Polanco Hits The Market

Two notable free agent second basemen were not tendered arbitration offers by their incumbent teams yesterday. Orlando Hudson stole most of the headlines, but Placido Polanco might be the more interesting of the duo, in part because a poor offensive season could lead to him being underrated by most observers.

Polanco turned 34 a few weeks back and posted his lowest batting average since 1999. Coincidentally, he also encountered a BABIP that falls well below his career norms. Outside of that, Polanco was the same batter as his 2008 self. His walk rate in 2008 was 5.7%; 5.5% in 2009. He posted 7.4% strikeouts in both seasons and ISO of .110 and .112. He hit 0.4% more homers per fly balls in 2009, as well. Literally the only difference between the seasons is a deflated average on balls in play. Regardless, his full season offensive run totals varied by nearly 11 runs.

With the glove, Polanco’s defense has always ranged from solid-to-spectacular. It’s a wee bit optimistic to expect a +10 season from him next year, but even with some age-based regression thrown in, he’s a plus defender at a premium defensive position. Combine that with his offensive skills and you’re looking at least a 3 win player with the potential for a little more.

Last off-season featured a rather drab free agent market for second basemen. Orlando Hudson and Felipe Lopez turned out to be the most worthwhile signings while Aaron Miles and Nick Punto were the lone recipients of multiple-year deals: both signed two-year contracts. In 2007, Luis Castillo and Kazuo Matsui signed the last deals of at least three seasons in length. I don’t know if he will, but Polanco seems like as good of option as anyone to break that streak.

Have an idea of how Polanco will perform in 2010? Let it be known by casting your Fan Projection ballot here.

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