Pirates demote Jose Tabata and his $15 million contract to Triple-A

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Less than a year ago the Pirates and Jose Tabata agreed to a long-term contract extension that guarantees him $15 million, could reach as high as $37 million, and keeps him under team control through 2019.

Today the Pirates optioned Tabata to Triple-A after he hit just .230 with three homers and a .636 OPS in 72 games.

Tabata’s production last season was also disappointing, as he failed to build on a strong rookie campaign and also missed significant time with a broken hand, but he’s been downright awful this year offensively, defensively, and on the bases.

Still, to go from $15 million contract extension to Triple-A banishment in 11 months is pretty remarkable and it’s interesting that the Pirates chose not to call up top prospect Starling Marte as his replacement. Instead they’ll keep Marte at Triple-A and turn to Gorkys Hernandez, a light-hitting speedster who briefly saw some action in Pittsburgh back in May. That suggests they view the Tabata demotion as temporary–which is sort of a given thanks to the contract–and may also feel that Marte isn’t quite ready for the big leagues at age 23.

Also worth noting: At the time of the signing Tabata’s contract extension struck me as “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.” Sometimes things are exactly as they appear.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.