This morning Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reported that the Pirates and Jose Tabata are close to agreeing to a six-year contract and now Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review says they’re also working on signing Neil Walker to a similar long-term deal.
According to Biertempfel the Tabata deal will cover six seasons and include three team options that would allow Pittsburgh to buy out his early free agent seasons, which makes the Pirates’ motivation a little easier to understand than this morning’s report.
They’re trying to get Walker locked up with a similar deal, but apparently aren’t quite as close to completing negotiations.
Also of note is that Biertempfel says attempts to engage Andrew McCutchen in long-term contract talks “have stalled” with “no movement for weeks. McCutchen is under team control through 2015, so there’s no big rush for the Pirates, but unlike with Tabata and Walker he’s already established himself as a star player.
Tabata has hit .285 with a .348 on-base percentage and .385 slugging percentage through 175 career games, while the 25-year-old Walker has hit .280 with a .338 on-base percentage and .420 slugging percentage in 247 games. Good, solid young players, but committing upfront money to players already under team control for many years to come is a risky strategy with non-stars.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.
According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.
Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.
While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.
Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.
More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.
Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.