A.J. Pollock has missed a considerable amount of time with injuries during his career, but he offers a well-rounded skill set and is sure to be a top free-agent target for clubs in need of outfield help this offseason.
Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the veteran center fielder.
Are the Mets closing in on their next catcher? What about center field?
Dec. 14: The Mets are "very serious" about free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal as their next backstop, according to SNY's Andy Martino, who also notes New York's catching situation may be "moving closer to resolution." Grandal is the best defensive catcher on the market, his struggles behind the plate during the postseason notwithstanding.
Grandal, 30, had his best offensive season to date in 2018, hitting .241/.349/.466 with 24 homers in 140 games for the Dodgers. While the Mets have also been rumored to be among several clubs in pursuit of Marlins trade candidate J.T. Realmuto, the situation appears to remain fluid.
The Mets are also continuing a serious pursuit of an upgrade in center field, and free agent A.J. Pollock remains their top choice according to Martino. Pollock, 31, slashed .257/.316/.484 with 21 homers in 113 games for the D-backs last season, though prior to being injured in mid-May, he was hitting .293/.349/.620 with 11 homers in 40 games. He has also proved to be a strong defensive center fielder.
New York has already been very active this offseason, acquiring second baseman Robinson Cano from the Mariners and signing free-agent reliever Jeurys Familia to a three-year deal that reunites him with his former team.
Braves have been considering Pollock
Dec. 12: Having upgraded at third base by signing Josh Donaldson and addressed catcher by bringing back Brian McCann, the Braves still are looking for help at the top of the rotation, in the back of the bullpen and in the outfield.
As far as the latter spot -- now empty with Nick Markakis a free agent -- a few names have been connected to Atlanta, including Michael Brantley and Andrew McCutchen, who is out of the picture after inking a three-year deal with the division-rival Phillies.
Another option appears to have popped up: A.J. Pollock.
"The Braves also have discussed possibly making an offer to free-agent center fielder A.J. Pollock," David O'Brien of The Athletic wrote (subscription required), "even though it would cost them a compensatory Draft pick if they signed him, since Pollock declined Arizona's qualifying offer. [General manager Alex] Anthopoulos said losing the Draft pick wouldn't prevent them from signing Pollock, but it remains to be seen if the Braves would make anywhere near the multi-year offer Pollock is expected to command. MLB Trade Rumors projected entering the offseason that he would command a four-year, $60 million deal."
And that price might have gone up in the wake of McCutchen's three-year, $50 million (which also comes with an option for a fourth year). Atlanta might not want to spend like that when it's also seeking to improve the pitching staff -- particularly when there are a number of quality late-inning relievers on the open market, and that is arguably the bigger area of need.
Impact of McCutchen's deal on Pollock
Dec. 11: One of the bigger names in the free-agent outfielder market has come off the table, as Andrew McCutchen lands in Philadelphia. What does that mean for A.J. Pollock, who entered the offseason as arguably the top outfielder on the open market outside of Bryce Harper?
The 31-year-old center fielder wasn't necessarily linked to the Phillies much this offseason, so it's not as if McCutchen stole a potential destination right out from under Pollock. If anything, McCutchen's deal -- reported at $50 million for three years with an option for a fourth -- should be seen as a good sign for Pollock, as USA Today's Bob Nightengale suggests.
On one hand, Pollock doesn't have McCutchen's resume and his injury history is a concern. But on the other, Pollock, by comparison, is younger than McCutchen and as such brings a bit more of a dynamic power-speed combo at this stage of their respective careers -- not to mention, the ability to handle center field still.
In other words, it's possible the floor on offers Pollock will be considering could be about $50 million, with the likelihood for more money and almost certainly more years. Whether he's able to secure the reported five-year, $80 million deal (aka, the "Lorenzo Cain contract") that was rumored to be his asking price, however, remains to be seen.
Pollock could be an option for Mets, Dodgers; what about Rockies?
Dec. 9: The Mets continue to be one of the more likely suitors for A.J. Pollock, but the outfielder may be put on the backburner until the J.T. Realmuto situation is resolved. Mike Puma of the New York Post detailed Saturday how New York's pursuit of the 27-year-old backstop could define the rest of the club's offseason, noting that landing Realmuto "would allow the Mets to think bigger in filling their bullpen and outfield needs."
Realmuto is two years away from free agency, and he's projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn just $6.1 million via arbitration for the 2019 season.
With Realmuto accounting for a marginal portion of their payroll, the Mets would be able to pursue an outfielder such as Pollock, who is reportedly seeking a deal similar to the five-year, $80 million contract Lorenzo Cain got from the Brewers last offseason. But if they can't get Realmuto and need to turn to a free-agent catcher such as Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos, the Mets would have far less money to address their other needs.
Pollock was also connected to the Dodgers in a tweet from ESPN's Buster Olney on Sunday. According to Olney, Los Angeles could trade from their outfield depth -- Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Matt Kemp are believed to be available -- and pursue a free agent such as Bryce Harper or Pollock.
The Denver Post's Patrick Saunders named Pollock as a decent fit for the Rockies on Saturday, though he noted the outfielder's reported asking price is likely "too rich" for Colorado.
Are Reds in on Pollock for CF?
Dec. 6: The Reds made it clear earlier this offseason that they have money to spend and are serious players for some of the major free-agent starting pitchers on the market. But the club's recent decision to non-tender Billy Hamilton could change the front office's approach a bit, as there's now a need in center field, too.
The Reds, who have long been linked to starter Dallas Keuchel, remain interested in the lefty, but they're also eyeing A.J. Pollock as a possible fit in center, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports.
In discussing the plans for handling the position, Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams recently said one option would be to "pay up for a center fielder and just try to get the complete package you want."
The top center fielder in free agency, Pollock has shown flashes of an All-Star caliber player both offensively and defensively, but has spent much of his career on the disabled list. Pollock, who turned 31 on Dec. 5, hit .257/.316/.484 with 21 home runs and 13 steals for the D-backs last season, though prior to a mid-May injury, he was slashing .293/.349/.620 with 11 homers and nine steals over his first 40 games of the season.
Video: Reds non-tender speedster outfielder Billy Hamilton
In already active offseason, Mets eyeing Pollock
Dec. 4: After acquiring Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners, the Mets could continue to be active this offseason. They have been in contact with the representatives for Pollock, and MLB.com's Anthony DiComo shared via MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM that Mets GM acknowledged the club's dialogue.
Pollock would fill an outfield need for the Mets, particularly after they shipped Jay Bruce to Seattle and with the ongoing health concerns of Yoenis Cespedes, who could be out until midsummer. However, Pollock carries plenty of his own injury baggage that could be a red flag for a club that has been plagued by attrition in recent years.
Pollock has played in just 237 games in the three seasons since his breakout 2015 campaign, which could elicit pause from clubs over making a long-term deal, particularly given that such a pact would carry into Pollock's mid-to-late 30s. Pollock is reportedly seeking a contract in the neighborhood of the five-year, $80 million deal Lorenzo Cain signed last year.
Mets center fielders are projected for a 2.1 WAR season, according to FanGraphs projections, which currently ranks 21st. Pollock is projected to be worth 2.5 WAR by those same forecasts.
How Pollock has advanced at the plate despite injuries
Dec. 3: A.J. Pollock's injury history is well known and often cited, especially now that he's among the most sought-after players in free agency. In his lone fully healthy MLB season, the center fielder -- who turns 31 on Dec. 5 -- racked up 20 homers, 39 stolen bases and an .865 OPS over 673 plate appearances as a 27-year-old in 2015. That's the upside that entices teams considering Pollock this offseason.
But the downside tells the story of a player who has spent chunks of seasons on the disabled list with various injuries, to the extent that his 482 plate appearances in 2013 represent the second most in his seven-year career.
And yet, despite all the stops and restarts, Pollock has continued to grow, develop and improve in certain aspects of his offensive approach, ESPN's Buster Olney points out (subscription required). One area in particular is Pollock's ability to hit the ball hard: His 40.5 percent hard-hit rate (i.e., batted balls hit 95+ mph) in 2018 was Pollock's highest in four years.
The center fielder's improvement in hard-hit rate "may have been rooted in adjustments that Pollock has affected at the plate, and how Pollock has learned to apply some of the tsunami of information that teams now provide for hitters in a way they did not at the beginning of his career," Olney writes.
"I definitely had a better understanding of how I'm getting pitched," Pollock said. "The execution part is definitely the next step, I had a better feel for it."
How does this affect Pollock's free agency? As he reaches his mid-30s, he'll surely slow down, making his legs, baserunning and defense less impactful, so it's important for any suitor to buy into his advancement as an offensive force going forward.
Pollock warrants LoCain type money, some say
Nov. 30: Despite his well-chronicled injury history, Pollock is reportedly seeking a deal in the neighborhood of the five-year, $80 million range that Lorenzo Cain signed with the Brewers last offseason, and some suggest that Pollock may be worth it.
"I think he's going to be close," analyst and former big leaguer Dan Plesac said recently on MLB Network's Intentional Talk. "I think somebody is going to step up, I do. I think LoCain surprised everybody last year."
Cain went on to have one of the most productive seasons of any free-agent signee of last year's class. Cain's 5.7 WAR, per FanGraphs tied Nolan Arenado for 11th best among 140 qualified hitters, and he ranked third with 19 Outs Above Average, per Statcast™. Cain even generated marginal buzz for the National League MVP Award well into the season.
Pollock has played in just 237 games in the three seasons since his breakout 2015 campaign, which will likely elicit pause from clubs over making a long-term deal, particularly given that such a pact would carry into Pollock's mid-to-late 30s. Plesac acknowledged that factor could potentially scare clubs off.
"It would," Plesac said. "But I guess that's the appeal sometimes of free agency. It's like other teams, they covet things they don't have or wish they have in their lineup."
Pollock has been linked to the Rockies, Phillies, Astros and Braves among many others, but Plesac suggests the Mets will be not only the best fit, but will also be willing to shell out a high-paying contract for Pollock -- particularly given the health uncertainty of Yoenis Cespedes and the defensive versatility of Brandon Nimmo.
"I think in center field, he would fit in," Plesac said. "Nobody knows how long Cespedes is going to be out. They could move Nimmo around a little bit. I just think he'd be a pretty good fit for the Amazin's."
What is Pollock's asking price?
Nov. 28: We have some sense of what sort of contracts Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are hoping to land as the top two names on the free-agent market this offseason (think: $300 million to $400 million over about 10 years). But what about the second tier of position players on the open market?
It looks like A.J. Pollock -- perhaps the second-biggest name among available outfielders, behind Harper -- has provided an idea by floating something in the range of five years and $80 million, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
The quick comp on those figures? Lorenzo Cain, who inked just that deal with the Brewers a year ago, as Nightengale noted.
Like Cain, Pollock is a veteran center fielder with a solid all-around skill set that includes a mix of pop and speed as well as capable defense at a premium position (although Cain clearly is far superior with the glove). While Cain signed his pact before his age-32 campaign, Pollock will be playing in 2019 at 31 years old -- that certainly factors into contract evaluations and benefits Pollock.
Pollock, though, comes with much greater risk, having reached even 500 plate appearances only once in his seven Major League seasons due to numerous injuries and stints on the disabled list. By comparison, Cain also had his share of ailments, but he had three such seasons -- including career highs of 645 plate appearances and 155 games in 2017 -- before Milwaukee shelled out big bucks for him.