Pirates mum on Polanco deal

PITTSBURGH-Where there’s smoke, there’s probably about $25 million worth of fire.

So although the Pittsburgh Pirates won’t comment on whether they’re trying to lock prospect Gregory Polanco into a long-term contract, the reported scenario is very likely.

It would be a bold commitment to a player who has yet to put on a major league uniform, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the reports are legitimate. The Pirates are that sold on Polanco’s talent, and that anxious to have him signed through his arbitration years as a hedge against constantly-rising salaries.

Two outlets reported the Pirates had made a seven-year, $25 million offer to Polanco, who is currently hitting .395 at Class AAA Indianapolis.

He is likely to be called up next month, a delay that will postpone his eligibility for free agency by a full season. When recalled, Polanco will immediately get a shot at the everyday right field job. The platoon of Jose Tabata and Travis Snider has not been productive, as Pirates right fielders rank 10th in the National League in offense.

Signing Polanco would also give the Pirates unprecedented contract security with their outfield. Left fielder Starling Marte agreed to a six-year, $31 million contract extension during spring training.

Andrew McCutchen, the current National League Most Valuable Player, is signed through 2018.

The club gets cost certainty, and the player gets guaranteed money.

The deals don’t always work out. The Pirates have Tabata signed to a relatively-modest deal that runs through 2016, but he hasn’t come close to being worth the $4.5 million per season at the peak of the deal.

Officially, the Pirates have nothing to say on any negotiations involving Polanco.

“As we have done in prior situations we will refrain from commenting on any player-specific contract rumors,” general manager Neal Huntington said.

The Tampa Bay Rays signed Evan Longoria to a six-year contract after he had played just six major league games.

Locking up promising players is becoming a more appealing strategy for small-market franchises like the Pirates that have difficulty withstanding escalation in salaries.

Even though Polanco has reportedly turned down this deal, it doesn’t mean there’s not room for further negotiation.

It’s tough to turn down lifetime financial security when you still haven’t appeared in a major league game.

Irwin out

The Pirates sent righthanded pitcher Phil Irwin back to Indianapolis after the game.

Irwin was brought up to help a tired bullpen, but starters Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole both had eight-inning starts. Today’s open date gives the relievers another day to rest.

Irwin did not pitch during his two-game stay.

The Pirates could call up a position player for the weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

However, it won’t be Andrew Lambo, who went on the disabled list at Indianapolis with a bruised right thumb.

Making progress

Jason Grilli threw fastballs off a mound for the first time as he continues to work his way back from an oblique strain that landed him on the disabled list.

Grilli is scheduled to throw in the bullpen on Friday.