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.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.