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.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.