The Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball announced that they have signed outfielder Gregory Polanco for the 2023 season. This will be the second straight year in Japan for Polanco, who played for the Yomiuri Giants in 2022.
Polanco, 31, was a highly-touted prospect with the Pirates and emerged as a valuable piece of their club in the middle parts of the previous decade. An all-around player, Polanco posted double-digit stolen base totals in four of the five season from 2014 to 2018, as well as getting to double digits in home runs three times. His best offensive season was 2018, when he hit 23 home runs and stole 12 bases in 130 games. He finished that campaign with a .254/.340/.499 batting line for a wRC+ of 123.
However, that season was ended when Polanco injured himself on an awkward slide. He dislocated his left shoulder and suffered a bone bruise in his left knee and seemingly wasn’t himself afterwards. He was limited to just 42 games in 2019 and hit at a below-average level when on the field. He generally stayed on the field in 2020 and 2021 but hit just .191/.261/.345 over those two seasons.
Polanco was likely going to be limited to minor league contracts if he stayed in North America for 2022 but instead went to Yomiuri. He got into 138 games for the Giants, hitting 24 home runs and producing a batting line of .240/.306/.457. That performance was solid enough to get him another NPB job in 2023, though he’ll be moving to a new club.
Despite the many ups and downs in his career, Polanco is still just 31 years old and could return to the majors at some point if he stays healthy and continues producing in Japan.