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Pirates to extend OF Tabata, 2B Walker

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011
 

The Pirates are finalizing a long-term contract with outfielder Jose Tabata and are deep into talks with second baseman Neil Walker about a similar deal, team and league sources confirmed Friday.

However, contract talks have stalled between the club and All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both sides say they are willing to resume negotiations, but there has been no movement for the past few weeks.

Team president Frank Coonelly declined to comment. Tabata would not discuss specifics of his contract status.

"I would like to be part of this team for many more years," Tabata said.

Tabata, 23, has agreed to a six-year contract worth at least $14.75 million, the sources said. The deal has three team options that would make it worth $22.5 million.

The contract reworks Tabata's salary for this season, giving him a $72,000 raise to $500,000 and a $1 million signing bonus. He would make $750,000 in 2012, $1 million in 2013, $3 million in 2014, $4 million in 2015 and $4.5 million in 2016.

An official announcement about Tabata's contract is expected as early as today.

Tabata made his major-league debut in June 2010 and is on track to be eligible for free agency after the 2016 season.

The Pirates acquired Tabata from the New York Yankees in a trade in July 2008. He batted .299 last year in 102 games. This year, he is batting .264 and spent about two months on the disabled list because of a strained quadriceps.

Talks between Walker and the Pirates are proceeding, but a final agreement is not imminent, team sources said.

The team would like to sign Walker to terms similar to those in Tabata's new contract. The length of Walker's new deal is one of the sticking points, but it is not expected to be a deal-breaker.

Walker, 25, was the Pirates' first-round draft pick in 2004. He became the everyday second baseman last season despite limited experience at the position. He hit .296 last year with 12 home runs and 66 RBI.

The Pirates and McCutchen, 24, opened contact talks several months ago, but progress has been slow. He will eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.

Only three players — Kevin Correia, Pedro Alvarez and Matt Diaz — have contracts beyond this season. Three others — Ronny Cedeno, Paul Maholm and Ryan Doumit — have club options for 2012, but the Pirates in each case are likely to take the buyout.

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