Polanco Will Return Next Season

Pirates GM believes he can be a really good player again
Gregory Polanco at bat
Gregory Polanco Photo credit Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 the Fan) – Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said outfielder Gregory Polanco is healthy and will be back next season.

“He’s still really young and at a point in his career there’s no reason to think he can’t be a really good player again,” Cherington said.  “I would expect him to be and look forward to doing that in a Pirates uniform.”

The Pirates right fielder is 29.  He is hitting .142 with a .192 on base percentage.

In nearly the same amount of games last year, Polanco hit .242 with a .301 on base percentage with one more homer and RBI than this season.

“Swing decisions are not that different than when he’s been successful,” Cherington said.  “He’s missing on his fastballs, I’m not sure anyone, I certainly can’t, say why that is.”

“It would be reasonable to me to think that a very strange year might impact someone like that as much as anyone given the amount of time he’s missed.”

Cherington said when he makes contact, he’s hitting it hard.  Thing is he’s struck out in 53 of the 131 at bats with only eight walks.

Debuting with the Pirates in 2014, Polanco showed flashes of being a star after 22 homers and 86 RBI in 2016 and 23 home runs and 81 RBI in 2018.  After the ’18 season, the Pirates signed him to a 5-year, 35 million dollar contract, which started at 5.5 million last year.

Polanco is paid 8 million this season, which is nearly twice as much as any other active player.  There are three contracts on the Pirates books for next year, Polanco is by far the most at 11.6 million, according to spotrac.com, assuming the Pirates decline the 11 million dollar option for Chris Archer and Felipe Vazquez doesn’t return at 7.75 million.  All other players are under control and many could be decided in arbitration.

After 2021, Polanco is owed 12.5 million and 13.5 million consecutively to finish out the deal.  There is a 3 million dollar buyout after the 2021 season.

The results aren’t there, you can understand why Cherington is encouraging, if not hoping, for a return to his two good seasons.  He would make the Bucs rebuild from the cellar happen much quicker.

“I’m really encouraged about the other things,” Cherington said Tuesday.  “The strength, the way the ball is coming off the bat, the way he’s moving.  Frankly his energy and attitude, its been a frustrating year and nobody doesn’t want to perform.  But he’s coming here and getting after it with his work.”

If you were to meet him, you would root for him.  Polanco is a team-first player who will do whatever his bosses ask.  That’s a great quality.  But the Pirates need more production.