Within the last few years, the Pittsburgh Pirates have had a main priority of locking up star players to long-term contracts. Two of those players were two-thirds of an outfield that was recently ranked the best in baseball by ESPN. The next player on the list of players who may see an extension in the near future could be the Pirates young right fielder, Gregory Polanco.
In March of 2012, star outfielder and former National League Most Valuable Player Andrew McCutchen signed a six-year, $51.5 million extension. McCutchen, who has quickly become one of the league’s most exciting players, will be entering his eighth major league season in 2016. Thus far, this particular deal has ended up being a steal for the Bucs, as McCutchen has become the face of the franchise, helping to lead the team to three consecutive postseason appearances. As the face of the franchise, he has also remained relatively healthy throughout his career, missing a few games here and there with smaller ailments. Time still remains on McCutchen’s contract and the 29-year-old superstar looks to be at the top of his game. In 157 games last season, McCutchen compiled a .298/.388/.496 line with 23 home runs and 96 RBI, while finishing fifth in voting for the National League MVP award. Everyone knows that McCutchen is the most valuable player the Pirates have in their everyday lineup. He has proven to stay healthy and consistent enough throughout the years that this deal is considered a steal for what the Pirates spent on him. However, only time will tell whether or not the Pirates can keep McCutchen in black and gold for the unforeseeable future.
Last March, outfielder Starling Marte signed a six-year,$31 million deal which included two club options. The Pirates starting left fielder signed the deal prior to the 2013 season, his first full season in the major leagues. With his performances in both 2014 and 2015, this particular deal is considered a steal as well. In 2015, the 27-year-old had his best season by far as a major league ballplayer, compiling a line of .287/.337/.444 with a career high 19 home runs and 81 RBI. Marte also showed promise on defense and on the base paths, winning his first career National League Gold Glove award and swiping 3o bases. What makes me think of this deal as a steal is that, at least in my opinion, Marte seems like a better option as an overall outfielder than new Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward. This offseason, Heyward signed an eight year, $184M deal with the Cubs. Compare that to Marte’s deal and you really get a sense of how big of a steal this deal actually was. Marte has improved many aspects of his game throughout his major league career, including his offensive presence and his ability to be a consistent threat on the base paths and on defense. The Pirates extended him at the right time and should benefit from it in the next few years.
Now, Gregory Polanco could indeed be the next to receive a long-term deal. Before Polanco was even called up to the big league team, he reportedly turned down a long-term deal that could have been worth up to $75 million and could have kept him in Pittsburgh long term. In his first full big league season in 2015, Polanco improved mightily from his rookie season in 2014. The 24-year-old right fielder compiled a .256/.320/.381 line with nine home runs and 52 RBI through 153 games. He showed promise on defense and the base paths, despite making some mental mistakes that he is bound to learn from as he progresses as a major league player. It was recently reported that the Pirates were once again engaged in negotiations and talks with Polanco, but nothing has come from those talks.
The Pirates outfield is obviously filled with talent. The play of McCutchen, Marte and Polanco is proof of this. They all represent legitimate threats in the Pirates lineup, however, only two of those three players have received long-term contract extensions. Though it remains to be seen, it would not surprise me to see this change in the near future. It has been reported that Polanco has already expressed interest in at least exploring an extension with the team, it is now the Pirates turn to make something happen and lock him up long term.