Jose Tabata Rumors

Quick Hits: Martinez, Rusney, Difo, Tabata, Judge

One international scouting director calls Cuban center field prospect Eddy Martinez an “impact talent,” Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs reports (Twitter links). McDaniel credits the 20-year-old with 70-grade speed and 50-grade raw power, joining other recent observers in expecting an eight-figure bonus for the youngster. Though we’ve heard suggestions that a signing could come quickly, McDaniel says it remains unclear whether he’ll wait until the next July 2 period kicks off. Martinez will, of course, be subject to international bonus pool restrictions regardless of when he signs.

Here are some more notes on prospects and promotions:

  • The Red Sox no longer have any good reasons to keep outfielder Rusney Castillo in Triple-A, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com opines. Stats and scouts suggest he is ready, says Edes, and the big league club could use an offensive boost. While the team still has more outfielders than it knows quite what to do with, even after outrighting Allen Craig, Edes says that should not get in the way of Castillo — particularly given the club’s huge investment in him.
  • The Nationals will make a surprising call-up of middle infield prospect Wilmer Difo, the team announced (and as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted earlier today). The 23-year-old broke out last year and earned Baseball America’s seventh slot on the club’s prospect list entering the season. As BA noted, Difo has ample tools, and finally put them to use in A ball in 2014. He had already earned a jump to Double-A this season, where he owns a .308/.339/.500 slash over 56 plate appearances. For now, it seems Difo will just get a taste of big league action while filling in for Jayson Werth, who needs to rest an injured wrist but has apparently avoided serious injury.
  • Outfielder Jose Tabata is headed back to the Pirates today, as Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on Twitter. The 26-year-old once looked like a cornerstone player, but has struggled to maintain consistency in recent years and was ultimately outrighted last season. He has been impressive at Triple-A this year, however, slashing .352/.422/.396 with eleven walks against just eight strikeouts over 102 turns at the plate. Tabata is owed $4MM this year and $4.5MM next season under the early-career extension that he signed. Pittsburgh can also control him for three additional seasons through a series of club options.
  • Towering Yankees prospect Aaron Judge is putting up strong results against Double-A pitching and could be due for a move to the final level of the minors, ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand writes. Judge could be with the club as soon as early 2016, Marchand writes, and he’s not the only prospect making waves. Slade Heathcott, a former top prospect who lost his 40-man roster spot, is enjoying renewed success and has forced himself back into the Yankees’ plans. Said GM Brian Cashman of Heathcott: “He is a legitimate option for us at the major league level.”

Neal Huntington On Harrison, Kingham, Tabata

Here’s the latest on the Pirates from GM Neal Huntington, courtesy of the Post-Gazette’s Paul Zeise:

  • Huntington feels that third baseman Josh Harrison, who’s hitting just .173/.209/.282 after today’s game, is pressing to prove he deserves the extension he received last month. Huntington feels that players react one of three ways after receiving a new contract. Some players relax and play better as a result; others, content with their newfound wealth, stop trying as hard. And then there’s Harrison. “The third case, which is what we believe is the case with Josh, he is trying to justify the contract, he is trying to show those who doubted him and show those of us that had faith in him that he is deserving.”
  • Prospect Nick Kingham, who injured his elbow last week, is seeking a second opinion. Huntington is not yet willing to say what doctors believe Kingham’s injury is. Heading into the season, MLB.com, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus all ranked Kingham in the bottom half of their lists of the top 100 prospects in the game. He was pitching reasonably well for Triple-A Indianapolis and likely will make his big-league debut this season if he can return to health. The news that he’s seeking a second opinion suggests that his injury is significant, however.
  • Jose Tabata is hitting .338/.416/.397 at Indianapolis, but it doesn’t sound like Huntington is anticipating that the often frustrating outfielder will return to Pittsburgh, even though he’s signed through at least 2016. “We have been very open with Jose that while we hope his return to the big leagues [is] with us, he is a guy who may need to get somebody else’s attention and have somebody come get him,” says Huntington.

NL Central Notes: Iglesias, Cubs, Tabata

Raisel Iglesias is about to debut in the Reds rotation, a process that began when Reds scout Mark Snipp watched Iglesias pitch in Mexico, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. Iglesias was taller than the Reds had heard he was, and had a good curveball and slider. The Reds were willing to commit $27MM to Iglesias because they viewed him as a starter, while other teams figured he would be a reliever. That marked the Reds’ second high-profile signing of a Cuban pitcher in recent years, the other being Aroldis Chapman. “In both cases, we probably went further (financially) than we thought we would go,” says GM Walt Jocketty. “But we have absolutely zero regrets.” Here’s more from the NL Central.

  • Even if your team is rebuilding, it’s important to have the right veterans, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein tells MLB Network Radio (via the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich, who connects the Cubs’ efforts to rebuild to those of the Astros). “When you have a young team, we were the youngest team in baseball last year, and probably will be again this year, it can get really rudderless and lost in a hurry if you don’t have the right veterans around,” says Epstein. “[P]eople … mock that sometimes because it’s hard to quantify but it’s real.” Last year’s Cubs team prominently featured thirty-something players like John Baker, Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano and Edwin Jackson even though most of the season focused on trades of veterans and the development of young players.
  • Outfielder Jose Tabata wouldn’t mind if the Pirates traded him, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. “I want to be in the big leagues, whether it’s here or somewhere else,” says Tabata. “If somebody else gives me an opportunity and the Pirates trade me, that’s OK. I want to stay here, but we’ll see what happens.” In 2011, the Pirates signed Tabata to a long-term deal that has not worked out, and the two years and $8.75MM remaining on that deal will likely be an impediment to any trade, especially since Tabata hit a mere .282/.314/.333 in 186 plate appearances last year and is no longer even on the Pirates’ 40-man roster.


Outrighted: Tabata, Buck, Boesch

After being designated for assignment last week, Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata has been outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis and accepted the assignment, reports MLB.com’s Tom Singer. The move is not a surprise, as had Tabata rejected the assignment he would have forfeited the remaining $8.5MM on his contract.

Here are some more outright-related moves from around the league…

  • Both John Buck and Brennan Boesch have rejected outright assignments from the Angels in lieu of free agency, Angels director of communications Eric Kay announced (on Twitter). Buck, 34, picked up five plate appearances with the Halos this season after spending much of the season with the Mariners. The veteran batted .225/.289/.281 in 97 plate appearances overall on the year. Boesch, 29, hit .187/.203/.293 with a pair of home runs in 79 PA for the Angels. The duo was designated for assignment earlier this week when the Angels claimed Alfredo Marte and Roger Kieschnick on waivers.

Pirates Designate Jose Tabata For Assignment

The Pirates have designated right-handed-hitting outfielder Jose Tabata for assignment, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Tabata’s struggles led to him being outrighted earlier in the year, though he made his way back to the big league roster and ultimately played in the Wild Card game.

Tabata, 26, has not lived up to the expectations that led the team to sign him to a six-year, $15MM extension in August of 2011. Over the 2012-14 seasons, he has logged only 901 plate appearances, slashing .266/.325/.375. Tabata also saw his promising early numbers on the basepaths (35 steals; 14 times caught in 2010-11) wither away (12 bags stolen, 15 times caught since).

Though Tabata’s .771 OPS in part-time duty last year raised some hope that Pittsburgh would recoup some production from its investment, he again faltered this year. Over just 186 plate appearances, he posted a meager .282/.314/.333 line.

In the end, the Pirates remain on the hook for $8.75MM over the next two years. That includes a $250K buyout for the successive club options that come with his contract. ($6.5MM for 2017, escalating by $1MM thereafter.) Though the early-career extension did not work out, neither does it constitute too serious an impediment, even to a small-payroll club like the Bucs.

Tabata’s contract has already passed through waivers once, but it is not clear that he has much of a future in Pittsburgh at this point. As things stand, the Pirates seem likely to allow Travis Snider a chance this spring to hold off youngster Gregory Polanco for the regular role, perhaps deploying a righty bat to complement those left-handed swingers. Snider, who slashed .264/.338/.438 and hit 13 home runs through 359 plate appearances, has two more seasons of arbitration eligibility remaining.


Pirates Outright Jose Tabata

The Pirates have outrighted Jose Tabata to Triple-A Indianapolis, the team announced via press release. The move clears space for second baseman Neil Walker to be activated from the disabled list.

Clearly, this is a disappointing outcome for both team and player, as Tabata was once viewed as a building block for the Pirates as they were re-tooling in 2011. Tabata inked a six-year, $15MM extension with the Bucs at the time that contains a trio of club options which can boost the deal to a total of $37.5MM. At the time of the extension, he had backed up a .299/.346/.400 rookie campaign with a .264/.351/.362 batting line and was just a nine days removed from his 23rd birthday.

Tabata, also a threat on the basepaths and a solid defensive left fielder, seemed to have quite a bit of upside, but his bat never progressed much after signing the deal. He hit .243/.315/.348 the following season and has batted .267/.328/.377 in 869 plate appearances since the contract was signed. With Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and now Gregory Polanco occupying the regular outfield spots, Tabata doesn’t have a route to everyday at-bats, though it’s somewhat surprising, given his solid glove in left and decent numbers against lefties, that he wasn’t kept on the roster in a reserve capacity.

Tabata is owed roughly $1.59MM over the remainder of the current season, $4MM in 2015 and $4.5MM in 2016. The buyout on his first option is $250K, meaning he’s guaranteed roughly $10.34MM through the end of 2016. As a player with more than three years of Major League service time that was outrighted, Tabata has the option to reject the assignment in favor of free agency, though in doing so he would forfeit the remaining guarantee on his contract, making the option more or less a moot point.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington reportedly shopped Tabata throughout Spring Training this season but was unable to find a taker.


AL Central Notes: Tigers, Marcum, Tabata, Twins

The Tigers' best way to address their shortstop issue is to try an internal option, like Danny Worth, then reevaluate the matter if Worth struggles, MLive.com's James Schmehl writes. At that point, if Stephen Drew is still a free agent, the Tigers could call agent Scott Boras. Schmehl also doesn't think the Tigers should pay a high price for the Diamondbacks' Chris Owings when the injured Jose Iglesias remains their shortstop of the future.  Drew was the top option in an MLBTR readers poll earlier today, as over 37% of voters felt that the Tigers will ultimately just sign the veteran shortstop to replace Iglesias.

Here are more notes from around the AL Central…

  • The Phillies and Cubs were among the many teams who had scouts watching the Tigers' minor leaguers in action on Wednesday, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports.  Earlier today, we heard that the Tigers were scouting Darwin Barney and Nate Schierholtz of the Cubs to address their holes at short and left field, respectively.
  • Shaun Marcum would like to stay in the Indians organization even if he doesn't make their rotation, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets.  Marcum can opt out of his deal if he does not make the team out of spring training.  Marcum was supposed to compete for the Indians' fifth starter job, but he has fallen behind as he has continued to recover from thoracic outlet syndrome and is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season.
  • The Pirates have reportedly been shopping outfielder Jose Tabata, but the Twins are probably not among the interested teams, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets.
  • The Twins' final roster decisions are being complicated by both a number of out-of-options players and the fact that several players competing for jobs simply haven't performed well at Spring Training, MLB.com's Andrew Simon reports.  "Nobody's really stepped up to try to earn the spots, and that's a bad feeling when you're looking at giving spots away," Twins assistant GM Mark Antony told reporters, including Simon.

MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth also contributed to this post


Pirates Shopping Jose Tabata

With Spring Training's end drawing closer, the Pirates are shopping right fielder Jose Tabata and also willing to listen to offers on out-of-options reliever Vin Mazzaro, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter links).

Tabata, still just 25 years of age, is owed $11.75MM over the next three seasons and has a trio of club options on his deal ranging from $6.5MM to $8.5MM. Tabata will earn $3MM in 2014, $4MM in 2015, $4.5MM in 2016 and has a $250K buyout on his $6.5MM option for 2017.

Coming off a poor 2012 performance, he reversed his fortunes in 2013 by slashing a solid .282/.342/.429, but Tabata already runs far less often than he did in his first two seasons (three steals in 2013 versus 35 in his first two campaigns) and hasn't seen much power develop. Beyond that, he's been injury prone, having spent a combined 77 games on the shelf between his 2011 and 2013 DL stints. Tabata plays a fine left field but is miscast as a center fielder and doesn't have a prototypical right fielder's arm.

Tabata's time as a starter with the organization is likely running out anyhow, a top prospect Gregory Polanco is nearly ready for the bigs. The 22-year-old ranks as baseball's No. 10 prospect according to Baseball America and is ranked 13th and 24th by MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus, respectively. Though he's already been optioned to Triple-A to open the season, Polanco is coming off a 2013 campaign in which he batted .285/.356/.434 with 12 homers and 38 stolen bases and could be with the Pirates as soon as this summer. Alongside, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen, he could help give the Pirates one of the game's most exciting young outfields.

Mazzaro, 27, enjoyed a breakout campaign in his first season with Pittsburgh last year. The former A's hurler was dealt to the Royals in a trade for David DeJesus but entered 2013 with a career 5.22 ERA in 286 innings. The Pirates acquired him cheaply from Kansas City and were rewarded with 73 2/3 innings of a 2.81 ERA with 5.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a career-best 52.2 percent ground-ball rate.

Pittsburgh has a wealth of options in the bullpen, highlighted by All-Star closer Jason Grilli but also featuring Mark Melancon, Justin Wilson and Tony Watson. Biertempfel notes that Mazzaro appears to be the odd man out, and the team is therefore willing to move him, but his phrasing doesn't seem to be as strong regarding Mazzaro as it is in expressing Tabata's availability. Last night, ESPN's Buster Olney speculated that the Pirates, who lost catcher Chris Stewart for an extended period of time, could match up with the Yankees in a trade; New York could use some additional stability in the bullpen, while Pittsburgh could add some depth behind the plate and seek a better defensive backup than Tony Sanchez.


NL Central Links: Taveras, Profar, Lohse, Tabata

Perhaps no player in the game brings as much focus and preparation to his at-bats as Joey Votto, ESPN's Buster Olney details in this must-read profile of the Reds first baseman (Insider subscription required).  "It's all about reframing the challenge," Votto said. "I've stopped caring about runs and RBIs. I care more about how high a percentage of productive at-bats I can have, how consistently tough and competitive I can be for the opposing pitcher. That's my goal every single time I go up there."

Here's the latest from around the NL Central…

  • A swap of Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar for Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras "has not been discussed," one of the involved GMs tells Peter Gammons of the MLB Network (Twitter link).  Needless to say, such a deal would be a blockbuster; Profar and Taveras rank first and third, respectively, on Baseball America's preseason ranking of the sport's 100 best prospects.  Gammons wonders if Profar-for-Taveras would be on the table "if [Scott] Boras didn't represent [Elvis] Andrus," thus making it uncertain if Andrus would sign an extension to remain in Texas.
  • Few teams would benefit from signing Kyle Lohse as much as the Brewers, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel opines.  The Brewers have been adamant about going with younger pitchers and not spending big on veteran starters, but Haudricourt wonders if Lohse could be an option given how some of Milwaukee's current rotation members have struggled during Spring Training.
  • Mark Rogers, one of those struggling pitchers, is out of options and the Brewers are looking at several different ways to avoid losing him on waivers, Haudricourt writes.
  • Jose Tabata needs to produce to remain with the Pirates, as Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette outlines how Tabata is out of options and, if he doesn't make the roster, could be a good trade chip due to his team-friendly contract.  Click here for a full list of every player who is out of options this spring.
  • From earlier today, the Cardinals released Ronny Cedeno and we heard the Tigers weren't interested in Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol.

NL Notes: Pirates, Nationals, Cardinals, Kershaw

With Spring Training in full swing, wonderful stories from present and past are always emerging. Take Rays starter Chris Archer, who is not just fighting for a spot on Tampa Bay’s opening-day roster, but is on a quest for self-discovery. (As told by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.)  Or today's matchup between former and current Padres workhorses Jake Peavy and Clayton Richard, who were traded for one another back at the 2009 trade deadline.  (Courtesy of Corey Brock of MLB.com.)  Or, going back further still, recall Roberto Clemente, whose presence was felt strongly in Fort Myers, FL during his playing days and lives on vividly today. (From David Dorsey of News-Press.com.)  On to some National League notes …

  • While there was never a question who would cover the right-field grass for Pittsburgh when Clemente was roaming Forbes Field, the team must find someone to man that role in 2013. Jose Tabata has shown hustle and power this spring that have exceeded the Pirates' expectations, Tom Singer of MLB.com writes.  Still just 24 years old, Tabata’s strong showing thus far has only further complicated Pittsburgh’s right field situation. As Singer explains, in addition to Tabata and trade-deadline acquisition Travis Snider (who the team hopes will lay claim to the position), the Pirates are considering options like Clint Robinson, Jerry Sands, Alex Presley, Garrett Jones, Felix Pie, Darren Ford, and Brad Hawpe
  • Also making a surprising impression in Pirates camp is right-handed reliever Brooks Brown, who Singer says has emerged as an unexpected favorite to earn a spot in the Bucs' bullpen.  Brown was selected by Arizona in the first round back in 2006, but has yet to make a big league appearance.
  • Another darkhorse bullpen candidate who appears to be making strong moves towards a roster spot is the Nationals' Fernando Abad.  As reported by The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, with fellow left-handed relievers Bill Bray, Will Ohman, and Brandon Mann being sent to minor league camp, the 27-year-old minor-league-invitee Abad now stands as the most likely candidate to round out the Washington bullpen should the Nationals decide to keep another lefty alongside Zach Duke.  (Ohman was apparently cut during today's game, just after his poor outing, according to Mark Townsend of Yahoo.)
  • The Nationals also welcomed back catcher Wilson Ramos, who made his first appearance in a game since tearing his ACL early in the 2012 season, reports James Wagner of The Washington Post.  Ramos will likely split time with Kurt Suzuki as soon as he is able to catch regularly.
  • With Rafael Furcal being shut down indefinitely after a setback in his recovery from the elbow injury he suffered late last season, the Cardinals are planning what GM John Mozeliak is calling “an open competition” at shortstop, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. After emerging last season when Furcal went down, Pete Kozma will battle with veteran Ronny Cedeno for the starting job out of camp.
  • The Dodgers' outstanding young starting pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, says that he is not thinking about whether or not he can top the Felix Hernandez contract, Tracy Ringolsby or MLB.com writes.  Kershaw explains that he'll "play the game the same way" regardless of salary because "it's the best job you could have. … I talk to my buddies all the time.  They are putting on suits and ties, and going to the office every day.  I put on a uniform and play a game."