A.J. Pollock will probably get a nice contract in free agency, but being put on par with Lorenzo Cain feels like a significant leap.
As the Arizona Diamondbacks look set to reset or rebuild, outfielder A.J. Pollock is one notable free agent that is surely not coming back. He should get a nice contract from somewhere, and he’s getting plenty of interest. But USA Today’s Bob Nightengale has reported Pollock is telling interested teams he wants a contract on par with the one Lorenzo Cain got from the Milwaukee Brewers last offseason.
Cain signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Brewers, and while his power numbers dropped last season (10 home runs and 38 RBI) his other numbers were all improvements over the previous season. He also played 141 games, and topped 600 plate appearances for the third time in the last four seasons.
In 2015, Pollock and Cain each delivered 7.2 WAR (Baseball Reference), while Pollock hit more home runs, drove in more runs, stole more bases and had a higher OPS. But that’s where their career paths diverted.
Over the last three seasons, Pollock has played just 237 games. Over 113 games in 2018, he hit .257/.316./.484 with 21 home runs, 65 RBI and 13 stolen bases while striking out a career-high 100 times. Defensive metrics were mixed on him, with six Defensive Runs Saved and a -0.7 UZR. Those same defensive metrics backed up Cain’s status as an elite defensive outfielder last year (20 Defensive Runs Saved, 8.7 UZR).
Pollock rejected a $17.9 million qualifying offer from Arizona, so the team that signs him will owe the Diamondbacks draft pick compensation. Along with taking the risk Pollock will stay healthy, teams also have to weigh his contract demands and having to surrender a draft pick.
Back in May, as he was starting the season well (.292, 1.045 OPS, 10 home runs over 118 plate appearances), MLB Trade Rumors suggested Pollock could “play his way” into a contract like Cain’s. But from that point on he hit just .244 (.716 OPS) with 11 home runs and 40 RBI over 342 plate appearances, which doesn’t quite qualify even with a 20-homer season that stands out when glancing at his season stat line.
Once some bigger names are off the board, Pollock could sign quickly and a team with money to spend may give him the deal he’s looking for. But any agent who would offer Cain as a significant comp is going a step too far to get the best deal for Pollock.