Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds

Report: Jose Tabata and Pirates agree to six-year contract

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Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports that the Pirates are close to signing outfielder Jose Tabata to a six-year contract.

Tabata, who just returned from the disabled list Tuesday after missing six weeks with a quadriceps injury, won’t be arbitration eligible for the first time until 2014. Presumably the six-year deal would include a team option for at least his first season of free agency in 2017.

Even then it’s an odd move for the Pirates given that Tabata is under their control through 2016 already and hasn’t exactly established himself as a long-term building block yet, hitting .285 with a .348 on-base percentage and .385 slugging percentage in 175 career games.

I’m all for locking up young players long term and he’s been a valuable player who certainly projects to improve further at age 22, but committing six years worth of upfront money to someone who’s yet to prove he’s more than a solid regular seems like an unnecessary risk. According to Rojas previous negotiations breaking down led to Tabata firing his agent, but his new representation have made more progress in talks.

UPDATE: Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review says the Tabata deal would cover six seasons and also include three team options for his free agent years, which makes it somewhat easier to understand the Pirates’ motivation.

UPDATE II: Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes now reports that the deal is done. Tabata is signed through 2016 and guaranteed $14.75 over the life of the contract. The Pirates hold options from 2017-19 that could bring the total value of the deal to $37.25 million.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.