A.J. Pollock hits free agency as a 30-year-old (will be 31 by next season) centre fielder. Such players are often a mistake on long, costly deals.
As players age, their athleticism declines and centre fielders often become corner guys. What is a good centre field bat with a solid glove becomes a sub-par left or right fielder offensively. They are the players signed for the ultra-win-now teams where they pay up for the immediate impact in the knowledge they will be overpaying at the back end of the deal.
Pollock’s free agency will be fascinating. He’s a career .281 with a fair bit of pop, but he has played 112 and 113 games in the last two seasons and only played over 140 games once.
His best season came in 2015. He was healthy enough to play 157 games, batted .315 and won a Gold Glove. Since then, though, Pollock has not been anything like the same player offensively and injuries have blighted him.
Pollock has remained a good defender. In just 113 games in 2018, he got six outs above average, which is better than Jason Heyward (4), Ronald Acuna Jr. (4) and Christian Yelich (3). A -1 mark in 2017 might be a concern (and perhaps a sign of things to come) for any potential suitors, however.
His offence was okay last season. His 21 home runs will draw some interest, and he stole 13 bases and was caught just twice. Since his success of 2015, however, Pollock has not been the same threat at the dish.
He is not getting the results he once did, but he is still hitting the ball hard. He had a career-high hard-hit rate of 40.2% last season. Pollock was also more aggressive than he has been since 2015, swinging at 28.2% of first pitches compared to just over 10% in 2017. He walked less and struck out more this year but hit for a bit more power.
His 2014 and 2015 seasons with wRC+ in the 130s might just be a distant memory. The 103 in 2017 and 110 in 2018 are more like the hitter any team interested in Pollock will be getting.
The centre fielder has transitioned in line with modern baseball. He has sacrificed some contact for those extra long balls and that will not put off any interested teams.
It’s going to be an intriguing winter for Pollock. He looks like a three or four-year-deal kind of guy, but his injury record will surely put teams off that. It’s certainly possible that Pollock suffers like many veterans did last offseason as he waits for an offer that teams are not willing to give him.
There’s a chance, too, that Pollock will be a bargain for a team on the edge of contending.
It could do any number of ways. The next few weeks are must-watch.