After several years of not performing like what was expected from him, the Pittsburgh Pirates finally decided to cut the cord: on August 28, they released long-time outfielder and former top prospect Gregory Polanco.
#Pirates have released OF Gregory Polanco.
— MiLB-Transactions (@tombaseball29) August 31, 2021
The lefty-hitting Polanco is still young enough to merit a second chance, at 29.
Baseball is impossible to fully predict, so there is no way for us, looking from the outside, to know what Polanco may need to resurrect his career.
The Tools Are There
It could be something as simple as a change of scenery, or something as complex as a swing overhaul.
However, given his age and prospect pedigree, he makes for an intriguing late-season addition for a team looking to get lucky.
Polanco was far from a disaster, though.
In 823 games since 2014, he is slashing .241/.309/.409 with 96 home runs and 98 stolen bases.
When he is right, he is capable of hitting the ball hard and with authority, while also adding a speed element.
In 2018, just three years ago, Polanco hit .254/.340/.499 with a career-high .839 OPS.
That year, he had 23 home runs and drove in 81 runs, adding 32 doubles.
But he hasn’t been the same ever since, and this year, he has struggled to a .208/.283/.354 line and a .637 OPS.
It’s also true that he has suffered his fair share of injuries during his career.
He dealt with a problematic hamstring strain that required three trips to the injured list in 2017.
He suffered a dislocated left shoulder and bone bruise on his left knee in 2018.
He had to deal with a late start and posterior shoulder inflammation in 2019.
And he suffered a bilateral abductor strain this year.
Some claim he was never the same after that 2018 shoulder injury.
It clearly hasn’t been the only reason why he has struggled so much recently, but there is no denying that health has gotten in the way of Polanco’s path to a successful career.
He is still not even 30, so there could be something here provided he is healthy.
Salvaging His Career
He has all the looks of a player who, if signed to the right team with the appropriate advanced resources and player development staff, could take off and start to deliver excellent, consistent results.
Phillies fans are all over the idea of signing Gregory Polanco. We heard yesterday, Cardinals Manager Mike Shidlt is fan of Polanco's skills and attitude. I'm pulling for the guy to sign somewhere before Sept 1st. The White Sox, Marlins and San Francisco also make sense.
— Voice from the Graves 😷⚾🏈👵❤🏡 (@KG_55VFTG) August 30, 2021
History has taught us that the Pirates are just not that franchise.
After leaving the Pirates organization, all of them took off.
Likewise, they recently received decent players who saw their performance decline in Pittsburgh, like Chris Archer.
Joe Musgrove is perhaps one of the few exceptions, but generally speaking, players who leave Pittsburgh often get better.
We can’t count the times a team like the Tampa Bay Rays has grabbed players on the cheap and overhauled them to turn them into reliable, quality ballplayers.
Cleveland does it all the time with pitchers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are also known for their player development skills.
There are several teams out there who could potentially give Polanco a look, work with him for a few weeks or months, and reap the benefits.
Let’s see what his market looks like.