Should M’s Have Interest In Tabata?

 The Seattle Mariners have long been searching for right-handed hitting and have clear and present need to improve their outfield crop. The Pittsburgh Pirates may have an answer. Maybe. Maybe not.

The Pirates, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune, are shopping outfielder Jose Tabata. The 25-year-old has had problems staying healthy, though we’re not talking about entire seasons spent on the disabled list. The former Yankees farmhand played 106 games a year ago, 103 in 2012 and 91 in 2011. In two of those seasons, however, Tabata has posted above-average on-base percentages of .349 and .342.

He’s a fringy corner outfield defender, however, and doesn’t possess much power. Despite being right-handed, Tabata doesn’t handle left-handed pitching to the level a club would require to use him in a platoon, match-up scenario, and believe it or not none of the above is the biggest reason for the Mariners to pass on him.

Jose Tabata vs. LHP

As you can see below, Tabata is adequate versus left-handed pitching, but certainly hasn’t beaten up southpaws to any extent, suggesting he doesn’t fit as a platoon player.

AVG OBP SLG BB% SO% wOBA LD%
.258 .332 .403 9.0 13.1 .324 16.0

Tabata is owed $12.25 million over the next three years as the final half of a six-year deal he signed with the Pirates before the 2011 season. At more than $4 million per year, the Mariners would have to believe Tabata was going to be available for the entire six-month season and provide value that they don’t currently boast anywhere on the roster. The former is not true, since we already know Tabata has missed large chunks of each of the last three seasons. The latter isn’t necessarily true, either with Stefen Romero profiling as a similar talent and for far less financial commitment. Even if the Pirates were willing to chip in some cash to help pay Tabata’s salary, the payoff of such a deal, no matter the trade cost, is not apparent.

One of the reasons the Pirates are looking to trade Tabata is that he’s out of minor league options. For Pittsburgh to send Tabata back to Triple-A Indianapolis, he would first have to clear waivers. With that contract, he may do so, but it’s difficult to believe he provides an upgrade for Seattle.

There are a number of other out-of-options players that may interest Seattle if they become trade available. Among the outfielders is Michael Taylor of the Oakland Athletics, Moises Sierra of the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore’s Nolan Reimold. Again, however, none are clear-cut and significant upgrades to Romero, despite all of the above either possessing better physical tools (Taylor, Sierra) or having a higher profile as a young player (Reimold).

Forget Romero’s spring performance. It’s a small sample size, is occurring in a hitter-friendly environment and he’s facing some sub par pitching and established pitchers who are working on their craft. Still, Romero has developed and performed in meaningful games in the upper minors and in the Arizona Fall League, displaying discipline, plate coverage, consistent abilities to track a breaking ball and hit line drives.

He’s also learning left field and could very well be the best option for the team versus left-handed pitching right now.

Here are a handful of players that aren’t out of options, necessarily, but may be available if they lose out on jobs on their respective teams, and Seattle may have some level of interest. None of the above, nor below, are necessarily linked to the M’s fielding offers for infielder Nick Franklin:

Paul Maholm, LHP — Los Angeles Dodgers
James McDonald, RHP — Chicago Cubs
Ross Detwiler, LHP — Washington Nationals (out of options)
Edinson Volquez, RHP — Pittsburgh Pirates
Alejandro De Aza, CF — Chicago White Sox

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Jason A. Churchill

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