Pirates give Jose Tabata extension

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata grew up listening to his father regale him with tales of Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.

The stories gave Tabata an appreciation for Clemente's outstanding play on the field and his ideals off it. He hoped to one day be given a chance to follow in Clemente's footsteps out in right field.

The 23-year-old Venezuelan have plenty of time to do it now.

The Pirates signed Tabata to an extension through 2016 on Sunday with three club options that could keep him in Pittsburgh through 2019. Tabata, acquired in a trade deadline deal with the New York Yankees in 2008, is considered one of the cornerstones for the Pirates, who have already surpassed last year's 57-win total with six weeks to go in the season.

"He's one of the staples we need to have in place to be a championship organization to win the NL Central in the future," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

The contract provides Tabata with $14.75 million guaranteed money through 2016 and includes club options of $6.5 million in 2017, $7.5 million in 2018 and $8.5 million in 2019, a potentially hefty investment for one of baseball's more budget-conscious teams.

Yet general manager Neal Huntington thinks the signing could be a steal if Tabata continues to improve. He celebrated his new contract going 2 for 4 with a triple and two runs scored in Pittsburgh's 5-4 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday. He's batting .271 with four homers, 46 runs scored and 15 stolen bases in 76 games. He missed a chunk of time during July and August with a quad injury.

"We feel like we've just begun to scratch the surface of his potential," Huntington said. "It's our job to help him grow."

The team doesn't normally negotiate during the season, but Huntington pointed to Tabata's willingness to remain in Pittsburgh as a major reason behind the signing.

"The Pittsburgh Pirates gave me an opportunity to play in the big leagues," Tabata said. "I don't want to talk about the money but I can say it's good because I can take care of my family. I like Pittsburgh. I like the city. I like the people. I want to stay here for a long time."

The agreement caps a week of somewhat lavish spending by Pittsburgh. The team ponied up $13 million to sign its top overall pick, pitcher Gerrit Cole, and second-round selection Josh Bell on Monday.

Hurdle called the week "a positive development" about the club's commitment to winning following nearly two decades of losing and praised the front office for sticking to the plan it laid out when Hurdle agreed become the manager last winter.

"They have done nothing but back up with action everything we've talked about," Hurdle said.

Tabata, third baseman Pedro Alvarez, second baseman Neil Walker and All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen comprise the team's core. Tabata is the first to sign an extension. Walker and McCutchen are committed to Pittsburgh through 2015 with Alvarez through 2016.

The club is hoping to extend Walker and McCutchen. Walker -- a Pittsburgh native -- is considered a slam dunk, things could be significantly more difficult with McCutchen, quickly becoming one of the best at his position in the game.

"Andrew McCutchen is certainly a great young player in the making," Huntington said. "We hope to keep him here many, many years into the future. But if we're not able to find a common ground, we've still got many years left with Andrew."