The Pirates made Gregory Polanco's five-year contract extension official Tuesday afternoon. Neal Huntington described it as a "great day" for both the Pirates organization and the 24-year-old right fielder.
"This was a long time coming," Huntington said. "Both parties had Gregory's best interest at heart. It's an honor and very humbling to have him make this type of commitment to us as an organization."
With the extension, the Pirates are making a significant commitment to player whose ceiling, they believe, is much higher than his on-field performance to date. Indeed, Huntington described Polanco as a player to "build around," and restated the organization's philosophy that they pay for what they believe a player will do, not what he's done, and have high expectations for Polanco moving forward.
While conventional wisdom says that contracts like the one Polanco just signed are extremely team-friendly, Huntington reminded that both sides share risk. Polanco may risk the possibility of making more money on the open market in the future, but the Pirates assume the risk that he may not reach his full potential. The key to a completing these deals is finding the sweet spot where the risk is distributed equitably between organization and player.
"There seems to be a myth out there that these are one-sided," Huntington said. "When both sides find that mutual ground and they share that risk, agreements like this happen."
If Polanco is worried about any money he might be leaving on the table, there was no evidence this afternoon.
"It just makes me feel proud and makes me feel happy to be here," Polanco said. "I'm excited to be here for a long time. I've been here for a year-and-a-half and now I know the city and I see how much the fans love me and the players and all the support I got from everybody. Everytime we play here, we have so much fun."
The theme of the day from the Polanco camp was home. According to his representative, Rafa Nieves, the main reason the right fielder agreed to this extension, as opposed to previous efforts after he was first called up, is his comfort level with the city and organization.
Pittsburgh tried to extend Polanco two years ago, before he appeared in the majors, but he and Nieves were hesitant to agree to a deal that would keep Polanco in a city he hadn't even played in. Especially because, Nieves says, early versions of Tuesday's extension would've made Polanco a Pirate for the next 10 years.
"He wasn't comfortable committing ten years of his life to a place he's never been to," Nieves said. "To a place where he has never played and doesn't know anybody. What if he signs for ten years here and he gets here and he hates the cold or doesn't like the city?
"Now he's been here a year and a half and he has a level of comfort. He loves the fanbase, he loves his teammates, he loves Clint [Hurdle]."
Before committing to the contract, Polanco sought counsel from his good friend Starling Marte. Marte, a fellow Dominican and someone who comes from similar economic circumstances as Polanco, signed a comparable extension with the Pirates two years ago.
Polanco said Marte advised him to sign, as long as he was comfortable with money.
"He agreed with me signing the contract," Polanco said. "He said, ‘It's good for you because it is insurance for your life and you will play with more confidence. You have an opportunity to play for a long time in the big Leagues.'"
Marte advised Polanco to first talk to his mother and, if she agreed, he should go ahead and sign because he's "playing for a great organization."
"I am extremely happy for my friend," Marte said. "Where we come from, the money is not much. And a lot of people are depending on us. Our land, our city, our people, our family. So, I'm happy that he is going to be able to help his loved ones back home. There are a lot of people that are in need of his help."