PITTSBURGH - JUNE 22: Jose Tabata #31 of the Pittsburgh Pirates catches a ball in left field against the Baltimore Orioles during the game on June 22, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
UPDATE 2 (7:26 PM CST): The deal is official, according to ESPN's Enrique Rojas. It's a six-year deal that covers 2011 through 2016 worth a total of $14.75 million. There are an additional three club options for 2017-2019 that are worth $22.5 million, which could bring the eventual total to $37.5 million.
It's a pretty solid deal for the Pirates given the minimal overall financial commitment and the potential for long-term value if Tabata proves to be a quality regular over the majority of the next decade. I mentioned below that signing Tabata long-term would be questionable given that there doesn't appear to be much projection left in his game even though he's only 23 years old, but for the money it does seem to be a pretty reasonable proposition.
There's still a small chance that he develops into something more than he is at the moment, and if he does, this deal could potentially be a major coup for Pirates management. And if doesn't work out, it's highly unlikely that $14.75 million over six years will do much to inhibit the team from acquiring other pieces.
UPDATE (1:50 PM CST): According to Dierkes, Tabata's extension will include three club options, presumably for the final three years of the contract. As some noted on Twitter, this move is similar to the kinds of extensions that we've seen from the Tampa Bay Rays over the past few years.
ORIGINAL REPORT (1:03 PM CST): In a surprising move, the Pirates and outfielder Jose Tabata appear to be closing in on a six-year contract extension, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com. The deal as reported would cover his two pre-arbitration seasons, three arbitration seasons and one year of free agency. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes first reported that the sides were discussing a possible deal.
Tabata, 23, is in his second season with Pittsburgh after making his debut last June, playing primarily left field for the team. He's hit .285/.348/.385 in 747 plate appearances over the past two seasons, making him a roughly league-average hitter. He doesn't provide much power, but he's shown good on-base skills and profiles as a solid top-of-the-order hitter going forward.
An average defender in left field, Tabata is basically a league-average player for the Pirates, making this deal somewhat odd. Generally, teams only sign young players to major long-term deals when they project to be impact players, but given Tabata's limited power potential and inability to play center field, it's hard to envision him being that kind of player.
He's a guy that you want around, but signing him to an extension like this does seem to be unnecessary and risky for a player that may not improve that much going forward. Personally, I probably would have preferred to go year-to-year with the young outfielder, particularly given that he isn't even eligible for free agency until 2016.