Wednesday, June 17, 2015

By Robert Cunningham, Staff Writer - 

The Pirates currently have an excellent outfield alignment of McCutchen, Polanco, and Marte giving them one of the best groups in all of baseball.

Rewind a few years back and there is one name missing from that trio: Jose Tabata.

At the tender age of 21, the Pirates committed to a long term contract (6 guaranteed years plus 3 option years) with Tabata for a very team-friendly $15MM (Option years total an additional $22.5MM).

Through 2013 the contract appeared to be fair for both sides, although Jose didn’t exactly light the world on fire as the Pirates had hoped.

Then in 2014 Jose struggled in April through mid-June and was sent down for the remainder of the summer. When he was recalled again he had a very pedestrian line the rest of the way, splitting time with the other outfielders.

However in 2015, Tabata, across 28 games to start the season in AAA, held a .352/.422/.396 slash line, receiving a call-up to the Majors just over two weeks ago where he started out well but has fallen off fast with a .278/.316/.278 line in limited action.

This is the type of player where extensive scouting and evaluation would truly matter for the Angels if they were to consider a trade. Of course all players are scouted and evaluated but Jose’s bat lacks punch and his contact ability is what would make a real difference to the Angels.

Out of all of the options Tabata carries the most risk performance-wise but he still has a touch of upside. As a leadoff hitter who can crack singles and doubles around the field, potentially high on-base skills, a touch of speed, and adequate defense in left field he is a high-risk, buy-low candidate.

Another selling point is his contract. The Pirates are on the hook for his $4MM salary in 2015 and his $4.5MM salary in 2016 because they took him off the 40-man roster.

After 2016, Tabata carries 3 option years for $6.5MM, $7.5MM, and $8.5MM respectively. All three option years have a mere $250K buy out attached.

This means that the financial investment is very small in return for the potential production that he might give. Although he certainly isn’t the sexiest option on the table, he is in his age 26 season where a lot of players “break-out” and start living up to their potential.

If the Angels were willing to take on some or all of Jose’s 2015 and 2016 salaries it probably wouldn’t cost the team a lot in prospects. Perhaps 1-2 prospects, probably pitchers, such as Adam Wilk, or perhaps an infield prospect like Alex Yarbrough.
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