Even though Jose Tabata‘s position on the field is listed as right fielder, it may as well be “albatross.” After signing him to a six-year extension in 2011, Tabata quickly fell out of favor with both the Pirates front office and fans, due to his perceived bad work ethic, and total drop off in some of the tools that earned him that extension, namely his speed. Let’s take a brief look at Tabata’s career numbers to date:
It’s extremely obvious to everyone that Jose Tabata will never be an everyday player in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. Having said that, is there a place for him on the 25-man roster? The Pirates of course do not think so, having given him every chance to prove he belongs on the roster, only to be forced to designate him for assignment or even outright release him. Yet, like an albatross around the Pirates’ collective tattooed-necks, Tabata won’t back down. In some ways, you could equate him to the ex-significant other who just won’t let you break up with him. Except this is a very costly ex. 4.5 million dollars will make you turn your head and give a player another look. Let’s see if we can find a place for him on the 2015 Pirates bench.
Even though Jose Tabata’s position on the field is listed as right fielder, it may as well be “albatross.”
Sean Rodriguez, Jeong-ho Kang, Corey Hart, and Chris Stewart are all locks to make the 25-man roster when Spring Training breaks. Of those, Hart’s position hinges on his health, but we’ll save that for another column. I haven’t even mentioned Andrew Lambo yet, who figures to also be a lock due to his ability to play 1B as well, which cannot be undervalued these days.
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I’m struggling to make my final decision on Tabata because those numbers above really aren’t that bad for a bench bat, right? As I mentioned, whatever speed Tabata had is long-gone, and it had a serious effect on his .SLG percentage, which fell by almost 100 points (.096). So if his ideal role is a pinch hitter and once-every-two-weeks starter, can we rely on him to create offense off the bench? His batting average for the past two years tell us “maybe” (.282). but his on base percentage (.314) tells us “absolutely not.” Yet, his strikeout rate is a VERY acceptable 14.9% in 2014. So, ok, you may be telling yourself “I know what it is, his .BABIP (batting average on balls in play) must be very good. Bingo. His .BABIP was .327 for 2014, .314 for his career. If you’re making a case for Tabata to be on the 25-man for Opening Day, you would definitely leave this out of your argument, because his luck will run out. And once it does, what’s left? Game-changing speed? Nope. Power? Not a chance. Outfield flexibility? Maybe, but we already have enough guys who are multi-position wunderkinds.
It took me a little while to get there, but it is clear to me now that Jose Tabata is a rare miscue by Neal Huntington, and a deal I’m sure he would like to have back. The Pirates would be best suited to work out a buyout for him to save a little bit of cash down the road. Until they do that, he’ll just do what he does best: hang around a major league roster, contribute very little, and “earn” his paycheck.