The Pirates have begun the process of locking up their current core.
Friday, the team agreed to terms with outfielder Jose Tabata on a contract of unprecedented length for the franchise, with six guaranteed years plus three options. No further detail was available, but Tabata can be kept in Pittsburgh until 2020.
Management also is working on signing second baseman Neil Walker to a contract of similar length, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Walker, born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, is open to that if the price is right.
Neither the Pirates nor the players would comment.
What this means, of course, will be largely dependent on whether the team can wrap up its primary piece, center fielder Andrew McCutchen. He was the first of the current group to discuss a multiyear deal, beginning last winter, but things cooled in the spring and now are on hiatus. It could be that, in extending Tabata and Walker, the Pirates are trying in part to pressure McCutchen or, at the least, show their commitment to keeping this promising group together.
Some will see this as a move aimed at pleasing the fan base, even though this management team has made more than its share of richly unpopular moves. Far more likely, it's a case of identifying young players who look to have steady careers and locking up their rights for years. It helps with budgeting for the future. It helps to show other prospective players that they're serious.
Tabata's announcement could come Saturday.
Playing before a PNC Park capacity crowd Friday in the 11-8 loss to the Reds, Tabata went 2-for-5 to improve his average to .267.
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