Pirates, Gregory Polanco are far apart in contract talks

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The Pirates tried to do to Gregory Polanco what the Astros did to Jonathan Singleton: get him to sign a team-friendly long term deal before being called up to the bigs. And, perhaps, as a condition of being called up to the bigs. Polanco didn’t bite, the Pirates called him up anyway and Polanco has thus far prospered in the majors.

All of which means that doing a long-term deal is a lot harder now than it even was a few short weeks ago. Jon Heyman reports:

Pirates outfield wunderkind Gregory Polanco and the team are thought to be at a stalemate in negotiations after offers and counteroffers — including one by the Pirates that could have kept him in Pittsburgh for 10 more years on top of this one, through 2024 – have failed to bridge a significant gap, sources told CBSSports.com.

Heyman has a ton of information about the size and nature of the proposals the Pirates are said to have made. And, to be honest: they seem like bad deals for Polanco to take. They would have him locked up through age 33 in some instances, which is past the time he could reasonably cash-in with a big deal due to some leverage on his part. Indeed, every day he stays productive in the majors increases that leverage. Signing a far-below-$100M deal for more than ten years — however tempting it may be — would represent a significant discount over what he’d be worth if he even fulfills a portion of his promise.

It’s be hard to turn down guaranteed money when you’re still three years from even your first arbitration paycheck, but if Polanco keeps hitting, there are much, much larger sums of money waiting for him in the not-too-distant future.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.