Sometimes a player has a reputation that translates into a contract that is out of balance with his value. Such is the case with Polanco. Baseball Prospectus rates Polanco somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million but the Phillies will pay him over $5 million to replace Pedro Feliz at third base. While the Feliz non-tender was a good decision as he would have made a poor financial decision for 2009 under his old contract, the Phillies went ahead and replaced him over value.
Polanco is going to be 35 in 2010. The Fan is a bit hesitant to write this deal off after being so wrong about Ibanez's contribution last year. But this doesn't seem like a good idea for the Phillies. They may have been better served by waiting out the Adrian Beltre situation in Seattle. Beltre would have been a better fit.
Polanco showed signs of slowing down last year. His OPS+ was 88 or well south of league average. His batting average at .285 was his worst since 2003 and his OBP was his worst since 2002. He doesn't strike out very much, in fact, he is one of the hardest players to strike out in the league. The trouble is, he's also one of the hardest players to walk. He walked only 36 times in 675 plate appearances last year with translates to a puny 5.3 percent. Plus, he is shifting from second base, where he was one of the better fielders of that position, to third, which he hasn't played significantly for a decade.
Raul Ibanez made a lot of writers look silly this past year as he (particularly early in the season) gave the Phillies a spark after coming over from the American League. Perhaps this is a formula that can work for the Phillies to get an older player from the American League and find one more golden season out of that player before the inevitable slide into retirement. Perhaps the Polanco deal will prove out in the same mold as he is coming over from the Tigers. Lightening can strike twice. We'll see. But overall, this deal seems like a real gamble and the odds are against the Phillies getting their money's worth.