Bob Smizik: Trading Tabata makes no sense

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Twitter has completely altered the way news is disseminated -- for better or worse. It’s a great way to get the word out fast -- by anyone, not just the media -- and too bad for those who don’t participate. It’s also an almost risk-free way to present speculation/rumors -- idle or otherwise. If it’s on Twitter and you’re wrong, it’s not really held against you.

Which is a lead-in to the fascinating Tweet that came out of Bradenton this week.

''Pirates shopping RF Jose Tabata. Will be interesting to see if there are any takers with three years, $12.25M left on contract.’’

Two thoughts immediately jumped out upon reading that.

• Why would the Pirates want to trade Tabata?

• The contract that once was deemed so team friendly people were laughing at Tabata’s stupidity for accepting it now looks more favorable for the player. Maybe Tabata isn’t such a sucker after all.

Presumably, the idea behind marketing Tabata is the baseball maxim that states it’s best to trade a player when his value is at its highest. That would be the case with Tabata, who is coming off the best season of his MLB career, which dates back to 2010. He finished with an OPS of .771 and was a minor hero by more than adequately filling in for Starling Marte for about three weeks in August and September.

But if the Pirates trade Tabata, who plays right field?

At the moment, he is the team’s first option against left-handed pitching. If form holds and Travis Snider continues to falter in his attempt to become an average MLB hitter, Tabata also is the team’s first option against right-handed pitching. For sure, in their MLB careers, Tabata had done better than Snider against both types of pitching.

Please, please don’t say Gregory Polanco is the answer. He is for the future, perhaps the very near-future, but not for the present. He has nine Class AAA at bats. He did not dominate Class AA. He needs more time in the minors and that’s particularly true based on how the Pirates handle young players. In any case, Polanco won’t be here until June, at the earliest, for reasons of arbitration eligibility.

The Pirates don’t have another right-handed hitting outfielder, who’s not already a regular, who could handle the job of playing right field against left-handed pitching. Chris Dickerson, having a nice spring, is a left-handed hitter. Jaff Decker, an on-base machine in the minor-leagues, also swings lefty and is not having a nice spring.

It’s highly unlikely the Pirates could trade Tabata for a better right-handed hitting outfielder. Although they probably could trade him for a less-expensive right-handed hitting outfielder.

Somewhere yesterday it was stated that now was the time to unload Tabata because when Polanco arrives a trade would be harder to make. That makes no sense for this reason:

A team needs more than three outfielders. The aforementioned injury to Marte last season is proof that reserves are important. Much had been written and said about the need for starting pitching depth. Well, there’s a need for depth everywhere, including the outfield.

In some organizations, a fourth outfielder making $4 million is not considered an extravagance. If the Pirates think it is, why did they make the deal with Tabata in August of 2011? They surely, at that point in his development, did not see him as an everyday corner outfielder?

Since the Tweet in question came from a reputable source, it should not be casually dismissed. There may well be something to it. On the surface, though, it sounds like the Pirates circa 2009. The Pirates of 2014 should be a team trying to win. Trading the starting right fielder is no way to do that.

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