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Pirates

Colin Dunlap: Polanco Needs To Be In Pittsburgh

(Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

dunlap-head-shot Colin Dunlap
Weeknights, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Colin grew up in Sharpsburg and...
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The Pirates have scored two or fewer runs in five of their past six games.

The Pirates have lost 10 of their past 13 games and are 3-13 since their first homestand.

The Pirates are 10-16 this season.

The Pirates are 13th out of 15 National League teams with a .225 batting average.

When the Pirates left the field Sunday after losing to the St. Louis Cardinals — and being blanked, 7-0, on just three hits — they had fallen behind Division-leading Milwaukee by eight-and-a-half games.

Do we really have to continue? You see where I’m going with this, right?

The Pirates have been treacherous, but in Class AAA Indianapolis, outfielder Gregory Polanco has been downright dazzling, hitting .402 (35 for 87) with four homers and 23 RBIs through 22 games.

He needs to be here. Plain and simple.

You know why? He’s one of the best 25 players in the organization. Again, plain and simple. That’s where it starts and that’s where it should end. He is one of their best players.

Go ahead and rattle off for me all there is to know about Super Two status or, better yet, feel free to recite some long and involved stat like WAR, wRAA, RAR, wCB, wRC, UBR or anything else you care to come up with as ammunition to keep him in Indianapolis.
How about I counter with logic.

Gregory Polanco is one of the best 25 players in the organization. How does it behoove this team, right now, to not have one of the best 25 players in the organization on their big league roster? I say, firmly, it doesn’t.

Go ahead and argue against that. I dare you.

Almost certainly most arguments for keeping Polanco in Indianapolis right now are rooted in economics rather than talent.

I get it; I understand it.

The Pirates get an extra year of control of his contract if they keep Polanco in the minor leagues until June, following a template used by how they handled Gerrit Cole last season.

That was different.

The Pirates could pitch last season. The Pirates can’t hit right now.

More to the point, the Pirates last season realized heights not reached since 1992, pushing into the playoffs after those mesmerizing 94 wins. And, for their part, the crowd showed up in droves, twisting the PNC Park turnstiles 2,256,862 times in the regular season.

I don’t have the hard data on this, but I’d venture a guess both merchandise and concession revenue spiked last season. The Pirates also realized the financial windfall of a Wild Card game and playoff games they, in the past, didn’t have the luxury of hosting because, well, they weren’t good enough.

When is the organization going to give back to a fanbase that, in good faith, showed up and did its job last season? This is a fanbase clamoring for Polanco right now because, again very simply, he should be starting in rightfield (or at least get the chance to) but the perception is that he’s being left with training wheels on because the organization doesn’t want to spend money down the road.

The fans paid it forward; the front office isn’t giving them good faith in return.

By keeping Polanco down on the farm until June, the club could stand to save somewhere between $12M-$20M in the distant future. But, I ask, isn’t there also a logical counterargument to this?

First, couldn’t some of that be offset by those unanticipated revenues already realized — and outlined above — by what happened last season in increased concessions, ticket sales and hosting playoff games? After all, it isn’t like the Pirates went out and procured the talents of some high-priced free agent and already burned through that money.

Second, in the span between the Pirates would call him up — if they are to do it now — and when the Super Two date hits in June, wouldn’t logic also say this club could stand to make up some of that money? In short, although it would be nominal, wouldn’t there have to be an attendance spike between now and June for fans to come see Polanco that might not otherwise be there. Again, the revenues would be nominal but logic says more people will some see a team with Polanco on it than one without him on it between now and June — especially if they continue to stammer.

Lastly, couldn’t this all be a moot point anyway? If Polanco is as good as advertised, won’t his agent and the Pirates, in all likelihood, come to an agreement to buy out some of those arbitration years and extend his contract anyway? Obviously, it takes both sides to do business, and Polanco would need to be amenable to doing so, much like Starling Marte was, but a hunch here says the club has a good chance.

So as the Pirates continued to sputter and stumble on offense, there’s nothing guaranteeing calling up Polanco will serve to fix the problems.

That said, though, he’s one of the best 25 players the Pirates have right now.

And by virtue of that, he should be here.

Period.

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