Here’s why the deal makes sense: As of this morning, the Phillies had the worst third base situation in baseball, which is to say, they didn’t have one. They elected not to exercise their $5.5 million option to Pedro Feliz, one of the weakest run-producing third baseman in baseball over the last few seasons. So by their own hand, there was a real urgency for the Phillies to get something done early if they had any hope of making an upgrade. Polanco is a good Major League player and will shore up arguably the weakest position in the Phillies’ chain. In locking in for three years, they’re leaving nothing to chance by relying on free agency or trades for the next few years.
Many readers have scoffed at the amount. To the credit of Polanco’s agent, he leveraged the most he could from the Phillies, knowing that Adrian Beltre and Chone Figgins, viewed as more attractive options for various reasons, were out of the Phillies’ range. He knew the Phillies would set the bar among the hot corner’s second tier. As for the $6 million per season, a little perspective; that’s less, per season, than Geoff Jenkins got to platoon with Jayson Werth. Compare that with an everyday third baseman. It's not a crippling amount, either, when you consider what the Phillies likely have planned for the rest of the offseason (8th inning option, fifth starter). In Polanco, the Phillies are getting not only a third baseman, but a Gold Glove winning second baseman (outbidding all the other teams in need of a second baseman) plus a very sound contact hitter atop the lineup, which is something they needed.
Here’s why the deal doesn’t makes sense: He’s playing out of position. He hasn’t been a regular third baseman for almost seven years and there’s no way to know if he has the arm for it at age 34. Best guess: he’ll be just fine because he’s a naturally gifted defender. But it’s still a $18 million gamble. Secondly, his age and .727 OPS in '09 suggest declining levels of skill that will only get worse. Scouts said his bat slowed in 2009. Finally, when was the last time a returnee found success in Philadelphia? For whatever reason, it never happens.