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George Springer said ‘No.’ Would Gregory Polanco say ‘Yes?’


SOUTH HILLS – I’ve arrived back in Lebo. I’ve traded in June-like Pittsburgh weather for real-time Pittsburgh whether.  Bad deal on paper but, hey, it builds character, right? In the midst of scrolling through Twitter, while keeping an eye on Harvard-Cincinnati this afternoon, this Ken Rosenthal report caught my eye:

Yet last September, the Astros offered Springer a seven-year, $23 million contract, according to major-league sources.

Springer, 24, rejected the offer, sources said, declining to give up three years of arbitration and one year of free agency.

The obvious question:

If Springer was good enough to be offered $23 million, why isn’t he good enough to crack the 25-man roster of a team that has finished with the worst record in the majors in each of the past three seasons?

Yes, we know the system is flawed.

Professional football and basketball teams put their best talent on Opening Day rosters. Baseball teams do not due to service time and future costs, etc. Almost every club does it, and we’ve seen the Pirates send two of their best-25-right-now assets to minor league camp in Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon.

The system might need reform but that’s a subject for another day.

I hate to keep bringing up the name  John Hart. It’s like he’s the only former big-time exec who returns my calls (OK, he is.). But when I asked Hart about the future of team-friendly extensions for young players this winter he thought clubs would have to be more aggressive to get such deals done. He thought they would have to act earlier when players are further away from free agency…. or they would have to pay closer to market value for players like the Braves did with Freddie Freeman.

Earlier, as in before they accrue major league service time.

Instead of waiting several years into a major league career to sign, say, an Andrew McCutchen, teams might have to act even earlier. And that’s precisely what the Astros tried to do with George Springer, offering him a 7-year, $23 million deal. The only comparable I can think of is when the Rays signed Evan Longoria to a six-year deal nine days into his major league career.

Now you only do this with special players who you really trust. But if you really trust a young player, perhaps the Astros’ offer to Springer represents the next-generation approach to arbitration-buyout deals that Hart first pioneered back with Cleveland in the early 1990s.

I think the Pirates would be wise to make a Springer-like offer to Polanco this spring. And I think Polanco might be more inclined to say ‘Yes.’

For starters, Polanco was not a first-round pick who signed a seven-figure bonus like in the case of Springer. Polanco signed for $150,000 out of the Dominican. It might be tough for Polanco to say ‘No’ to a seven-year, $23  million deal.

Moreover, by signing the deal, Polanco would guarantee that his service time clock started on Opening Day. He would hit free agency after his Age 28 season and he would already be rich and incredibly rich by Dominican standards.

I think the Astros are on to somethin  here. I think other players would say ‘Yes.’ And I think the Pirates, if they’re not already. would be wise to follow this track.

– TS



  1. Bizrow says:

    Lebo? I grew up in Sunset Hills, matriculated at Julia Ward Howe grade school

    What could they do with Marte?

  2. DON’T DO IT, GREGORY!!!!!!!!!!!!

    If you are as good as Travis keeps repeating you are, there is NO DANGER in waiting for larger paydays!
    You could earn $30 million just in your 3 arbitration years if you are as great as Travis says!
    BMTIB will NEVER give you a legitimate number——they only focus on value for them, not YOU!

    Gregory, if you sign this team-friendly kind of contract, Travis and others will spend the next 6-7 years talking about how you signed an undervalued contract, as they repeatedly refer to Andrew McCutchen’s contract!

    If you have confidence in yourself, Gregory, don’t be a sap and sign.
    If you think Jose Tabata is your upside, sign immediately!

    DON’T DO IT, GREGORY!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I HATE this constant discussion about imaginary contracts!

    Wandy pitched well and Leapin’ Lambo got a hit last night.
    Why is Lambo DHing tonight?

  3. jay says:

    On the other hand what about a career threatening injury…how about a career ending injury…too easy for us to give advice to someone else…the “game” of baseball has become the business of baseball

  4. Andrew says:

    Groat I find it more interesting to talk about contracts and thinking about ways the Pirates can control good talent to play in meaningful games. I really do not want to go back to the days of token all-stars and 90 losses.

  5. Andrew says:

    More interesting than closely following spring training games, but I do like that Liriano threw 5 2/3 scoreless and McCutchen homered. Don’t like the groin tightness.

  6. will says:

    That’s because the owners were pocketing the money..and not spending it on players..

  7. Ghost says:

    Pre-arbitration players might just turn baseball economics upside down. Usually, it’s the players who usually desire long-term deals, while teams (especially like the Pirates) prefer not to get locked into such. But while teams now might be looking to get the younger players locked up early in return for the chance they’ll beat the market if these players pan out, players might realize a little bit of security on the front end is all they need. Keep the years further down the road open for bigger, at-market paydays. If I were Polanco, a few million up front would make me comfortable enough to then wait and take my chances on a BIG payday just a few more years down the road.

  8. Leo Walter says:

    Loris no didn’t look too bad Andrew,but I thought he struggled at times with his control. Tabata poor base running,Marte a couple of poor ABs.

  9. Leo Walter says:

    That was supposed to say Loriano Andrew ! Sorry.

  10. RobertoForever says:

    If I were the Pirates, I might consider offering him a Springer like deal, and have Cutch deliver in a gold briefcase.

    But only after I saw a few months of him hitting Triple A pitching.

  11. Nate83 says:

    I would rather us go back to talking about Navy Seal training. Man do I miss those discussions.

    How the Pirates build their core and which players they decide to keep and trade is absolutely the most important and interesting topic in my personal opinion. Polanco signing an extension is part of that so I find it a very good topic. How players are doing and which players are going to make the 25 man is covered enough in game stories and columns. That has it’s place on blogs as well but for the most part topics like these are the reason I visit the blog. Thanks Travis for providing topics that offer a springboard for some good topics.

  12. Steelkings says:

    We are really running out of things to talk about around here. Travis, good piece and well done, but contracts and the Houston Astro’s in the same blog post? Yikes!

    Just for a moment while its still simi fresh, I want to bring up this. My daughter last year was blasted just below the collarbone with a line drive. She was pitching and she was hit with a softball thats anything but soft. It was hit so hard I didnt see the ball until it ricocheted off what I thought at the time was her throat. Two weeks later she returned to the line up.
    A few days after that as a HS baseball pitching coach, one of my pitchers was hit with a come backer just below the ribs that caused a contusion so bad it nearly ended his senior season. A few weeks after that a pitcher on the same team was hit Chapman style and spent the next three weeks in intensive care.
    Baseball has to understand that they are in line to be the first sport where a player dies on the field in front of the stadium crowd and those watching on TV because of the equipment. Its not about putting a hat on a pitcher. Its about the bats. MLB should immediately stand up and say to the ranks below them to get rid of the aluminum bat. They were given a platform with the Chapman injury. But they chose to throw the company trying to make a protective hat for pitchers under the bus tires for failing.
    Some of you will be quick to say that bats arent an issue in MLB. But they are. Travis or Rob should go to Dick’s Sporting goods and buy a 50 dollar wooden bat. Take some BP with it for a story. Then ask to use McCutchens bat. Note the difference. Garrett Jones was the 2nd person ever to hit the river on the fly. He wasnt going to do that with a 50 dollar wooden bat. The BBCOR/ BESR rating for a professional grade wooden bat is high than an aluminum bat 5 years ago. The ball really jumps off a pro grade wooden bat.
    Be that as it is, you can only regulate wooden bats so much. However you can stand on your soap box and explain that with athletes getting stronger and technology getting past BESR, that the aluminum bat should be eliminated from the game of baseball.

  13. Jim S. says:

    I especially don’t like that Frankie says the groin was tight the whole night, yet he kept pitching. I know he wants to build up his arm strength for the regular season, but that is risky. I hope he did not set himself up for problems. We need him all year.

  14. Jim S. says:

    I believe the Pirates absolutely should approach Polanco on a long term deal. And, I believe Polanco, who is not yet a rich man with lifetime financial security, would be receptive to that sort of deal. But, 7/$23M or anything close to that is not going to get it done. It is going to have to be far north of there in order for him to accept it. Fortunately, for the Pirates, they know best how good of a player he can be. And, they know their finances well enough to know they can go north of 7/$23M and still make it work for both sides.

  15. NorthPirateFan says:

    But TW, you forgot to address the critical factor in this hypothetical … who represents GP?

  16. Nate83 says:

    7/23 seems really low to me. I would say if he shows he is capable of being a 4-6 WAR type player during this year that has all 5 tools we have heard about then something closer to 7/34 million would be more in line. You essentially would be paying 32 million for his 3 arbitration years and 1 free agent year. That’s 8 million a year. The longer they wait the higher that number goes because his value will be more defined and he will be closer to those arbitration years.

  17. NMR says:


  18. NMR says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing.

    I’ve admittedly been out of the game for a while, but I was under the impression that the new BBCOR aluminum bats were seen as a solution. Doesn’t seem to be the case.

  19. Billy Hamilton got 2 more hits yesterday to take his Spring Training average to .325 and his OB% to over .400. And Delino DeShields is working with him on his bunting. He even bunted with 2 strikes two games ago.

    This guy is in Pirates’ division and he worries me. His defense will already make Reds better in Center Field, and he turns all hits and walks into triples.

    Good thing that Spring Training statistics are meaningless.

    Andrew Lambo agrees, as he got a hit last night to finally take his BA above .100 to .105. Why in the heck was a DHing last night when he obviously needs time in the field?!

  20. NMR says:

    That’s what makes it so risky for the Pirates to do these type of moves.

    The Tabby situation shows that they most certainly do NOT look at deals in terms of average annual value. If the last year of a hypothetical Polanco extension is worth $15m, you can be darn sure they budget for $15m. At that point, the player receiving that amount of payroll better darn well turn out to be a Cutch.

    Just a ton of risk, for the reward of one extra year of control. Isn’t that exactly what they get by delaying his service time?

  21. toochca says:

    THe BBCOR rating on aluminum bats has helped in the HS and College levels to an extent. The bat manufacturers now use composite materials in handles and barrels to “compensate” for the lower rating. Bats can now be “rolled” and “heated” to increase the performance. Rollong and heating are illegal but it is difficult to prove.

    I also had on of my pitchers take a line drive off the wrist/forearm area Tuesday night. The ball still ended up in the outfield. Thankfully the kid didn’t suffer any broken bones and is continuing to play.

  22. NMR says:

    Wow, so manufacturers are trying to increase bat performance that was reduced to save pitcher’s lives?

    That sounds terribly unethical.

  23. NMR says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Hamilton start out hot, while pitchers are still learning his weaknesses.

    You can bet they will, though, and it remains to be seen whether or not he is capable of adjusting. Certainly was not able to against AAA pitching.

  24. Nate83 says:

    Yes to a degree you are just paying for one extra year and there is risk but on the other hand Polanco could make 6,9,12 in his arbitration years and over 20 million in his first year of free agency. That’s 47 million and I’m sure he may even be able to make more then that. There is something to be said about knowing your future expenses. Having him locked up also makes him more valuable in a trade if that is the route they decide to go down if they have players like Meadows, Barnes, Bell and future draft picks ready to contribute.

    I agree it could end up like Tabata at twice the money but if you can’t take chances on 29 year old top tier free agents because they cost 12-20 million a year you have to take a chance somewhere. 7 years 35 million seems more reasonable then 3 years 27 million for James Loney. Considering Polanco’s ceiling he could easily way outperform that contract and give the Pirates value on the dollar which is what they need to compete. Loney would have been a good player for them but it is unlikely he would have outplayed that contract by much if at all.

  25. Steelkings says:

    There are like 4 big players in bats. Demarini and Easton leading the pack. These toys arent cheap. My daughters Demarini was 335 dollars. And I could have spent more. But that bat increased her power by an easy 25%. A year from now Im sure her bat will be illegal. Thats how it works. But for now its bombs away.
    You solve that problem by banning anything but wood.

  26. Nate83 says:

    I think he is going to be a really good player. I’m not sure the Pirates should be worried about him more then any other team in the central is worried about the Pirates outfield. I don’t think he will hit for that great of an average. He could be less valuable starting then he was in the role he played late last year because he now has to get himself on base and there may be base runners in front of him. Last year he just pinch ran and was almost guaranteed to get at least one stolen base. In that role I could see him getting well over 100 SB. I think he will get about 80 as a starter.

  27. NMR says:

    My goodness.

    Last I paid attention to these things was helping out with the local Legion team back when those two-piece Easton bats first came out. I remember trying to figure out how we were going to pay for team bats when they ran $200 a pop. Sounds like those days are long gone.

  28. NMR says:

    “Having him locked up also makes him more valuable in a trade if that is the route they decide to go down…”

    -Only if he actually produces.

    “I agree it could end up like Tabata at twice the money but if you can’t take chances on 29 year old top tier free agents because they cost 12-20 million a year you have to take a chance somewhere.”

    -Correct. In the draft.

    “Considering Polanco’s ceiling he could easily way outperform that contract and give the Pirates value on the dollar…”

    And considering the historic rates at which prospects do not live up to their status, I’d think there’s at least an equal chance that he could WAY underperform.

  29. NMR says:

    I guess generally speaking, I think extensions are great. But we’re seeing the market correct itself as we speak.

    And as John Sawchick, I mean Travis Hart, has pointed out above, teams will now be forced to take on even more risk in order to get value. That’s a combination that WILL start producing massive failures if teams keep going at this rate. There’s no doubt about it.

  30. Nate83 says:

    I usually would agree with you on most players. The market is adjusting and contracts like the one Cutch signed are starting to make agents and players realize the value in waiting. I think teams are adjusting by signing players to extensions even earlier when the player still is not confident the big payday will ever come. 3 years is a long time to wait and hope there is no injury just to get to arbitration.

    However Polanco and Marte would seem to be good candidates (small signing bonus, come from poor countries) to sign at a reasonable amount that wouldn’t destroy the Pirates payroll if they did become total bust or get injured. That being said I am not a fan of signing him to an extension before he even takes one major league at bat or even after a month or two. Towards the end of this year or during the offseason is when I would like to see him approached if he plays well.

    If he puts up a 4 and 5.5 WAR in his first two years there is no way he signs a team friendly deal. You can’t wait until any of these guys have a defined player trajectory because by then there is way less value on the dollar if any.

  31. Andrew says:

    I eagerly await Groat’s season predictions, will the Pirates be battling the Cubs for last?

    There are serious questions about Hamilton’s ability to hit, he was sent home from winter ball because he wasn’t hitting. 22 MLB PAs and 46 PAs in spring training are not going to answer that question, he had a slash line of .256/.308/.343 in over 500 PAs in AAA, two words Dee Gordon. Compare that to complete and utter bust Lambo’s .272/.344/.589 in 250 PAs.

    I wasted my lunch and looked up who Hamilton had hits off in Spring Training, my take away do not pitch Robbie Ross against him, as he accounts for 25% of Hamilton’s hits.

    One: Burch Smith (Padres) 8th starter? 38 Innings 3.62
    Two: Erasmo Ramirez (Mariners) 6th starter ? 65 innings 4.34
    Three: Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers) 3rd starter
    Four: Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers) 3rd starter
    Five: Yu Darvish (Texas) 1st starter
    Six: Tim Hudson (Giants) 4th starter
    Seven: Robbie Ross (Texas) 45 Innings 3.48, may start due to injuries.
    Eight: Sonny Gray (As) 1st starter
    Nine: Josh Lindblom (As) 20 Innings 4.38
    Ten: Jeremy Guthrie (As) 3rd starter
    Eleven: Robbie Ross (Texas) 45 Innings 3.48
    Twelve: Robbie Ross (Texas) 45 Innings 3.48

  32. This is the truth. The difference between the cheapest Louisville Slugger and a Marucci pro model or Sam Bat is night and day. I’m 38 and have been playing in a wood bat semi-pro league for more than a dozen years. I’ve tried a lot of different bats. The really goods are noticeable. Pricey too.

  33. Travis Sawchik says:

    I’m very bullish on Hamilton. I don’t think he has any comps because 90 speed doesn’t have any comps. … If he can bunt well and then spray balls by a drawn in left-side of the infield … 100+ steals in 2014.

  34. NorthPirateFan says:

    I don’t get why there’s some much of a question about Hamilton’s ability to hit … he did put up a .280 average over five minor league season, draw a decent number of walks and has posted on base percentages over .400 twice and has a cumulative .350 in five season at at 23 there’s still time to build on that. No power to speak of but seems like he should be able to hit well enough to carve out a career as number 4/5 outfielder and defensive caddy at the very least.

  35. NMR says:

    Because AAA pitchers were practically knocking the bat out of his hands last year.

  36. NMR says:

    I saw a Brewers Blog did something similar with the hitters who faced Rule 5 pick Wang over his first 8 scoreless innings. Then last night happened.

  37. NMR says:

    I think thats an awful lot harder than it sounds, Travis.

    Might work for a while, but good luck laying down a 90+ mph fastball on the hands with any sort of consistancy.

    But I’m admittedly letting a bit of my fan-side show as I’d be terrified if he was actually able to put up a .350 OBP.

  38. Andrew says:

    I am not a big prospect person certainly people here who know more, read more, and get out to more minor league games, from what I have read is Hamilton has one elite, elite tool and that has vaulted him up the rankings. However his ability to hit MLB pitching is still in question, apparently he does not have a good enough eye and his swing has holes. Maybe it is just a bad report that has gotten a lot of press.

    There were and still are questions about Marte and his K rate so perhaps Hamilton speed overcomes his other flaws. However, that AAA slash line is bad, D’Aruand, Hague, Harrison, Presley, all had much better performance in their first dose of AAA pitching.

  39. The market forces will swing back to the players as agents will start countering the current strategy.

  40. brendan says:

    It’s been said elsewhere that one of the defining characteristics of successful organizations is the ability to accurately evaluate their own players.

    Offering a long term contract to a guy who’s never played in the majors is certainly a risk but no organization knows more about Gregory Polanco than the Pirates. Furthermore if there was absolutely no risk involved what incentive would Polanco have to even consider such a contract. If he was certain to remain healthy and put up multiple 4+ WAR seasons he have no motivation to do so. There’s risk on both sides.

    Ultimately it boils down to how the Pirates evaluate his floor, ceiling, and aging curve. If their conclusion is that it’s highly likely that his floor is that of say a 3+ WAR player on average over the next 6 years–that would mean he provides at minimum significant value via his base running and defense with average-ish offense–you absolutely offer something in the neighborhood of the ‘Springer deal’ if not a bit more.

    The amount of risk is minimal compared to say offer an expensive long term deal to a free agent in their late 20’s or early 30’s. The reward as great if not greater. I’d much rather roll the dice on a Gregory Polanco for 20 or 30 million than Choo or Ellsbury for a 100 million plus.

  41. Travis Sawchik says:

    Hamilton had a poor 2013. But everyone seems to have forgotten his .410 OBP across High-A and Double-A in 2012

  42. Travis Sawchik says:

    Interesting post, Steel. Thanks for sharing. Worthy of investigating

  43. Travis Sawchik says:

    7/23 would be really low … but the Pirates have exclusive negotiating rights with a kid who signed for $150,000 five years ago. Polanco might have incentive as he still doesn’t know for sure himself if he can stick at the MLB level.

    Teams can capitalize on doubt

  44. Travis Sawchik says:

    Agreed, Brendan.

    7y/$23 represents minimal risk vs. potential return. And even if Polanco doesn’t reach his ceiling and is a league-average player, it’s still a value play.

    With the amount of cash in the game, players have less incentive to sign arby buyout deals after they’ve accrued a couple years of service time.

    I think the future is something like this Springer deal, and a big positive is more players worthy of starting Opening Day on MLB rosters will do so if they sign such contracts.

  45. brendan says:

    It certainly seems like the next logical shift in the market, I think you’re right.

    In the end I suppose it all boils down to the Pirates internal evaluation of the player.

    Desmond Jennings has been worth 3.3. and 3.2 WAR the past two seasons per Fangraphs (that’s despite missing 20+ games both years). I wouldn’t designate Jennings as Polanco’s floor but I say I’m confident Polanco can match his value (and likely exceed it). If Pirates think the same I’d say aggressively pursue the deal. Jennings numbers for reference:

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