Phillies, Placido Polanco agree to three-year deal

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Various sources are reporting that Placido Polanco and the Phillies have agreed to a three-year, $18 million contract with a mutual option for 2013. Polanco was not offered salary arbitration by the cash-strapped Tigers, allowing the Phillies to sign the Type A free agent without surrendering their first-round pick.
Despite being a two-time Gold Glove winner at second base Polanco will shift across the diamond to third base in Philadelphia, manning a position that he hasn’t played regularly since 2002. In the seven seasons since then he’s logged a grand total of 332 innings at third base, including zero since 2005, but he certainly projects to be an above-average defender there.
The same may not be true offensively, because the MLB average for third base this season was .265/.335/.421 and Polanco hit just .285/.331/.396. His combined .310/.356/.424 line over the past three seasons would put Polanco safely above average at third base, but his OPS has gone from .846 to .768 to .727 during that time and he’s 34 years old.
Polanco should be at worst an average all-around third baseman in 2010, which would be a clear upgrade over Pedro Feliz and certainly worth $6 million, but his age and the length of the contract make it a risk for the Phillies. Philadelphia has committed to paying him $6 million per season through the age of 36 and the 2013 option covers his age-37 season. My guess is that the Phillies won’t want a 37-year-old Polanco getting everyday at-bats regardless of position.
Philadelphia figures to use Polanco as a No. 2 hitter, pushing the switch-hitting Shane Victorino into more of a run-producing spot while making the lineup less dominated by left-handed bats. As for the Tigers, they say goodbye to Polanco after five seasons of .311/.355/.418 hitting and strong defense while likely turning second base over to prospect Scott Sizemore, although the 24-year-old is currently recovering from a broken ankle suffered in the Arizona Fall League.

Matt Carpenter hit a standup bunt double

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The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.

The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.

In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.

Most of the time anyway.

Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:

One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.

The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.