The Dodgers are in agreement on a deal with free-agent outfielder A.J. Pollock, according to Thursday morning reports from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Buster Olney. The contract is rather complicated in its structure, as Pollock can opt out after three years if he reaches a set number of plate appearances. If he sticks around for the length of the deal, though, he’ll end up earning $55 million over four years, and he has a player option that would pay him $10 million in 2023 — or $5 million if he decides to re-enter the free-agent market at that point:
#Dodgers in agreement with free-agent outfielder A.J. Pollock, pending physical, sources tell The Athletic. Terms of deal not known.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 24, 2019
This is correct. For luxury-tax purposes, the deal will be seen as a five-year, $60 million package -- $12 million a year for the Dodgers' sake. And for a team looking to stay under the luxury-tax threshold, that $12 million AAV is a huge boon. https://t.co/OWlhMbA0t3— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 24, 2019
Pollock, 31, was widely considered the second-best outfielder on the free-agent market after Bryce Harper. Through seven seasons with the Diamondbacks, he was a .281/.338/.467 hitter, and at one point he was very highly-regarded as a defender, winning a Gold Glove in 2015.
He hit the market at a suboptimal stage of his career, though, as teams begin to avoid center fielders in their 30s (and to an extent, free agents in their 30s as a whole) because of the defensive struggles endured in recent seasons by guys like Denard Span and Dexter Fowler after signing with new clubs. Pollock remains an impactful offensive player — he hit .257/.316/.484 with 21 homers in 460 plate appearances last season — but it’s unclear whether he’ll play center field or a corner on a club that features players such as Cody Bellinger, Kiké Hernandez, Chris Taylor, and Alex Verdugo that could all conceivably be more reliable defensive options in center moving forward. Aging-curve projections seem to be used more frequently than the previous year’s metrics when teams make these types of decisions, but for what it’s worth, Pollock generally made the plays he needed to in 2018 — he had six defensive runs saved — but his range clearly was suboptimal, as his -1.6 UZR/150 ranked 12th among 15 qualifying center fielders.
Though Pollock’s injuries generally haven’t been of the soft-tissue, potentially chronic variety, his health concerns are still rather significant; he’s spent time on the disabled list in four of his last five seasons, missing time with a fractured hand, a fractured elbow, a groin strain, and a fractured thumb.