Projected to be the team’s starting right fielder on Opening Day, there is word coming out of Pittsburgh that the Pirates are looking to move Jose Tabata. The team is “shopping” him around on the trade market, though it remains to be seen what they are seeking in return for the 25 year old.
Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes that he’s got three years and $12.25 Million remaining on his contract. He’ll earn $3 Million this coming season, $4 Million in 2015, and $4.5 Million in 2016. Tabata’s contract – signed prior to the 2011 season – also contains three club options that could potentially add another $21.5 Million to the total value if all are exercised. The deal was viewed at the time of the signing as one that was highly team friendly and it still may appear to be so.
Tabata, however, no longer seems to fit into the team’s plans long term.
Pushed into right field due to the presence of superior defenders in the team’s outfield – specifically Andrew McCutchen in center field and Starling Marte in left – Tabata is somewhat miscast as a right fielder. He doesn’t really possess the arm for the position and has yet to develop the power stroke that most teams typically look for in their corner outfielders. With top prospect Gregory Polanco rapidly approaching (he’ll begin the year at Triple-A even though some believe he’s MLB ready), Tabata’s time with the Pirates appears to be coming to an end. His contract would be beneficial if he can remain a starter, but being pushed into a bench role makes him an asset that the team can stand to part with.
Tabata had a respectable season in 2013 when he was able to stay healthy, batting .282/.342/.429 in 341 PA. His 6 HR were a career high but hardly the type of production the team thought he’d be able to put up by now. He’s no longer compensated for that lack of power on the bases, stealing just three bases on the year.
There are no immediate options that jump out as a potential suitor. Tabata’s limited skillset will limit the market, even given the potential upside and his seemingly affordable contract. Another team may take a chance on him depending on what the Pirates end up asking for in return.