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.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.