Recognizing Polanco's high ceiling and having already signed Andrew McCutchen through 2018 and Starling Marte through '21, the Pirates tried to sign Polanco to a long-term deal each of the past two years, to no avail.
• Marte sold Polanco on benefits of extension
This spring, the Bucs' front office and Polanco's representatives finally found common ground.
"This was a long time coming," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Both parties had Gregory's best interest at heart."
The Pirates announced Polanco's extension at a news conference Tuesday afternoon at PNC Park. Principal owner Bob Nutting, president Frank Coonelly, Huntington, manager Clint Hurdle and Rafa Nieves, Polanco's agent, were all in attendance.
Years ago, Nutting made a commitment to invest more resources into the Pirates' Latin American scouting and development, particularly in Polanco's native Dominican Republic.
Polanco signed with the Pirates for $150,000 in 2009. He was 17 years old, all limbs and projectable tools. He is still growing into his raw ability, still not the star many expected him to be right away. But he has emerged as a critical piece of the Pirates' future -- and he has a guaranteed, long-term contract to prove it.
"I think it's a tremendous testament to what the organizational plan had been, because we know we need to source talent everywhere we can, infuse talent into the organization," Nutting said. "One of the critical building blocks early on was the work [director of Latin American scouting] Rene Gayo did, our development internationally, our commitment to the Dominican academy.
"To see Gregory come up and be touched by so many parts of that system, I think there's a huge part of that success that should be celebrated -- that broader process and plan and the people who put us here."
The contract provides the Pirates with cost certainty through Polanco's arbitration-eligible years. He was under club control through the 2020 season whether he signed or not, and this deal buys out up to three of his free-agent years.
Such a long-term contract puts both sides at risk. McCutchen and Marte are on track to drastically outperform their contracts and could have made more in arbitration. Jose Tabata's long-term deal didn't work out for the Pirates.
After a year and a half in Pittsburgh, Polanco was ready to get a deal done.
"I'm very excited to be here for a long time. It makes me feel proud, makes me feel happy to be here and just play," Polanco said. "I waited for the right time. ... I love to play here."
Polanco is only 24 years old, the youngest player on the Pirates' Opening Day roster for the second year in a row. This year, the outfielder looks poised for a breakthrough -- and he feels the same way.
Entering this season, Polanco said he wanted to finally put it all together and perform like a "star player," the way he did as a top prospect in the Minors. With his future financially secure, Polanco can focus solely on achieving that goal. And the Pirates can bank on having their outfield in place for a few more years.
"It allows us to have him be one of our building-block players. It allows us to build around him," Huntington said. "We're honored and humbled with his commitment to us, and he's shown us nothing to give us any hesitation whatsoever in making this kind of commitment to him as a person and as a player."