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A trade or two might help shape active roster

Jose Tabata

Jose Tabata

I’m set to fly back to Bradenton, Fla., tomorrow and hunker down for the final few days of spring training. Another round of cuts could happen Wednesday morning, as the Pirates inch closer to their 25-man active roster. In the meantime, I’ve heard from a couple of sources that the Pirates are letting teams know Jose Tabata, Vin Mazzaro and Travis Snider are available.

Of the three, the only name that surprised me a bit was Snider. He’s having a pretty good spring, has slimmed down and still has upside. But, it’s not that the Pirates are writing him off so much as he likely has more trade value now than he will later in the season.
Tabata is not having a good spring. He also hasn’t done much to live up to the six-year, $15.5 million contract he signed on 21 August 2011. Tabata will make $3 million this year, $4 million in 2015 and $4.5 million in 2016. The deal also has three team options, which include a $250,000 buyout. If all the options are exercised, the contract’s total value would be $37.25 million.
If either Tabata or Snider is dealt, do not assume top prospect Gregory Polanco (who last week was reassigned to minor league camp) will be on the Opening Day roster. Jaff Decker, Chris Dickerson and/or Travis Ishikawa could be the fourth outfielder. Andrew Lambo also could fill that role if his conversion to first base hits a snag or if Gaby Sanchez merits full-time duty. Polanco has a total of nine at-bats at the Triple-A level. It also makes sense to delay his arrival in Pittsburgh until after the Super 2 safety date sometime in mid-June. Trading either Snider or Tabata certainly would be done with an eye toward Polanco’s eventual arrival, but it wouldn’t necessarily hasten it.
Mazzaro, 27, had a breakout season last year and was rewarded through the arbitration process with a $950,000 salary for 2014. He is out of minor league options. If Stolmy Pimentel, Jeanmar Gomez and Bryan Morris (all of whom are younger, cheaper and also out of options) make the club, Mazzaro would be the odd man out. Selling high on Mazzaro would seem to make sense — perhaps a way to snag a backup catcher and give Tony Sanchez a chance to keep polishing his game at Indy instead of wasting away on the bench behind Russell Martin.

– Rob Biertempfel



  1. Steelkings says:

    I’d like to be the 1st to welcome back Kelly Shoppach to the organization.

  2. Steelkings says:

    Its also looking like the Fort may not make the Rockies 25 man.

  3. Jason Curtis says:

    Question for you Rob. Is the ONLY reason the Pirates are waiting to bring up Polanco & Taillon money driven? From what I see & read about spring training thus far, Polanco is just as good, if not a better option in right than Snyder, Tabata, Lambo & the new guys. Wouldn’t it benefit THIS year’s team to get these guys in the mix ASAP? I keep on hearing Hurdle & the players talking about, ‘ the time is NOW’ Apparently that doesn’t apply yet to two of our future stars & mainstays. Leaves me scratching my head.

  4. NMR says:

    Kind of surprised to see so many others surprised at the Tabby news. This has been coming since Polanco broke out. Can’t just assume they’ll be able to trade him as soon as Polanco is ready.

  5. m3s says:

    McKenry has an option. Still don’t know why they released him and kept garbage on the 40 man.

  6. Montanapirate says:

    Why not trade Tabata and keep Matinez to play all over the field like Sibby Sisti in the 1950’s

  7. Nate83 says:

    Not to mention they have been loading up with other options such as Decker who I think they like and do see as having 4th outfielder upside for cheaper then Tabata and Dickerson who can fill the void until Polanco arrives and offer minor league depth as needed.

    I’m not surprised at all that they exploring a trade of Snider or Tabata. Next year I think Decker will be out of options and they will have 6 players for 3 outfield spots. That isn’t even considering Lambo in the equation which he needs to be.

  8. NMR says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d LIKE to keep Tabby around until, and after, Polanco arrives. But that’s more of a luxury than a need, IMO.

    Let me say that I’m assuming a Tabby trade consists of more than a salary dump at this point. And yes, I realize that is a terrible assumption given this organizations reputation, but we gotta start somewhere.

  9. Nate83 says:

    I think this is the first time in a long time this organization has assets that are a luxury for them that can be considered useable contributing players of other teams around the league. I think it’s fair to assume that any of these 3 guys being traded are for baseball reasons to improve the team and not salary dumps.

    If they are willing to sign Volquez for 5 million I have to imagine 3 million this year and 4 million next year for Tabby isn’t out of the question. It’s just they have other options in right field and Tabby has the most trade value to help fill other needs.

  10. yokesoverz says:

    Can’t argue with the logic. I could also see John Buck from Seattle coming as a back-up catcher – especially for an arm like Mazzaro considering the injuries the Mariners are having with their pitchers.

  11. Justin says:

    I just have an awful feeling that we haven’t seen the best that Jose has to offer. Still a lot of talent there. Oh well. Not like you can have Polanco, Tabata, and Snider ALL in RF in the MLB squad. Can’t keep everybody.

  12. steelkings says:

    The bigger story is Stewarts injury. The Pirates now have no depth at catcher. If one of the two, Martin or Sanchez gets hurt early, then what? How much will that cost?

    I mean the ability to control the running game is a large reason the Pirates made the playoffs last year. Suddenly another position became very fragile.

  13. Andrew says:

    Salary dump? We might have different definitions of the word, I consider Brandon Philip/Rollins salary dumps, I would describe $4 million/year for a fourth outfielder who could start a trade asset. Tabata has more value than any of the oft mentioned first base trade targets. However I agree the Pirates seem to have a surplus of forth outfielder’s/place holders, and concerns elsewhere.

  14. Andrew says:

    Carlos Paulino, Nevin Ashley and Omir Santos can serve as quad AAAA players. And I think there is a growing consensus that in controlling the running game the pitcher is more important. See Barajas 6% caught stealing with the “we care about executing pitches” 2012 Pirates after being 29% for his career.

    Losing Stewart hurts but they haven’t lost an starting pitching or shortstops like other contending teams.

  15. Nate83 says:

    I agree Steel. It’s unlikely those two stay healthy all year. They will have to add depth one way or another. The Cards found out last year how hard it was to compete without a competent back up to Molina. They are lucky he wasn’t hurt for a more extended time.

  16. Nate83 says:

    I’m sure the Pirates philosophy at the time had something to do with it but I also think Barajas career was about to fall off a cliff regardless.

  17. 21sthebest says:

    Agree but Molina put a pretty impressive slash line last year on top of his defense.

  18. Nate83 says:

    No question about that. I wasn’t comparing any of the Pirate catcher to Molina I was just pointing out the importance of catcher depth. They get hurt a lot and not having some options available can sink a team quickly.

  19. NMR says:

    I consider a salary dump to be a trade that brings nothing but salary relief in return.

    Thus, I ASSUME that if Tabata were to be traded right now – while he is still needed – it would be for a legitimate baseball return.

  20. NMR says:

    Aren’t we saying the same exact thing?

  21. 21sthebest says:

    Agree. Sometimes I think we were lucky that last season went so well health wise, although I saw over the weekend that Russ had that shoulder problem all last year that he says affected his swing. But he’s fine now.

  22. NMR says:

    Obviously room for personal interpretation, but I think the Pirates MANAGED injuries well, which gave the PERCEPTION of getting lucky.

    I’d be surprised if many teams considered losing six starting pitchers, a left fielder, two right fielders, and a 2B lucky.

    With that being said, I consider ANY season in which Cutch isn’t injured lucky.

  23. Andrew says:

    My reading comprehension might be going.

  24. The Gunner says:

    The Bucs are really done if Cutch goes down. If the BMTIB can get something of value for Tabata right now, I say do it ASAP, before he suffers another one of his many injuries.

  25. NMR says:

    Nah, my fault for using “salary dump”.

  26. 21sthebest says:

    I completely agree NMR and didn’t mean it to sound that luck was the only or even a significant factor. Nobody respects what athletic trainers do more than I do and I’m not just saying that because my son is one!

    But there is a little luck involved that a HBP or something accidental didn’t ruin someone’s season.

  27. John Lease says:

    Why would anyone be surprised at Snider? He’d done nada as a Pirate, and not much as a Blue Jay. Losing weight and being in shape are what you are supposed to do, not be praised for.

    I’d trade him for an average guy, that would be fine.

    No one will take on Tabata, unless he starts hitting.

  28. NMR says:

    You have some darn good kids, 21.

  29. 21sthebest says:

    Just one kid NMR. At least that I’m aware of.

  30. Nate83 says:

    I’m not sure how much value Snider has on the trade market right now. I have to imagine it is less then the Brad Lincoln we gave up which may just be the Brad Lincoln that now exist. It’s just personal opinion but I absolutely think Tabby has some value in a trade. Especially if he is added in with somebody else.

    If no name was attached to his stats last year and we were looking for a right field option most fans would say that guy looks pretty good. We should try and sign him or trade for him. He is close to a 2 WAR player if playing full time but for some reason when people see the name the don’t even look at the stats. He is a quality major league player that is proven. Many teams are going in with worse options or questionable options for a 3rd outfielder.

  31. NMR says:

    Ha! I must be mixing you up with AW. Thought you had a daughter as well.

  32. NMR says:

    Wise words, Gunner.

    Makes me think of the predicament the Mets find themselves in, now apparently shopping Ike Davis once again. Can’t imagine he’ll have more value now, after yet another injury.

  33. cmat0829 says:

    Interesting how a kernal of news (“Sources say that the Pirates are letting other teams know that Mazarro, Tabata and Snider ARE AVAILABLE”) becomes all types of popcorn on the blog.

    Everything beyond that presumed fact, that the Pirates would consider trading these guys for a reasonable return, is assumption. But assumptions are so much fun. I’ll add mine.

    It is pretty clear that Mazarro is becoming the odd man out…all of the Pirates bullpen arms have value, so he should be moveable. This is more about getting something in return than just losing via waiver claim at end of Spring.

    As to trading either Tabata or Snider, it doesn’t seem like it would be selling high on either player, and also it is premature to make room for Polanco. So to me, that’s more a “hey, if you like these guys make me an offer” attempt to see if you can find someone who values these guys worthy of a return.

  34. The Gunner says:

    The Mets are pretty much stuck with Davis now – nobody will take him now.

  35. NMR says:

    As for Tabata, the last we saw of him was two months of Pennant race baseball in which he hit .312/.357/.490 over 170 PA. Jose Tabata was damn good down the stretch. Damn good.

    You’re not gonna sell any higher than on what he just did.

  36. Ex Lebo says:

    With the excellent Springs that Schlereth and Wilk are having, I’m a little surprised that Justin Wilson isn’t “being shopped”. He should have enough market value right now to get ML talent in return.

  37. Nate83 says:

    It wasn’t only the slash line. He was very aggressive taking extra bases and looked very motivated. It’s a shame Byrd couldn’t have moved to first and they couldn’t have had both bats in the line up down the stretch.

    I really liked what Tabata showed late in the season. I think it showed he is much closer to the 2010 player we saw then the 2011-2012 guy. He went through a lot of things for a young man during that time. Injuries, contract, weird personal stuff. He obviously got a little out of shape and maybe just wasn’t mature enough to handle all of it at that point.

  38. Nate83 says:

    They are having nice springs and offer some nice depth along with Thornton and don’t forget Welker as well. I imagine if they continue to look good and Morris shows he can make a big jump from last year Wilson or Watson could be moved sometime during the season. In my opinion it would be more of a scenario where Morris proves he’s ready to take over Wilson’s role and then there are plenty of options to take Morris’s role.

  39. NMR says:

    Alright, thats it, I talked myself out of it.

    I don’t want Tabby traded at all this season. I don’t trust Snider or Decker and Chris Dickerson sucks at baseball.

    What happens if Marte can’t stay healthy? Again.

  40. Nate83 says:

    I would much rather them trade Snider but I don’t think he gets much of anything in return. It’s best to do nothing and see where things fall. I don’t think any player we would get in return for Tabata would add enough value at first to warrant giving up a quality player like him. Anyone of our 3 outfielder could get hurt and I’m just not confident that Snider, Decker, Dickerson, Lambo can provide adequate production as a full time player.

  41. NMR says:

    I agree, but I’m wondering if a contract for contract move is the only way the team gets good value for Tabby.

    I don’t think his contract PROHIBITS teams from trading for him. His salary is deserved. I’m just not sure there is much MORE value in Tabby than what a team will be required to pay him. Something like an Ike Davis or Justin Smoak for Tabata trade, where each player will be paid relatively similarly, might be easier for both parties.

    And I was too hard on Chris Dickerson. He doesn’t suck at baseball. He just sucks at hitting them.

  42. Pig Legs Robinson says:

    Yeah and its also a surprise that Andrew McCutchen isnt “being shopped” He should have enough market value now to get a ML in return. Throw him in with those mediocre left handed relievers Justin Wilson or Tony Watson. Forget the fact that practically every GM in baseball was asking for Wilson this winter, what do GM’s know, anyway?

    Bundle the three up and they might fetch ML Talent! You know, like that superstar first baseman Justin Smoak, who, if given enough years could surely rise above his career .227 average! You know, he went up from .217 in 2012 all the way up to .238 in 2013! He’s truly a star! He could even rise another 5 points, I’m sure of it!

    Then we can even keep the great Jose Tabata to play in McCutchen’s spot!

  43. The Gunner says:

    Like Bill Cowher would say, “there’s a fine line in this business.” If you get a chance to get a real good return for Tabata, you move him now while he still has value. If not, keep him – he is a better option than all those jibronies you mention in your post.

  44. Leo Walter says:

    I don’t know about everyone else on this site,but calling any player ” garbage ” tells me all I need to know about your intelligence.

  45. The Gunner says:

    I think the men in those white jackets are coming to take you away!!

  46. CMU88 says:

    Would it make any sense to try Tabata at first? I know we usually try to have power at the corners, but if he can hit for average, would that hurt?

  47. Steelkings says:

    @ Leo
    Are you defending 30 year old Catcher Ashley Nevin, Leo? :0

  48. Steelkings says:

    Dear Jason,
    Instead of asking Rob, ask us. Here is your answer. How many top 3 or 4 rotation guys has Polanco faced? How many winter ball guys has he faced that can break your bat with inside heat? How many stadiums has he played in where 40 thousand are giving you the business? Mr AA might want to grow up a little and earn it.

    Yours in baseball

    Tabby. Snider and Lambo

  49. I guess they are providing Internet access in mental hospitals now…

  50. Jim S. says:

    Might help them more this year, but would have a huge negative impact, budget-wise and years of control wise, down the road. Just about every MLB team now waits to bring up prized prospects.

  51. Jim S. says:

    I think you are right that they like Decker, Nate. Clint even said it.

    But, am I the only one who actually thinks Tabata is close to an ideal 4th OF? He hits RHP and LHP close to equally well, which means he can sub in for any of the starters and play for an extended period in case of injury. Most back-up players come with an extreme platoon split. Plus, Tabby gives you average defense at the 2 corners spots, which is the only place they need him since the other 3 guys can all play CF.

    His salary is reasonable for a 4th OF … wait a minute. It’s not reasonable for this team.

  52. Jim S. says:

    Maybe a salary dump disguised as a legit baseball trade, NMR? In other words, they get something of value in return – say, Carp or the like – but not near the value of the higher priced guy they give up (Tabata)/

  53. Jim S. says:

    I could be mis-remembering, but I thought Buck’s pitch framing skills were below average. If that is the case, the Bucs want no part of him, IMO. I think they currently value that particular skill very highly.

  54. Jim S. says:

    I always thought that was a cover story, Nate. They were so bad at controlling the running game, both from the pitchers and catchers, that they conveniently said it was not a priority. Then, once the season ended, they ran and grabbed the first Russell Martin they could find, drafted Reese McGuire, and now this off-season obtained Chris Stewart.

  55. Jim S. says:

    I read a great tweet from Jason Stark tonight regarding Ike Davis. He was relating what a scout had said about Davis. I don’t recall the exact phraseology, but basically the scout said that mentally, he’s a hot mess right now.

  56. Jim S. says:

    But, he actually did hit last year, John. I agree with you that he is not the poster boy for consistency or effort. He gets injured a lot, too. But, maybe just maybe he turned a corner at the end of last season. He hit over .280 and the OBP approached .350. I don’t want him as a starter for long, but I think he’d be good as a #4 OF. And, if we trade him, I do believe he has some value – not starter value, but we could get a decent piece for him from a team with a need for a 4th OF.

  57. Jim S. says:

    Well, Dickerson does have a .339 lifetime OBP. He’s a back-up OF, but I think he’s like a lot of guys doing that all over baseball. I’m feeling more charitable than you, NMR. I’ll say he’s mediocre at baseball.

  58. Jim S. says:

    Funny, Gunner!

  59. Jim S. says:

    I don’t know if anyone watched the NCSU vs. Xavier NCAA play-in game tonight or not. But, I could swear Clint Barmes was coaching Xavier. It’s good to see he is working on a fall back plan. And, he did a particularly bad job of coaching tonight, his team got hammered, and I’m sue he’ll be back in Bradenton by sunrise.

  60. Ghost says:

    Count me in among the camp preferring to keep Tabby over Snider. A healthy Snider gives hope that this year he “might” turn the corner. Last year down the pennant stretch, Tabby actually did turn the corner. Every contender needs a few role-players that can step in like Tabby did last year. And since NMR pointed out the other day that Tabby hits righties as well or better than Snider, I considered this case closed.

  61. jay says:

    Pitch framing, hear so much about it but makes me wonder if that means umps wait to see where catchers mitt is before deciding ball or strike call, and have umps never knew that catchers would try to fool them. Another thought, in any group of 4 umps one has to be better calling pitches so why doesn’t he always be the plate ump.

  62. NMR says:

    Personally, Jim, I think a baseball trade is a baseball trade. If the financials work out as well, then thats a bonus.

    But I’m much less of a semi-humorous baseball cliche guy than some, so I’m sure you’d find differing opinions.

  63. NMR says:

    I’ve seen other people prop up Dickerson’s career numbers as well, Jim, but dig a little deeper. The only decent hitting he’s done as a big leaguer came in 2008 and 2009 thanks to ridiculous BABIP’s. Since then, he’s K’d in over 30% of his attempts, forgotten how to walk, and shown moderate -at best- power.

    I think he’d make a fine defensive replacement, as did every team that signed him since 2009.

  64. Jim S. says:

    There are a lot of things still being learned about pitch framing, jay. There is definitely a lot we don’t for sure. I heard Russell Martin talking a little bit about some of his techniques that he thinks help him steal a few pitches here and there. He definitely thought it was a skill that takes time and hard work to improve upon. He talked about very subtle movements with his wrist, etc.

    I have my doubts about some of it, but I try to keep an open mind. I think there is some bias involved. I always thought certain pitchers get the benefit of the doubt, more often than others. I also think when every MLB announcer and writer in the known universe tells us that Yadi Molina is the greatest catcher of all-time every chance they get, that would have to help him. He has good PF stats. But, is his brother, Jose, is recognized as the single best at this skill. So, who knows?

  65. Jim S. says:

    Ok, I’ll discount him to “below average at baseball.”

  66. Jim S. says:

    Correct, Ghost. Tabby does not generally have much of a platoon split. I think it makes him more valuable than Snider as a 4th OF. LHP won’t eat him up.

  67. Rob Biertempfel says:

    Keeping the Rule 5 clock from ticking is not the only reason. When Hurdle/Huntington say Taillon and Polanco have work to do at Triple-A, they’re not making excuses. Several scouts have told me Polanco is thisclose but not quite ready and Taillon’s leaning curve is even a bit longer.
    Yes, Cole and Marte have gotten off to great starts in the majors. Not every rookie does; the majority, I’d wager, do not. Why rush Polanco and Taillon and risk having them flop, unless you’re 100 percent certain they’re better than the alternative. At this moment, the degree of certainty worth the risk, management believes.

  68. Wisdom.

    Let them both cook in AAA until they are done. Look at Jackie Bradley.

  69. Kevin says:

    If we can get a bag of balls for Tabby, take it. Don’t understand why he’s still in the ‘burgh. No power, bad AB’s, and does anyone believe his age is 25? Get what we can before Polanco arrives…

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