Polanco, who celebrated his 30th birthday in September, has appeared in each of the last eight major seasons (all with the Pittsburgh Pirates). During this time he beat .241 / .309 / .409 (94 OPS +) with 96 home runs and 98 stolen bases. His performance was worth an estimated 3.9 career wins over replacement, according to the baseball reference calculations.
Polanco has struggled with both his game and his health for the past few years after an apparent breakthrough in 2018. Since then, he has achieved 70 OPS + in 199 competitions. Even so, CBS Sports mistook him for an under-the-radar free agent that winter. Here’s one reason we were optimistic about his chances of improvement:
Last season, 49 percent of Polanco’s balls struck had an exit speed of 95 mph or more, which put him in the company of the likes of JD Martinez, Corey Seager, Franmil Reyes, Matt Olson, and other bonafid midfielders. Hitting the ball is not so much his problem as where he hits it; he is more prone to pop-ups and choppers than these people, reducing the effectiveness of his quality contact. Perhaps starting over with a new organization will help him optimize his swing.
Provided that Polanco’s deal is finalized, he will join a Yomiuri line-up that included former big league players like Justin Smoak and Eric Thames last season.
Polanco is the youngest in a line of veterans promotion to a foreign league during the owner-imposed Major League Baseball ban, joining Freddy Galvis, Yasiel Puig and Mike Tauchman. The lockout has also affected foreign players: Japanese pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and Tomoyuki Sugano have both waived opt-out clauses that would have enabled them to take advantage of opportunities in the MLB.