Free agent center fielder A.J. Pollock is up for grabs this offseason and Bob Nightengale of USA Today says the outfielder is asking for a deal in the five-year, $80-million range. While Nightengale adds that Pollock has attracted “plenty of interest” so far, no teams have been directly tied to him aside from the Astros.
Pollock, 30, wrapped his seventh season with the Diamondbacks in 2018 and voluntarily entered free agency after rejecting the club’s $17.9 million qualifying offer in November. Despite missing a significant chunk of the season with a fractured left thumb, the veteran outfielder finished the year with a respectable .257/.316/.484 batting line, career-best 21 home runs, 13 stolen bases and 2.5 fWAR across 460 plate appearances. He has yet to match the lofty career numbers he posted during his All-Star run in 2015, but still profiles as a solid defender in center field and an intriguing, if inconsistent contributor at the plate.
Even given his track record over the last few years, though, a five-year, $80-million deal (à la Lorenzo Cain‘s five-year, $80-million contract with the Brewers last winter) may be too steep a price to pay for an aging outfielder who has seen as many injuries — and as sharp of a decline — as Pollock has. Tack on the draft pick compensation due the Diamondbacks, and the price becomes not only steep, but exorbitant. By comparison, Cain inked his multi-year deal with Milwaukee following a much stronger campaign with the 2017 Royals, one that saw a .300 average, 25+ steals, and 4.3 fWAR from the 31-year-old center fielder.
MLBPA player representative Max Scherzer sent out a short statement late Wednesday night regarding the ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. On Tuesday, ownership proposed a “sliding scale” salary structure on top of the prorated pay cuts the players already agreed to back in March. The union rejected the proposal, with many worrying that it would drive a wedge in the union’s constituency.
Scherzer is one of eight players on the MLBPA executive subcommittee along with Andrew Miller, Daniel Murphy, Elvis Andrus, Cory Gearrin, Chris Iannetta, James Paxton, and Collin McHugh.
After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions. We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received. I’m glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB’s economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information.
Indeed, aside from the Braves, every other teams’ books are closed, so there has been no way to fact-check any of the owners’ claims. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, for example, recently said that 70 percent of the Cubs’ revenues come from “gameday operations” (ticket sales, concessions, etc.). But it went unsubstantiated because the Cubs’ books are closed. The league has only acknowledged some of the union’s many requests for documentation. Without supporting evidence, Ricketts’ claim, like countless others from team executives, can only be taken as an attempt to manipulate public sentiment.
Early Thursday morning, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the MLBPA plans to offer a counter-proposal to MLB in which the union would suggest a season of more than 100 games and fully guaranteed prorated salaries. It seems like the two sides are quite far apart, so it may take longer than expected for them to reach an agreement.