The Pittsburgh Pirates have activated Neil Walker from the 15-day disabled list. To make room, they have outrighted Jose Tabata to Triple-A Indianapolis.
It’s unclear whether the Pirates had to put Tabata through waivers before outrighting him, but the move means he’s not on the 40-man roster. The Pirates still owe him his full salary amount, which is the remainder of his $3 M this year, along with $8.5 M the next two years, and $750 K in buyouts. He’s also still with the team during this time, unless he opts for free agency. Tabata has enough service time to decline his outright assignment and opt for free agency, but not enough service time to guarantee his contract. For that reason, he is unlikely to decline the assignment.
The Pirates could bring him back up at any point by adding him to the 40-man roster, and they probably wouldn’t have to worry about outrighting him again, since they’d be in the same situation as right now.
As for Walker, he will almost certainly take over at second base, which will raise the question of where Josh Harrison will play going forward. That question could be answered with the designated hitter the next two games, but will get more complicated when the Pirates return to playing NL teams.
UPDATE 5:50 PM: Clint Hurdle spoke with the media today about the move. To clarify a few things from above:
**Josh Harrison’s presence on the roster played a role in Tabata going. Harrison filled the need of a right-handed corner outfielder.
**Tabata had already cleared waivers earlier in the year, which is how he could be outrighted today. Once a player clears waivers once, a team can outright him or if it’s after July 31st, trade him at any time. Normally we only hear about players clearing waivers during the season after they are DFAd, or in August as preparation for a trade. This situation is similar to the latter, where the Pirates placed Tabata on waivers to see if he could clear.
**Hurdle said that Tabata was willing to accept the assignment to Indianapolis:
“He knows he needs to play. He wants to play. As I encouraged him, this is a challenge.”
Tabata had more than three years of service time, so he could have declined and become a free agent. However, he would have forfeited his remaining salary, which is over $10 M. That would have been a bad move on his part.