When will the Pittsburgh Pirates call up Gregory Polanco? One of the elite prospects in baseball, the young outfielder rejected the Pirates offer to sign a seven-year deal worth $25 million and remains at AAA Indianapolis because of it. Accepting the overture from Pittsburgh management would have put Polanco on a plane to Pittsburgh immediately, burning a year of his contract. Wisely, he refused.
Polanco is the second best player in the Pittsburgh organization, right now behind 2014 Most Valuable Player Andrew McCutchen. However, General Manager Neil Huntington and the Pirates ownership have decided to keep their budding star down until June instead of bringing him up now and losing a year of control on his salary clock. If the young outfielder were called up now or before June then the 2014 season would count towards his years served as a major league player. Waiting until June to bring Polanco up starts his clock in 2015.
Thus, the Pirates will be able to gain an extra year of Polanco’s services before he becomes free agent eligible and presumably too expensive to keep. In effect, Pittsburgh is saying this season is not as important as the final year of Polanco’s contract. Maybe this is the right path. It would make sense that Polanco would be a better, more mature baseball player at a later time in his career.
Huntington and the Pirates are missing an opportunity though. This is a team coming off a renaissance season for their organization and their city. They just won the National League wild card in 2013 and, after a couple of decades of losing, PNC Park was full. Civic pride in the Pirates had returned. The Pirates had momentum, not just in their own town, but in the eyes of major league baseball again. A decision like this from Pirates management to hold their ground cannot play well with Pirate fans. Not after making the contract offer that would have brought Polanco up immediately.
So when will the Pittsburgh Pirates call up Gregory Polanco? Well, apparently, when the organization considers him to be ready. After all he is only hitting .370 with a .436 OBP and a slugging percentage of .604. He also has five home runs, 35 RBI and nine stolen bases. It is hard to get much more “ready” than that. So a team thirsting for a jolt and good baseball players is letting one sit in their minor league system. All the while they are struggling and sitting 8.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central division.
Count former Philadelphia Phillies all-star John Kruk and current ESPN baseball analyst as one that does not agree with the Pirates stance. Kruk sees an organization that is putting finances ahead of team success.
“That’s a tough way to have to go about putting together a team,” Kruk said.
There is no sense in asking when will the Pittsburgh Pirates call up Gregory Polanco any longer. The Pirates have answered that question already. Insisting Polanco is not yet ready to play in the big leagues is small-minded and the argument does not hold up any longer. In the meantime, a season once keenly anticipated is slipping away without a fight.
Commentary By Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Pittsburgh Pirates