Indians Ready To Move Cabrera, Masterson

TUESDAY: Industry perception is that the Indians are ready to move Masterson and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Cabrera makes for an interesting target, because unlike Masterson, he’s enjoying a relatively productive season. Cabrera is hitting .249/.309/.392 as of this writing, and while that’s hardly elite, park- and league-adjusted metrics like OPS+ (99) and wRC+ (98) peg him as just slightly below league average. That, of course, is relative to all hitters around the league, but middle infielders come with a lower offensive standard, making the switch-hitting Cabrera’s production more valuable.

Defensively speaking, Cabrera doesn’t offer much; he’s never posted a positive UZR in a sample of 100+ innings, and Defensive Runs Saved feels that he’s cost Cleveland 28 runs over the past three seasons at short. However, he’s graded out better in his career at second base, albeit in a much smaller sample size (1341 innings compared to 6282 innings at short). Cabrera has about $3.44MM of this season’s $10MM salary remaining, and he is a free agent at season’s end.

MONDAY: Though he won’t be activated from the disabled list until this Friday, the Indians are “very willing” to trade Justin Masterson, sources tell Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Cleveland’s preference would be to obtain controllable starting pitching in return for their embattled right-hander.

Masterson has struggled for much of the 2014 season, posting a 5.51 ERA with 8.5 K/9, 5.1 BB/9 and a 58.5 percent ground-ball rate. More concerning, perhaps, is the stark decline in his fastball velocity; after averaging 91.6 mph on his heater in 2013 (and 91.9 mph in 2012), Masterson averaged just 89.1 mph before being placed on the disabled list with a knee injury. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway said before the All-Star break that he felt Masterson’s knee injury forced him to alter the way he landed coming off his delivery, which got his mechanics out of sync and could have been partially to blame for the velocity issues.

The 29-year-old is set to become a free agent at season’s end, and it seems unlikely that a team would surrender top talent to acquire a two-month rental that has struggled so greatly in 2014. As such (and this is my own speculation), Masterson might be more of an August trade candidate. If he can come back healthy and effective, scouts might be willing to overlook some of his early-season struggles (to an extent).

Masterson is earning $9.7625MM this season after avoiding arbitration for the final time this offseason. Cleveland had interest in extending its now-former ace (Corey Kluber likely holds that distinction now), but even when Masterson himself suggested seemingly below-market two- and three-year deals at $17-18MM annually, the Indians didn’t bite. Of course, at this point, that looks like it could have been a shrewd move on Cleveland’s behalf.


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