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Should Gregory Polanco start the season in the big leagues?


Short answer: No.

From Jon Morosi:

The Pirates also have a payroll in the bottom half of the major leagues. Teams in that position often are cognizant of the "Super 2" salary arbitration threshold, which typically causes a player's pay scale to escalate dramatically if he's promoted before June. So, there is financial incentive in waiting.

Yet, Polanco is having a good spring. As in, a really good spring -- the kind that can make an organization erase its penciled-in Opening Day roster.

Polanco, a left-handed hitter with great power, is batting .300 (6-for-20) in the Grapefruit League. He has three extra-base hits including one home run.

Obviously, Morosi is a smart guy who knows that spring training stats don't mean anything (he also quotes a scout who says Polanco is ready), so let's dismiss those right away and cut to the heart of the issue.

I don't think anyone disputes that Polanco is, at least, close to being able to help, but there's no harm in sending him back to Triple-A, a level at which he has little experience. Sending him to Pittsburgh to start the year would potentially make him eligible for free agency an entire year earlier, and would also speed up his arbitration clock. Waiting just two months to bring him up would not only delay his free agency eligibility until after the 2020 season, it would also prevent him from being eligible for arbitration four times instead of three and costing the Pirates millions of dollars. The Pirates simply have to worry about these things, because it's crucial for small markets to preserve a player's cost-controlled seasons. The fact that Polanco is a good prospect may be all the more reason to be careful about the timing of his promotion, because the better he is, the more his arbitration seasons will cost.

More to the point, the Pirates just aren't the kind of organization that's likely to change their minds about a top prospect like this based on spring training hype. That's just not their style. Every indication coming from the Pirates this winter has been that the Pirates will wait until later in the season to promote Polanco, and that's as it should be. It's great to see the Pirates' minor-leaguers getting this kind of hype, but I'd be pretty surprised if the Bucs actually changed their minds and gave Polanco a roster spot out of camp.