Outfielder Polanco open to contract extension with Pirates
BRADENTON, Fla. — Gregory Polanco is willing to work with the Pirates to hammer out a contract extension, but the standout right fielder also knows he can bide his time.
On Wednesday, Polanco checked into minicamp for a checkup on his left knee. After taking a few swings in the indoor batting cage and getting a thumbs-up from the training staff, Polanco flew home to the Dominican Republic.
Before he left Pirate City, Polanco said he is more focused on the upcoming season than on a contract. That is no surprise since he won't become a free agent until after the 2020 season.
But the Pirates have tried before to ink him to a long-term deal and likely will try again this year.
“I'm open to it,” Polanco said. “Whatever (offer) they bring, I'll check it out. I never say never.”
Polanco said his agent and the Pirates are not engaged in contract talks. That could change after the team finalizes deals with its arbitration-eligible players over the next few weeks.
“Right now, I'm focused on getting my mind and my body right, getting ready so I can be more consistent and smarter in the game and establish myself in the major leagues,” Polanco said. “I'm not even thinking about a contract. Whenever they come to me, I'll be here. Now my mind is on (playing) baseball.”
The Pirates made two attempts to sign Polanco in 2014. During spring training, he refused a seven-year offer worth about $25 million.
Before he made his big league debut in June 2014, Polanco turned down an eight-year offer with a potential value of $75 million. A significant portion of the payout would have come over three option years.
Last year, according to a source familiar with the situation, the two sides came close to finalizing a seven-year contract. The deal fizzled over details relating to the team option clauses.
Polanco, 24, could try to gain leverage by waiting until he reaches his salary arbitration years (2018-20) before agreeing to a new contract. But there's always the risk of an injury or poor performance affecting his earning potential.
A gimpy left knee hindered Polanco much of last season, and he batted .256 with a .701 OPS.
“It was very difficult,” Polanco said “When my knee really started hurting, I couldn't push when I was running, and I couldn't load my backside when I was hitting. It was very hard season, but it made me tougher. It made me feel I can play when I'm not 100 percent. It made me a better player.”
After the season, Polanco got a platelet-rich plasma injection in his knee. On Thursday, Polanco said he is healthy and will be ready for the start of spring training.
“I know what I have to do to prepare for spring training and for a full season,” Polanco said. “This year is big for me. I want to be more consistent.
“I want to play like I played in the minor leagues, like a star player. I want to play that way for a long career.”
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.