Dodgers outfielder AJ Pollock is in the midst of one of his best seasons, having posted an excellent .301/.360/.532 batting line with 19 home runs, 27 doubles, a triple and nine stolen bases. That production would position the 33-year-old as one of the best outfielders on the free-agent market this winter, but MLBTR has confirmed that Pollock will fall just a few plate appearances shy of the threshold necessary to trigger an opt-out clause in his deal.
Pollock’s contract, signed in Jan. 2019, was a four-year, $55MM deal that covered the 2019-22 seasons with a player option for a fifth year in 2023. However, the contract also allowed Pollock to opt out of the 2022 season and receive a $5MM buyout if he hit one of two plate appearance milestones: 1450 plate appearances combined from 2019-21 or 1000 combined from 2020-2021.
Last year’s pandemic-shortened season threw a wrench into vesting clauses such as this one, but the league and the players association agreed to prorate plate appearances and innings pitched for the purpose of calculations such as this one. Pollock’s 210 plate appearances last season are thus multiplied by 2.7, meaning they account for 567 plate appearances toward that threshold. (MLBTR’s Anthony Franco explored this possibility when Pollock returned from the IL last week.)
Pollock needed 433 plate appearances in 2021 to unlock that right to opt out, but he’s currently at 408 plate appearances with just four games to play. It’s nearly unfathomable that he’d manage to accumulate 25 trips to the plate in a span of four games. As such, it seems that a pair of hamstring strains for Pollock this season — one in his left leg in May and another in his right leg earlier this month — will cost him the opportunity to return to the open market in advance of his age-34 season.
Pollock will now be under contract for the 2022 season on a $10MM salary, after which he’ll have a $10MM player option or a $5MM buyout. To that extent, he’ll still control his own fate next offseason, but he’ll be doing so when he’s a year older and potentially coming off a weaker performance at the plate. Pollock’s contract does allow him to boost the value of that $10MM option as well; it’d increase by $1MM for reaching each of 400, 450, 500, 550 and 600 plate appearances next season.