The Pittsburgh Pirates are hoping to build on last year's return to the playoffs, but they may do so without outfielder Jose Tabata in 2014.
According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Bucs are interested in trading Tabata and his hefty contract:
#Pirates shopping RF Jose Tabata. Will be interesting to see if there are any takers with three years, $12.25M left on contract.— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) March 18, 2014
While the 25-year-old outfielder put up solid numbers last season with a .282 batting average, six home runs and 33 RBI, he was hampered by an oblique injury for much of the season. Tabata has never played more than 106 games in a season, and the Pirates organization may feel as though the money invested in his contract can be better spent elsewhere.
Also, Pittsburgh happens to have a highly touted prospect waiting in the wings. Gregory Polanco is a 22-year-old outfielder with five-tool potential, and The Sports Network speculates that Polanco could replace Tabata if he is traded:
Polanco hit .285 with 12 home runs, 71 RBI and 38 stolen bases last season across three different minor league teams. Because of that, it should come as no surprise that there is a great deal of hype surrounding him.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle seems excited about Polanco's ability, but he also discussed the merits of Polanco spending more time in the minors after the Pirates optioned him to Triple-A, per Tom Singer of MLB.com.
We couldn't be happier with the development. We want him to go down and face the challenge. Every time he steps into the box, there's going to be a pitcher thinking, 'That's a springboard to the big leagues,' whether it's an older or young pitcher. So what an opportunity for him to go and add quality at-bats ... To get him in that environment ... he's hungry to go. We want him, when he gets back, for it to be for good.
What should the Pirates do with Tabata?
Trading Tabata could force the Pirates to recall Polanco sooner than anticipated, but the organization has plenty of options at its disposal regardless.
The Pirates ended a 21-year playoff drought last season, and making the postseason in consecutive years would signal that the Bucs are officially back.
Trading Tabata might be viewed as a step backwards by some, but if it ultimately leads to the emergence of Polanco, then there is reason to believe that making the move will help the Pirates both now and in the future.
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