by Tanner McClure
So let’s say there is a current MLB team who is fourth in its division, is struggling at the plate, and has three potential Right Fielders. Right Fielder A has a slash line of .227/.301/.364, Right Fielder B has one of .262/.318/.295, and Right Fielder C has one of .400/.460/.644 (In more plate appearances than the others). But Right Fielder A has played the most at the Major League Level, and Right Fielder C has played at Triple-A all year. I bet that most anyone familiar with top prospects has figured out that I’m talking about the Pirates; RFA is Travis Snider, RFB is Jose Tabata, and RFC is Mega-Prospect, Gregory Polanco. If Polanco were inserted into the two-hole for Pittsburgh, I, like many other Cardinal fans would probably have nightmares when it came time for a series against the Pittsburgh. It would virtually be a Murderer’s Row at the top, with Starling Marte, Polanco, Andrew McCutchen, and Pedro Alvarez, followed by Neil Walker; not as prolific a bat, but still a good hitter. If Polanco starts to hit (which he will), and Alvarez slumps, all Pirates skipper, Clint Hurdle, would need to do is flip Walker and the Dominican phenom, give Alvarez some protection, and then everyone starts hitting. It’s scary, right?
The only problem here is money (That gets in the way a lot in sports, doesn’t it?). The Super Two deadline (here is a good explanation of it from fangraphs.com) passes in June or July, and it gives the Major League club full control (i.e. no arbitration) f0r the full three years after it passes instead of the two activated with a call-up before the deadline. This would pose a problem for teams with players who are bound to be superstars, like Polanco, because they would have to spend more money, sooner. It freaks out any average GM, and money, inevitably, gets in the way of talent. That is what is happening with multiple top prospects, including two big, young pitchers who I REALLY like, Noah Syndergaard (Mets) and Archie Bradley (D-Backs). All that Neal Huntington (or Sandy Alderson or Kevin Towers) has to do is take a page out of Andrew Friedman‘s playbook. The Ray’s VP has become smart when handling young players’ contracts. He has signed multiple guys, including, Evan Longoria, Matt Moore, and Chris Archer to long term, club-friendly deals before their first go=around in arbitration. It really makes sense, because they give an offer before any long service time in the Majors, and the players are lured in by the security of a multi-year deal (i.e. 8 years for Archer). Neither Polanco or Bradley are represented by Scott Boras (or Jay-Z for that matter), so that in itself is a win (I couldn’t find Syndergaard’s agent).
George Springer is a prime example of calling up talent before the deadline. Although he probably could have been called up at the end of last year, Jeff Luuhnow waited until this year; Springer is not producing as well as the Astros had probably hoped, but it is still a small sample size, so we probably shouldn’t read as much into it. I can almost guarantee that Springer will get a contract before he goes to arbitration for the first time, because his talent is there, and teams shouldn’t mind paying more now, to save a little later.
The bottom line is that there are some really talented and exciting players in the minors who could be up in the majors if it weren’t for Super Two. I don’t disagree with the rule, I just disagree with how it’s looked at. GMs want to save money, but aren’t realizing that it would be more beneficial to forget about the deadline, let the kids play, and then sign them long term.
As a supplement, here are some Polanco Highlights from Youtube. Not the best, but the RBI double in the first video was against current Braves starter, Alex Wood.