Jose Tabata Rumors

Minor Moves: Tabata, Romak, Wheeler

We’ll track the day’s minor moves here:

  • The Pirates have outrighted outfielder Jose Tabata to Triple-A, per the International League transactions page. Recently designated for assignment, Tabata still has another year left on the extension he signed early in his career. It’s no surprise, then, that Tabata appears on the Triple-A Indianapolis roster (Twitter link), meaning that he’s accepted his assignment rather than sacrificing his remaining guaranteed money to become a free agent.
  • Pursuant to an upward mobility clause like the one we explained yesterday, the Diamondbacks have notified the rest of the league that infielder/outfielder Jamie Romak is available to any club that is willing to add him to its active roster, MLBTR has learned. The 29-year-old is obviously hoping for a chance at big league playing time, but has also asked the team to sell his contract to a Japanese or Korean club if an MLB job is not available. Despite a very strong recent track record at Triple-A, Romak has only received 23 big league plate appearances in his career (all coming last year with the Dodgers). Thus far in 2015, he’s slashed .299/.375/.541 with 13 home runs over 323 trips to the plate. Notably, Romak has also spent time at second base this season for the first time in his career, adding to his versatility after logging plenty of minor league innings in the corner outfield and at both first and third.
  • The Twins have released third baseman Ryan Wheeler, Kevin Oklobzija of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports on Twitter. Wheeler, who’ll soon turn 27, signed with Minnesota in May after being released by the Angels. He’s struggled ever since, putting up a .233/.243/.315 slash in 74 plate appearances at Triple-A. Wheeler received limited MLB playing time in each of the last three years with the Diamondbacks and Rockies. All said, he has put up a .233/.280/.335 slash in 225 turns at the plate.

Pirates Designate Jose Tabata For Assignment

The Pirates have designated Jose Tabata for assignment, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter).

The outfielder once looked like a future cornerstone player but he has fallen off in recent seasons.  Last year, Tabata’s struggles resulted in him being outrighted off the 40-man roster.  In 41 plate appearances this year, Tabata hit just .289/.341/.289.  He fared much better in Triple-A, however, slashing .352/.422/.396 with eleven walks against just eight strikeouts over 102 turns at the plate.

Tabata’s deal calls for him to earn the prorated portion of $4MM this year and $4.5MM next season under the early-career extension that he signed.  Back in May, GM Neal Huntington indicated that 2015 could have been Tabata’s final year in Pittsburgh.

As the MLBTR DFA Tracker shows, there are now four players in DFA limbo: Tabata, Rafael Lopez, Erik Kratz, and Scott Atchison.


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.