FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Twins are nearing an extension with shortstop Jorge Polanco and have an agreement with outfielder Max Kepler on a similar long-term deal, according to sources.
Polanco’s deal is expected to be for five years in the $25.75 million range with a vesting option for the sixth and a club option for the seventh year, while Kepler’s extension is for $35 million over five years and a club option for a sixth.
Polanco, 25, was set to enter his final pre-arbitration year in 2019 before becoming arbitration-eligible for the first time in ’20. Kepler’s extension covers all his years of arbitration eligibility, plus up to two free-agent years if the Twins pick up the club option in 2024.
The switch-hitting Polanco took over as the Twins’ primary shortstop midway through the 2016 season and is a career .272/.329/.420 hitter with good contact skills, making him a prime candidate to assume the leadoff position in Minnesota’s lineup this season. His most productive year came in ’17, when he hit .256/.313/.410 with career highs in hits (125), doubles (30), homers (13) and RBIs (74).
Polanco was unable to build on that breakout campaign when he received an 80-game suspension during Spring Training last season for the use of a performance-enhancing substance. He spent the duration of his suspension working with new Twins strength and conditioning coordinator Ian Kadish, and upon his return, Polanco posted a career-best slash line (.288/.345/.427) and OPS (.773).
The 26-year-old Kepler hit .224/.319/.408 with a career-high 20 home runs last season. Since his first extended big league action in 2016, Kepler has averaged 19 homers and 63 RBIs a season while hitting .233/.314/.418.