The Diamondbacks have, at least temporarily, stopped negotiations with outfielder A.J. Pollock on a contract extension, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. In a text to Piecoro, Snakes GM Dave Stewart said of the negotiations that “We, both sides, have for the time being put that away.”
Pollock is the only one of Arizona’s eight arbitration-eligible players who didn’t reach an agreement before last Friday’s deadline, with Pollock filing for $3.9MM and the team countering with a $3.65MM offer for a 2016 contract. (MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $4.3MM figure for Pollock.) With such a modest gap between the two sides, you would think Pollock and the D’Backs stand a good chance at reaching an agreement before the matter goes to an arbitration hearing.
Both Pollock and the Diamondbacks expressed interest in working out a long-term deal in the wake of his breakout 2015 season. Pollock hit .315/.367/.498 with 20 homers, 39 steals and 111 runs scored in 673 plate appearances last year, and also won a Gold Glove for center field defense that impressed both voters and the advanced metrics (14 Defensive Runs Saved, +6.5 UZR/150). His 6.6 fWAR was topped by only seven other position players in baseball. Pollock’s big season and three remaining years of team control made him a hot commodity on the trade market this winter, with teams like the Braves and Indians asking for Pollock when the D’Backs inquired about their top starting pitchers.
It’s clear that the D’Backs see Pollock as a key part of their future, with team CEO Derrick Hall recently describing the center fielder as “almost untouchable” in trade talks. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams described in that last link, however, Pollock is something of a tricky extension candidate given his age (he just turned 28) and a relative lack of leverage on Arizona’s part. Pollock will already get a nice payday in his first arb-eligible season and he’s scheduled to hit free agency after the 2018 season, so he may not feel the urgency to sign an extension now and delay that potentially very lucrative trip to the free agent market by even a year or two — obviously he’d stand a better chance of scoring a major free agent contract entering his age-31 season than he would entering his age-33 season, for instance.
With all this in mind, perhaps it isn’t surprising that the extension talks are on hold for now. It’s also possible that the two sides will get Pollock’s 2016 contract out of the way first before again exploring multi-year scenarios, or the topic could be held off until after the 2016 season entirely.