Pirates center fielder Gregory Polanco singles against the Tigers at Joe Merchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida during spring training.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Though the Pirates did not comment on a Yahoo Sports report published Tuesday night concerning a contract extension offered to minor league outfielder Gregory Polanco, the report shed some light on the organization’s thought process with its top prospect.
According to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, the Pirates offered Polanco a seven-year contract with three option years worth roughly $25 million guaranteed.
“As we have done in prior situations, we will refrain from commenting on any player-specific contract rumors,” general manager Neal Huntington said.
Polanco, 22, had nine plate appearances in Class AAA before this season. The Pirates said they wanted him to polish his game there and improve on such things as facing off-speed pitches in fastball counts and fine-tuning his baserunning.
“We’re really excited about Gregory and where he can go and we see him in our outfield for a long time to come,” Huntington said in December at the Winter Meetings.
“I just don’t know if it’s going to be April 1.”
Polanco hit .331 with a .428 on-base percentage for Leones del Escogido and won the Dominican Winter League MVP. That must have influenced the Pirates’ thinking because, according to a report from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Pirates offered Polanco the extension in spring training.
“While we’re excited about where he’s going, we don’t feel he’s ready to come up here and help this team win major league games and thrive,” Huntington said in the spring when the Pirates optioned Polanco to the minors.
Had Polanco accepted the extension, it would have removed concerns about delaying his eligibility for arbitration — including the possibility that Polanco could be a ‘Super 2’ player and earn an extra year of arbitration if he made his debut soon enough — and free agency from the calculations regarding when to call him up.
The reported timing of the offer is important because it indicates the Pirates wanted that issue removed as early as spring training.
Asked in late April about the Super 2 consideration, Huntington said, “It’s not a driving factor for us.
“I would argue that the guys who have come up with significant [Class AAA] experience have hit the ground running, have had fewer pitfalls than the guys who, as I look back on, we now feel we rushed,” Huntington said.
Polanco entered Wednesday hitting .397 with a .449 on-base percentage and four home runs in 127 plate appearances for Class AAA Indianapolis. The Pirates right fielders, a group including Travis Snider, Jose Tabata and Josh Harrison, have an on-base plus slugging percentage of .654, which ranks 19th in the majors.
Class AAA Indianapolis outfielder Andrew Lambo went on the minor league disabled list because of a contusion on his right thumb. Lambo, a candidate to open the season with the Pirates who went to the minors after a poor spring, was hitting .344 with a .430 on-base percentage, two home runs and 13 doubles in 107 plate appearances this season.
Irwin going back
The Pirates plan to option right-hander Phil Irwin to Class AAA Indianapolis before their game Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals. Irwin came up to aid an overworked bullpen, but Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole eased the strain on the relievers with consecutive eight-inning starts.
The corresponding move was unclear, but it likely will involve a hitter. In addition to Polanco, infielders Brent Morel and Chris McGuiness and outfielder Jaff Decker are other options on the 40-man roster.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.
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