Yesterday when word first broke out that the Pirates were close to a deal that would extend OF Jose Tabata through his team control years, I felt a little skeptical.
Jose Tabata had a very good rookie season for the Pirates as he posted a 2.1 WAR over 102 games at the age of 21. This season, he has taken a little step back, but is still at a 1.2 WAR after 72 games. However, what Tabata has done through his first 180 ML games has led me to believe the Pirates should lock him up for the long-term, at least at this juncture.
But then we learned the terms of the deal. Tabata will receive a $1 million signing bonus and will see a pay raise for this season to $500,000 from his original $428,000. Next year, Tabata will make $750,000. In 2013, he will make $1 million. In those three seasons, Tabata would have made about $500,000 per year as the Pirates can essentially pay him whatever they want to. So the Pirates are giving up a little more in these three years than they would have under normal circumstances.
In 2014, which would have been Tabata’s first arbitration season, he will receive $3 million. In 2014, $4 million. And in 2015, he will receive $4.5 million. Those right there are some pretty serious bargains. Assuming only that Tabata stays the player he is and does not get better in the least bit, it’s a good estimate to say that he would have made no less than $12 million in those three seasons through arbitration. And that estimate is very, very low on my part. The figure would probably be more in the $15-$16 million range. And that’s if he didn’t get better.
Based on all that, if Tabata stays the same player he is today in his age 22 season, the Pirates would have made out. But let’s say he gets better. Which, of course, is everyone’s hope. If he improves to even, say, a 3.0 WAR player, the deal becomes an enormous steal for the Bucs.
The last part of the deal, however, holds the most value for the Pirates. On top of the 6 seasons that the Pirates would have had control of Tabata, anyways, the deal includes 3 club options for the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons. Those seasons control Tabata’s age 28,29, and 30 seasons, which many consider the prime of a baseball players’ career. We don’t know the breakdowns of the 3 seasons, but we do know that they combine for $22.5 million, an average of $7.5 million per season.
The best part about those 3 years is that the Pirates have full control over them. If Tabata breaks out and becomes an elite outfielder, the Pirates have him at $7.5 million a year for those 3 years. If he becomes a solid Major League outfielder, it is still an huge bargain. If he doesn’t age well and looks like he’s on the downside of his career, the Pirates don’t have to pick them up. It puts the club in a great situation in that they really can’t lose on this.
If there is anyone now who the Pirates should be rooting for to succeed, it should be Tabata, as this deal ensures that if he becomes the player we all hope he can become, we will see him patrolling the PNC outfield for a very long time.