The Pirates are trying to save money with Gregory Polanco.
That’s the simplest way to describe what is happening with Polanco being placed on waivers.
Any team who would claim Polanco would take on the remainder of his contract, which includes the prorated portion of his $11 million deal this year, along with his $3 million buyout next year. The total savings for the Pirates at this point would be about $5.5 million.
The timing of the deal would allow a team to claim Polanco for their stretch run, at no cost other than his remaining contract.
The question we’re going to find out: Is there a contending team that likes Polanco enough to commit $5.5 million for a month and a playoff run?
The concept would be a difficult sell.
Polanco has a -1.3 fWAR this year, with a .621 OPS and poor fielding grades. He had a strong season in 2018, putting up a 2.5 WAR. That comes in a five year stretch where he’s combined for an 0.9 WAR.
In order to claim him with his salary, a team would need to believe that the soon-to-be 30-year old Polanco can instantly turn things around and put up the numbers we saw from him at age 26. That’s a far cry from the below-replacement numbers he’s shown since.
The hope of Polanco realizing his upside as a prospect is long gone. The hope now would be a return to those 2.5 WAR performances that would justify him as a starter.
I don’t see a team committing $5.5 million for one month of this version of Polanco, on that hope that he can turn things around.
My guess is that he clears waivers. From there, the Pirates will have a choice of releasing him and eating that $5.5 million, or keeping him on the team for the remainder of the season. The upside to releasing him would be that they’d gain a small amount of savings if another team picked him up and added him to their active roster. That amount would be around $100,000, not really significant.
The money overall is a sunk cost at this point, and that’s obvious if no other team takes on the contract. If Polanco does stick around in Pittsburgh for the remainder of 2021, the only thing that will matter is whether he’s taking time from players who will be in Pittsburgh in 2022 and beyond.