The Blue Jays have signed outfielder Gregory Polanco to a minor league deal, the team informed reporters (including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet). Toronto also re-signed right-hander Elvis Luciano, who had been released last week, on a minors pact.
Polanco finds a new home shortly after being released by the Pirates over the weekend. That brought an end to Polanco’s twelve-year tenure in the Pittsburgh organization, which began when he was signed during the 2009-10 international signing period. The powerful corner outfielder eventually emerged as one of the game’s most talented prospects, peaking as Baseball America’s #10 overall farmhand entering the 2014 season.
That year, Polanco made his MLB debut and took over as the Pirates regular right fielder. While his career got off to a slow start, the left-handed hitter eventually made good on some of his promise. Polanco hit .254/.340/.499 (123 wRC+) over 535 plate appearances in 2018, seemingly setting the stage for him to settle in as a core piece of the Bucs future.
Unfortunately, Polanco underwent season-ending shoulder surgery that September. He’s never been anywhere close to the same since that point. Over the past three seasons, he has hit just .203/.270/.364 across 723 trips to the dish. Those struggles continued to mount this season, as the 28-year-old posted only a .208/.283/.354 line before Pittsburgh moved on.
Needless to say, the past few years haven’t gone as Polanco or the Pirates had hoped. There’s no risk for the Blue Jays in brining him aboard on a minor league deal to see if a change of scenery and coaching can help him regain any of the promise he showed a few seasons ago. The Pirates remain on the hook for the balance of Polanco’s $11MM salary (as well as a $3MM buyout on a 2022 club option).
Toronto will only Polanco the prorated league minimum salary if he makes it onto the big league roster, with that mark subtracted from Pittsburgh’s obligations. Because the Jays worked out a deal with Polanco before September 1, he would be eligible for their postseason roster. That’d require him to perform well enough to earn an MLB look and the Jays to erase a four and a half game deficit in the Wild Card race over the season’s final month. Polanco will again reach free agency this offseason.
Luciano was cut loose last week to open a spot on the Jays’ 40-man roster. He’ll now return without requiring a 40-man spot. Luciano has spent the season with Double-A New Hampshire, where he’s posted a 3.41 ERA across 34 1/3 innings but suffered through a pair of stints on the injured list.