Pirates rumors: Gregory Polanco offered 7-year contract

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates tried and failed to lock up their budding phenom.

The Pittsburgh Pirates reportedly offered top prospect Gregory Polanco a seven-year deal despite the fact that he has yet to reach the big leagues. According to Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan (who first reported the story), the contract would've guaranteed the young outfielder slightly less than $25 million, buying out all six year's of team control, as well as a free agent season. The deal would have also netted Pittsburgh three club options, which would have brought the total (were all exercised) to ten years and $50-$60 million.

Jon Heyman reports that the deal was offered during Spring Training. In all likelihood, Polanco would probably already be in the majors had he accepted. As a small market, budget-conscientious team, the Pirates have little reason (aside from the fact that they are currently 13-20, no biggie) to risk losing a year of team control by bringing up Polanco too early, much like the situation that the Astros' faced with George Springer earlier this year (Houston delayed his free agency another year, though he will still likely qualify for Super Two status).

Speaking of Springer, Polanco's extension offer is eerily reminiscent of the reported contract that Houston offered to Springer in September (the terms were rather similar at seven-years and $23 million).

With the recent trend of locking up elite players and the drying up of free agent talent, it makes sense to try and extend players earlier and earlier, especially considering the period of prosperity that MLB is currently in the midst of.

Still, no player has ever signed such an extension without having made the majors, likely due to the potentially significant amounts of money being left on the table. The closest thing would be the the bargain deal that Evan Longoria signed with the Rays back in 2008, having played in just six big league games.

Players such as Matt Moore, Salvador Perez, and Chris Archer have also signed deals with under a year of service time, though they at least have some sort of track record. Those contracts probably haven't done a good job of incentivizing players to follow in their footsteps, especially in the case of Perez, who is arguably one of the best catchers in the game and will make just $20 million over the next six years (assuming all three of his team options are picked up).

Polanco is widely regarded as one of the best prospects in the game. Earlier this year, Baseball Prospectus ranked Polanco as the 24th best prospect in baseball, while ESPN's Keith Law had him 13th (3rd among outfielders). Polanco exerts himself as a true five-tool centerfielder (though he'll likely play right in the majors), combining a 60/60 (on the 20-80 scale) hit/power profile with outstanding speed, solid defense, and a strong arm. Polanco hit .285/.356/.434 (with 38 steals and 44 extra-base hits) across three levels in 2013, and is currently slugging .397/.449/.621 in 127 plate appearances for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians this season.

The Pirates have made a habit of extending their young outfielders in recent years, locking up Jose Tabata in 2011, Andrew McCutchen in 2012, and Starling Marte just over a month ago. Including highly regarded prospects such as Josh Bell, Harold Ramirez, and Austin Meadows, as well as the ever-lasting Travis Snider, the Pirates easily have the best collection of young outfielders in the game.

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