At the start of the season, we examined each of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting position players with an eye towards keeping them or trading them.  We revisit these recommendations as the trade deadline draws nearer.

Today we will take a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfielder Gregory Polanco.

Polanco’s Inconsistent Offense

At the start of the 2016 season, we expressed some concern about Polanco’s inconsistent results at the plate and in the field. We noted that Polanco had two and a half season’s worth of at-bats and his career slash line through that time was only .253/.318/.404.  This body of work didn’t exactly scream “budding superstar”.

Of even more concern was his drop off in the second half of the season in 2016.  In 2016, his strikeout to walk ratio went from 1.87 in the first half to 3.2 in the second half.  His slugging percentage for the second half of the season was only .414 after posting .500 for the first half.  Even though his final results weren’t great, 2016 Polanco still had some positive developments with 22 long balls en route to a .463 slugging percentage.

Polanco’s 2017 Results

We wondered if Polanco would have a true breakout year in 2017, or if he would have another .250/.320/.400 year.  If he delivered the latter, we felt that the Pittsburgh Pirates should actively seek to trade Polanco at the deadline while other teams still placed value on his upside.

So far in 2017, Polanco is slashing .269/.322/.424 with 9 home runs and 8 stolen bases.  This is above the minimum slash line we proposed, but not by much.  The Pirates would love nothing more than to see Polanco finish 2017 hitting .280/.360/.500 with 25 home runs but he would really have to turn it on when he returns from the DL.  Somehow this seems unlikely.

Conclusion:  Move Polanco at the Deadline

Given his inconsistency, the risk involved in forecasting Polanco’s offensive production is extremely high.  There are still a few teams that would jump at the chance to trade good pitching or infield prospects for Polanco and gamble that he delivers.  Polanco is under team control through 2023 which will be viewed favorably by the acquiring team.

The Pirates are in a good position in that both Adam Frazier and Jose Osuna have shown promise at the plate this season and both can play a passable right field.  Frazier and Osuna have slash lines similar to Polanco’s, but they both are in their rookie seasons and have unrealized potential upside.  Austin Meadows may also be ready in 2018 assuming he can overcome is recent injury.

Prior to the season, we thought the right time to deal Polanco was at the 2017 trade deadline. Unfortunately, his performance so far this season only solidifies this opinion.  The Pirates can trade for infield and pitching prospects that can contribute to the team’s success starting next season.


photo credit – Daniel Decker Photography

Sean Riley

Sean Riley is a lifelong Pirates fan who now resides in Portland, OR. He is a former executive of several major companies and a published author. His current passion is balancing statistics and good old-fashioned “feel” to provide insight into the game of baseball. Sean is married to a great gal and the father of two amazing boys.