thresholds. When there are thresholds that determine how long a team controls a player and how much they’ll have to pay him, there will be incentives to manipulate those thresholds. One of those thresholds, the one that determines free agency eligibility, probably isn’t going anywhere, since it helps prevent star players from becoming free agents while seasons are in progress. (That is, there could be a system in which a player who is promoted for the first time in August also could become a free agent in August six years later. But that would be chaotic, and the current threshold of six-plus years before free agency eligibility helps prevent that.)

The free agency threshold is probably here to stay, and as long as there’s a threshold, there will be occasional cases like Polanco’s where teams delay promotions of top prospects even when they’re dominating at Triple-A. It’s unfair on the small scale, but reasonable on the larger scale, and that might be as much as MLB can do.

Eliminating The Super Two, Redistributing Super Two Salaries

There are, however, some more modest reforms that MLB might consider to change the Super Two threshold, leaving teams with only one threshold to consider, rather than two. One possibility might be to eliminate the Super Two completely, as Pirates president Frank Coonelly recently suggested in an interview with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

The players’ union would, of course, be reluctant to make such a change, given that the existence of Super Two status means more money for them. But MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes suggests that MLB could, instead, calculate the approximate percentage of overall player income Super Two status typically produces and redistribute it as a modest, across-the-board raise for players making the MLB minimum salary. (Dierkes points out, however, that it’s possible the union would still dislike the idea, given that Super Two arbitration salaries for players like David Price help set arbitration salaries for other players.)

Prorating First Year Arbitration Salaries

MLBTR’s Jeff Todd suggests making all players with between two and three years of service time Super Two players, but prorating their first year of arbitration salary based on their service time. So a player with two years and 50 days of service time would receive an arbitration-year salary prorated for those 50 days of MLB service (combined with an MLB minimum salary prorated for the rest of the year), whereas a player with two years and 100 days would receive an arbitration-year salary prorated for 100 days. Players with three or more years of service time would then go through arbitration as they do now.

Either of the last two proposals would effectively eliminate the Super Two threshold. The free agent threshold probably can’t be eliminated, and its existence should continue to provide teams with incentive to manipulate players’ service time. But at least there would only be one threshold, rather than two. Also, either proposal to change the Super Two would eliminate the uncertainty involved in Super Two status, given that there’s currently no way for teams interested in promoting a player to know where exactly the Super Two threshold will fall two and a half years later.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Pirates Promote Gregory Polanco

June 10: The Pirates have officially announced Polanco’s promotion via press release.

June 9: The Pirates have announced that Polanco will be called up prior to tomorrow’s game. A roster opening will be created with Neil Walker going to the 15-day DL after undergoing an appendectomy this evening.

Polanco also tweeted the news from his personal Twitter account. If he is activated tomorrow, Polanco could reach 111 days of MLB service this year, which would make him an unlikely Super Two candidate down the line.

June 4, 7:17pm: A Pirates official says that Polanco will not be called up Friday, specifying that sources saying otherwise are incorrect, according to Dan Zangrilli of 93.7 The Fan (via Twitter; hat tip to Biertempfel).

6:20pm: Two high-ranking club officials say there are no plans to promote Polanco for Friday, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review (via Twitter).

5:46pm: The Pirates will make the much-anticipated promotion of top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco in time to activate him for Friday’s game, reports Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also reports that Polanco is set to join the Pirates on Friday, via Twitter.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Yankees

Polanco, 22, entered the season as a consensus top-25 prospect league-wide — if not better. Baseball America pushed the toolsy Dominican into the top ten, while ESPN.com’s Keith Law and MLB.com both rated him inside of the top 15. Of course, that was before Polanco went on a rampage in his first real stint Triple-A this year, putting up a .351/.410/.547 line with 6 home runs and 14 steals and leading Law to move him up to the 3rd overall slot among current prospects.

Polanco is far from a bat-first prospect. Indeed, Law says that he features plus-plus defense at the center field position and gets a 70 grade on the basepaths. That is especially notable given that Polanco checks in at a robust 6’4 tall and 220 pounds.

Of course, Polanco is not likely to get a chance to play center in Pittsburgh, which already features a solid defender in Andrew McCutchen at that spot. Instead, like fellow outstanding youngster Starling Marte, he figures to slot in as one of the best corner outfield defenders in the game, combining with McCutchen for perhaps the game’s most exciting trio. The hope is that Polanco can provide an immediate upgrade in right for a team that has received precisely replacement-level production from the spot this year, even taking into account the unexpected outburst from Josh Harrison.

The call-up brings to an end the somewhat controversial stretch of time that Polanco spent at the highest minor league level this year. Many called for an earlier promotion, citing the Bucs’ struggles in right field and the fact that Pittsburgh reportedly offered Polanco a seven-year, $25MM contract extension before he even suited up for the big club. While it would be foolish to deny that Super Two considerations played a role, of course, it is worth bearing in mind that Polanco had taken all of nine plate appearances at the Triple-A level prior to this season, and had only posted a .762 OPS through 286 trips to the plate at Double-A.

Assuming that Polanco is officially added to the active MLB roster on Friday, he would stand to accumulate as many as 115 days of service this year. That is not likely to put him line for Super Two status, which has required anywhere from 2.122 to 2.146 days of service in recent years.

Pittsburgh stands to control Polanco through the 2020 season, and will likely not have to go through arbitration with him until 2018. The rest of the above-mentioned outfielders are controlled long-term as well: McCutchen has had his salary guaranteed through 2017 with a club option for another year, while Marte is under contract through 2019 with two more team options to follow. Given the team’s already-aggressive stance with regard to Polanco, and successful negotiations with his outfield mates, it would not be surprising to see the team look for another chance at a deal in the future.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Extension Notes: Springer, Polanco, Sandoval, Ramirez

Here are some notes on past, present, and future extension situations around the game:

  • The Astros‘ extension offer to then-unpromoted prospect George Springer actually would have guaranteed him just $7.6MM over four years, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. This news represents a correction of Rosenthal’s original report, which cited a $23MM guarantee over seven years. In fact, says, Rosenthal, the $23MM would only have been reached through the exercise of three club options, which would have covered years five through seven of the deal. While this certainly changes the nature of the cost/benefit equation that Springer faced, he would have been subject to team control through 2020 regardless — as is the case at present.
  • Likewise, Rosenthal clarifies some details of the offer made by the Pirates to fellow top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco, reporting that the team’s offer would have guaranteed six or seven years in the range of $20MM to $25MM. The length and total guarantee would have shifted based upon whether or not Polanco qualified for an additional year of salary arbitration as a Super Two player. (In that respect, then, the offer looks to be quite similar to the terms agreed upon by the Rays with Chris Archer. As MLBTR reported, Archer’s $25.5MM guarantee hinges upon whether he reaches Super Two status, as expected; if he does not qualify, he would be promised just $20MM.)
  • Rosenthal also touches on the situation of free agent-to-be Pablo Sandoval of the Giants. Though talks are currently not taking place, the club is not “ruling out” making another run at an extension for the third baseman. On the other hand, Rosenthal notes that San Francisco could consider adding a different player at the hot corner through free agency or could look to piece together a platoon. Sandoval, who landed in the ninth slot in MLBTR’s first 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings, has struggled to a .191/.262/.294 start through his first 149 plate appearances in 2014.
  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti says that he is still interested in trying to lock up another pending free agent, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Ramirez took the top spot in MLBTR’s list of the top 2015 free agents heading into the year. While he has struggled at the plate recently, Ramirez still owns a .257/.339/.447 slash with five home runs and three stolen bases through 171 plate appearances, though defensive metrics have been down on his work in the field in the early going. “He’s still somebody we’d love to have back,” said Colletti, who noted that he has conveyed that continued interest to Ramirez’s representation.

Prospect Notes: Buxton, Astros, Rodon, Polanco

Byron Buxton, the Twins‘ top prospect and perhaps the top prospect in all of baseball, re-injured his wrist today while sliding into third, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets. The extent of the injury isn’t yet known, and Buxton will soon have an MRI. 2014 has likely been a frustrating season for Buxton — he injured his wrist in spring training and sat out the entire season until last week. He has played just five games so far this season, all at Class A+ Fort Myers. Here are more notes on prospects.

  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was in Raleigh yesterday to watch NC State pitcher Carlos Rodon, a candidate to be taken first overall in next month’s draft, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. Rodon struck out nine batters and walked one in seven innings. “We’re still gathering information,” says Luhnow. “I know where I personally stand, but I haven’t seen these guys near as much and seen nearly as many guys as everybody else.”
  • Calling up Gregory Polanco this weekend would have been a great move for the Pirates, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Polanco continues his hot hitting for Indianapolis (he’s currently at .374/.434/.580), and the Pirates are short on outfielders, with Travis Snider serving a suspension (and with Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen both currently out of Saturday’s game with injuries). The Pirates will also be on “Sunday Night Baseball” this weekend. Of course, Polanco’s arbitration status will likely be a factor in the Pirates delaying his promotion until mid-June, by which point he will be past the Super Two threshold.

NL Notes: Polanco, Nady, Montero, Cubs

We learned recently that the Pirates had offered a seven-year contract extension to outfield prospect Gregory Polanco, who has of course yet to take the major league field. The extension tender was particularly interesting because of the contrast between Polanco’s situation and that of players like the AstrosGeorge Springer, whose similar extension offer came from a non-contender (and who has since been promoted), and Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals, who does not have an obvious spot at the MLB level. Those looking for more thoughts on this situation have a few pieces to check out. In a piece for Grantland, Ben Lindbergh breaks down the overall promotion picture, explaining that several organizations employ quite a different philosophy than strict service time controllers like the Bucs and Rays — and noting that there are very real risks to holding down talent. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says that the Pirates are now in a tough spot, given their desire to save money but equally obvious team need for Polanco. Meanwhile, over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron writes that the discount demanded by the team on Polanco’s reasonably anticipated earnings was just too great, and opines that Pittsburgh should be willing to up its guarantee by $10MM to $15MM.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • It is virtually certain that outrighted veteran Xavier Nady will decline his assignment and become a free agent, reports MLB.com’s Corey Brock (via Twitter). The 35-year-old veteran stands at a .135/.238/.405 triple-slash in 42 plate appearances on the season. He did put up a quality .296/.360/.456 line in 495 trips to the plate at the Triple-A level last year.
  • The Mets have a detailed plan in the works regarding highly-rated pitching prospect Rafael Montero, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. With an innings limit in play, New York hopes to work Montero as a reliever (first at Triple-A, then in the bigs) before sending him back to the minors to stretch back out and join the MLB rotation later on in the season.
  • The first three picks of the amateur draft appear fairly set (at least at this point), which could make the Cubs (who hold the fourth overall choice) the first true wild card. With Tommy John victim Jeff Hoffman now likely out of play, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune says that possibilities include prep arm Kyle Freeland, TCU lefty Brandon Finnegan, or high school catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson.

Pirates Offered Gregory Polanco Seven-Year Deal

7:09pm: Pittsburgh made the offer during Spring Training, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While the options came with relatively low values given what Polanco may ultimately hope to command through free agency, Heyman says they would have pushed the total achievable value of the deal into the $50MM to $60MM range.

6:40pm: The Pirates recently made top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco a seven-year contract offer that would have guaranteed him just under $25MM, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Polanco rejected the extension, which included three club options on the back end.

The offer appears to be quite similar to that made by the Astros to fellow outfield prospect George Springer, which of course was also declined. Like Springer at the time of his offer, Polanco has yet to taste any big league action and could be awaiting promotion due to service time considerations. While Springer has since made his way to the bigs, and is now on track to qualify for Super Two status if he stays up, Polanco could be destined to be held at Triple-A until the Bucs feel confident he will not reach enough service time to qualify for an extra year of arbitration.

Polanco, 22, is off to an impressive start in his first substantial stint at the highest level of the minors. Through 127 plate appearances, he has a .397/.449/.621 line with four home runs and six stolen bases (though he’s been caught four times). Polanco opened the year in the top quarter of most top-100 prospect lists and cracked the top 10 in the view of Baseball America, which calls him a true five-tool player.

Though Passan’s report does not specify a timeline on discussions, he says the offer was made “recently.” Assuming that the seven years would have started in 2014, the extension would have bought out Polanco’s six years of team control and first free agent season, while transferring control to the team over three more years of potential free agent eligibility.

From the Pirates’ perspective, Polanco seems to represent a likely upgrade over the team’s current right field platoon. Needless to say, regardless when the call-up is made and whether a long-term deal is ultimately reached, Pittsburgh hopes that the athletic youngster will slot alongside Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte to form the league’s most exciting young outfield combination.


NL Central Notes: Samardzija, Polanco, DeJesus

Homer Bailey‘s extension with the Reds could have a ripple effect within the NL Central, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times believes Bailey’s six-year, $105MM deal greatly exceeded a five-year extension offer the Cubs made to Jeff Samardzija.  It has been widely speculated that Samardzija will be traded or leave in free agency rather than remain a Cub, though Bailey himself isn’t so sure.  “I think the Cubs will spend money where they feel like it’s needed,” Bailey said.  “And maybe it will be Samardzija. We don’t know that.  The Cubs might be playing a bluff card. That’s part of going into a negotiation, too. There’s so many strategies.”

Here’s the latest from around the division…

  • If the Pirates are really keeping Gregory Polanco at Triple-A to keep him from reaching Super Two status, it’s a lose-lose situation for all parties, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes.  Ownership could save money on Polanco’s future arbitration years, but Sawchik makes the point that those savings could cost the Bucs a playoff berth (and playoff revenue) this year since the Pirates need Polanco’s bat.
  • Polanco’s Triple-A dominance could be hurting him in some respects, MLB.com’s Tom Singer opines, as the Pirates might be waiting to see how Polanco deals with adversity before calling him up to the Major League level.
  • Polanco’s situation is detailed by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, and one scout had high praise for the young outfielder.  Polanco was called “as close to the perfect player as you can get” and the scout described him as “Dave Parker with more speed, and Darryl Strawberry without the off-field baggage.”
  • Unlike former teammate Matt Garza, David DeJesus didn’t necessarily feel relieved to be traded from the Cubs last summer, the outfielder tells CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney.  DeJesus still has a house in the Chicago suburbs and enjoyed his time in Wrigleyville, but the Cubs’ continual moving of veterans could harm the club’s youth movement.  “Young guys have to follow leadership. I followed Mike Sweeney,” DeJesus said.  “You learn how to be a professional at that time. When they keep losing those guys, it’s going to be tougher. They’re going to have to grow up real quickly.”