8:14 p.m.: Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says if Polanco is not claimed, he will stay with the Pirates. (Twitter link 1, 2 and 3.) This seems to imply that if Polanco accepts the waivers, the team will choose not to remove him from the list. According to Mackey, putting Polanco on waivers was all about giving him the chance to play for a contender, if any. Although, speculatively, the notoriously thrifty hackers would also be happy to take the $ 2.4 million off their books, along with the $ 3 million buyback on its 2022 option.
19:16: The Pirates have placed Gregory Polanco on pure and simple renunciations, according to Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic. Polanco is playing on a salary of $ 11.6 million this year, of which around $ 2.4 million is yet to be paid. Any team claiming it would be responsible for this remaining salary. But if it is not claimed, Polanco could elect free agency. At this point, any club could sign him and pay him the league minimum on a pro rata basis, with the Pirates being required to pay for the rest.
Whether claimed or not, this appears to be the end of Polanco’s time as a pirate, an informal conclusion to a relationship that once held such promise for both sides. Originally signed by Pittsburgh in 2009 at the age of 17, Polanco made his debut in 2014 and, after two solid seasons, showed enough promise for the club to agree to grant him a five-year extension. , which guaranteed him $ 35 million, as of April of 2016. At the time, Polanco’s .249 / .316 / .369 line was nothing exceptional, but it was expected that the 24-year-old becomes more powerful and provides more offensive production coupled with his excellent defense and speed. . With the team having already extended Starling marte and Andrew McCutchen, it was believed that Polanco could be the third piece of a superb outfield they could rely on for years to come.
For the remainder of the 2016 season and the first two years of the deal, everything seemed to be going in the right direction. In those three seasons, Polanco hit 56 home runs and stole 37 goals, producing an overall line of .255 / .324 / .455. It was good enough for a 105 wRC and 5.3 fWAR. Thanks in large part to Polanco, the Pirates have qualified for the National League Wild Card Game three years in a row, from 2013 to 2015. Unfortunately for him and the team, it’s mostly downhill since then. In September 2018, Polanco underwent surgery for a dislocated shoulder and has not been able to play near that level since.
In 2019, Polanco was only able to make 42 games and even on the pitch his line slipped to .242 / .301 / .425, a wRC + of 87. With the shoulder issues still plaguing him, Polanco continued IL on June 22 and did not return to the field for the remainder of the year. Polanco returned in 2020 but saw his numbers slide even further, to a dismal .153 / .214 / .325 line during the season shortened by COVID. This was equivalent to a wRC + of 41.
This year, Polanco has rebounded from that nadir, but only slightly. In 101 games he put up a line of .198 / .277 / .343, which makes a wRC + of 67. With the Pirates sitting on a 44-80 record and firmly in rebuild mode, it seems they wanted to allocate Polanco’s playing time in the final weeks of the season to players who will audition to be part of the club’s future plans.
Polanco now seems destined to leave the only organization he has ever known. Despite three disappointing seasons in a row, he won’t turn 30 until next month, which means he potentially has plenty of time to turn things around and re-energize his career. However, it can be difficult for him to have a long opportunity to do so this year. Competing teams will give play time to players with more recent history of success, while the rebuild team will want to use that time to showcase younger building blocks, as the Pirates do now.