Justin K. Aller
The trade of Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox still isn't done, and there's been a fair amount of speculation about the identities of the last player the Red Sox will get and the last player the Pirates will get. One name that's come up over and over is that of Jose Tabata.
To be clear, I don't have any idea who the second player going to the Red Sox will be, if in fact the deal is even structured the way it's been reported (with the Pirates getting four players, and the Red Sox getting two). But fans' focus on Tabata does make some degree of sense, at least from the Pirates' perspective. The Bucs are supposed to get Jerry Sands, which is strange because the Pirates already have a bunch of players for the corners, including one (Starling Marte) who clearly should have one of the outfield positions all to himself, two (Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez) who are penciled into a platoon at first, and two more (Travis Snider and Tabata) who will be out of options. That leaves Clint Robinson and Alex Presley as members of the 40-man roster who don't currently have a clear path to a major-league job.
I'm not sure where these players fit in from the Red Sox's perspective -- depending on who the Pirates are getting back, the Hanrahan trade could include any of them, except Marte. Boston currently has Shane Victorino in one corner outfield spot and Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes in the other. It's not yet clear what they'll do at first base (in part because Mike Napoli's deal isn't official yet).
Let's do a thought experiment, though. Let's say the second player going from the Pirates to the Red Sox is Tabata. How do you feel about that? Tabata's 2012 season was terrible in a way that didn't suggest there was much hope for his future, unless you want to take a very glass-half-full view based around his decent performance in a very small sample in the second half. He was below-average defensively for the second straight year. He continued to hit the ball into the ground at an alarming rate and showed no indication of developing power. He stole eight bases and got caught 12 times. Basically, there's nothing there to hang your hat on except his youth.
The Pirates still owe Tabata $12.75 million through 2016. His contract, which once looked one-sided in the Pirates' favor, now looks like a minor problem. He doesn't have any trade value at this point. Is there any hope for Tabata? I'm not sure there is, but I'd also hate to see him blossom after being traded.