Justin Masterson Rumors

AL Central Links: Masterson, Ryan, LaRoche

Here’s the latest from around the AL Central…

  • The White Sox and Tigers have expressed interest in Justin Masterson, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, meaning that all five AL Central clubs have at least checked in on the free agent righty.  Outside of this division, Masterson’s long list of suitors also includes the Braves, Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and Marlins.
  • The Indians touched base with Masterson early in the offseason but “haven’t shown a lot of interest” since, Hoynes writes.
  • In an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter links here), Twins GM Terry Ryan said his team “could use a right handed bat in the outfield. We’re rather young here especially in the outfield.”  Of course, the Twins have been connected to a right-handed hitting veteran in Torii Hunter, who recently said that he’d had numerous conversations with Ryan.  Minnesota is one of at least 10 teams who have shown interest in Hunter’s services this offseason.  Earlier today on MLBTR, Jeff Todd outlined Hunter’s free agent profile.
  • On the Twins‘ search for pitching, Ryan said that he’s looking for both left- and right-handed starters, noting that his club doesn’t have many proven innings-eaters in the rotation.  Relatively few free agent pitchers have come off the board this winter, though Ryan said “it may be a slow moving market and then one of those big time pitchers goes and all heck breaks loose.”
  • Adam LaRoche wasn’t keen to fully transition to a full-time DH role, yet he told reporters (including CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes) during his introductory White Sox press conference that he’s happy to cede most of the first base duties to Jose Abreu.  “They’ve got a kid [Abreu] that’s obviously going to be around and be really good for a long time,” LaRoche said.  “It’s not fair to make him a full-time DH this early in his career, especially when he can handle first base and handle the glove over there….I’ll do it however it plays out.  If they need me to play first more than we’re talking about, great, I’ll be there. If I end up DHing more, that’s fine.”  Sox manager Robin Ventura said that he plans to give LaRoche two starts per week at first base, a time-share that will hopefully keep both LaRoche and Abreu fresh for the entire season.

Giants Casting Wide Net, Have Contacted Scherzer

After losing Pablo Sandoval to the Red Sox, the Giants are casting a very wide net and have reached out to agent Scott Boras regarding top free Max Scherzer, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Giants appear to be scouring the trade and free agent markets for upgrades, as Heyman reports that they’ve at least initiated talks with free agents Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, Chase Headley, Torii Hunter, Justin Masterson and of course Yasmany Tomas (their interest in Tomas has been well-documented). Beyond that, they’ve kicked the tires on Atlanta’s Justin Upton, and their interest in Jon Lester was reported yesterday as Sandoval looked to be on the verge of departure.

San Francisco’s interest in Scherzer isn’t terribly surprising. The team will bring back ace Madison Bumgarner and stable veteran Tim Hudson, but Matt Cain is returning from elbow surgery and Tim Lincecum‘s reliability has taken s nose-dive in recent years. Both Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Peavy are free agents. Yusmeiro Petit was excellent in 2014 but totaled only 129 2/3 innings between the regular season and postseason. He’s certainly done enough to warrant a look in the rotation, but the lack of innings could be cause for concern.

In terms of their offensive targets, Heyman hears that the Giants are more likely to go with a cheaper option to replace Sandoval at third base, instead spending bigger on a replacement in left field for Mike Morse. He notes that they’ve taken a “close look” at Upton and have even reached out to former Giant Melky Cabrera, though one team source described Cabrera’s departure from the Giants as “awkward” to Heyman. (Cabrera was suspended for 50 games in 2012 to close out the season as the Giants pushed toward a World Series victory.)

Earlier today I looked at some post-Sandoval options for the Giants, listing several trade and free agent targets that the reigning World Series Champions could pursue.


Indians Notes: Swisher, Bourn, Masterson, Hamels

MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian and Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group cleared out their inbox this weekend answering readers’ questions about possible moves for the Indians this offseason. Here are the highlights:

  • Bastian downplays a Nick Swisher-Ubaldo Jimenez swap of bad contracts. Cleveland could afford the move (Jimenez is due $38.75MM through 2017 while Swisher is owed $30MM through 2016 with a 2017 vesting option worth $14MM), but Bastian feels the odds of Swisher rebounding in 2015 is a better bet than three years of Jimenez.
  • If the Indians are looking to shed a bad contract, Hoynes thinks Michael Bourn would be easier to trade, but adds that doesn’t mean Cleveland wants to deal him.
  • Bastian and Hoynes both agree the Indians have interest in Justin Masterson on a one-year pillow contract, but feel the right-hander will find a multi-year pact elsewhere.
  • Trading for Cole Hamels is an interesting thought, according to Bastian, because the left-hander is cheaper ($90MM through 2018) than the top free agent rotation arms on the market and the Indians have the type of prospects the Phillies covet. Ultimately, though, Bastian sees Hamels’ annual salary and the potential prospects lost will be too steep of a price for the franchise to pay.
  • While noting manager Terry Francona’s penchant for strong bullpens, Hoynes doesn’t see the Indians investing in any of the high profile free agent relievers, especially with Zach McAllister waiting in the wings.
  • Does Francona’s new contract extension contain the same opt-out clause allowing him to leave if President Mark Shapiro or GM Chris Antonetti are fired? Antonetti did not provide details when asked that question, but Hoynes imagines the opt-out provision is included in the extension.
  • Bastian expects right-handers Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer to have break out seasons for the Indians in 2015.


Marlins Notes: LaRoche, Pitching, Payroll, Stanton

Earlier today the Marlins officially announced their 13-year, $325MM extension with Giancarlo Stanton. Here’s the latest on the team following that historic agreement…

  • The Marlins have made a two-year, $20MM offer to Adam LaRoche, reports Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Recent reports have indicated that the Marlins are strongly interested in LaRoche, and Jackson’s report would back that up, though the $20MM may be a bit light to seal the deal. I recently pegged LaRoche for a two-year, $30MM deal, and he just wrapped up a two-year, $24MM pact. LaRoche is also said to be drawing interest from the Padres and White Sox.
  • Also from Jackson, the Marlins have expressed interest in free agents Jason Hammel and Justin Masterson. Miami is said to covet a veteran arm to add to its rotation while ace Jose Fernandez rehabs from Tommy John surgery. James Shields‘ name has also been floated recently, though he’d obviously come at a much higher cost than either of the targets named by Jackson. The Fish are also interested in Wade Miley as a trade target, Jackson writes, but the D’Backs have very little pitching depth as it is, so moving one of their only reliable arms would seem a bit curious.
  • The Marlins say their payroll will top $60MM in 2015, according to Jackson. With Stanton set to earn just $6.5MM in the first year of his extension, the Marlins currently have about $22MM committed to next year’s roster. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects an additional $20.3MM in arb raises, but the Fish should be able to add at least $20MM or so worth of salary this winter. A LaRoche signing, I would think, could lead the team to shop Garrett Jones, which would remove another $5MM from the currently projected commitment.
  • Jackson’s column is rife with excellent quotes from Stanton’s press conference, including quotes from Stanton himself, from agent Joel Wolfe and from team president David Samson. Jackson hears that the Marlins’ first offer to Stanton came shortly after season’s end and was worth roughly $130MM over six years. However, Wolfe says that Stanton told him, “if it’s not a lifetime contract, there’s no point in talking.”
  • The Marlins still won’t be giving out no-trade clauses to other players, according to Samson, but they had no problem giving one to Stanton. The opt-out clause was much trickier, as the Marlins were very resistant. The Marlins wanted the opt-out to be conditional based on team performance, only allowing Stanton to elect free agency if the team lost a certain number of games. Samson explained, however, that Stanton made it very clear he wasn’t interested in opting out to earn more money after that point of the contract, but rather to protect himself from being part of a losing culture. “Once we believed the opt-out clause would be used as a shield and not a sword, we were OK with it,” said Samson. Stanton also comfortable with the idea of earning less money up front in the deal to surround him with better players. A new TV deal could be in the offing for the Marlins soon, which would of course allow them a better payroll.
  • Also of note from Jackson is that owner Jeffrey Loria has no intentions of selling the team. Though Samson says many people place calls with interest in buying, Loria is “in it for the long run because he loves it.”
  • Shifting away from Jackson’s must-read piece — the highlights here are but a fraction of the interesting points within — former MLBTR scribe Cork Gaines writes in a piece for Business Insider that the Stanton extension can be used as leverage in negotiating a new TV deal. Miami currently has the worst local TV deal in all of baseball, paying them $13-18MM annually (the Dodgers’ deal, in contrast, pays them $334MM per year, Gaines writes). Gaines notes that having a legitimate superstar on the team will increase the value of the new TV deal. Gaines speculates that negotiations could begin in 2016 as there appears to be some kind of opt-out on the current contract, which runs through 2020. Indeed, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that they are aiming for a new TV deal to begin in 2017 — which, perhaps not coincidentally, aligns with the first significant spike in Stanton’s salary.
  • In a full column, Rosenthal points out that the Rangers, Tigers and Angels each spent significant money prior to signing their new TV deals so they had a more attractive product in place for negotiations. While history has the skeptics gearing up for a fire sale in the near future, Rosenthal opines that this doesn’t look like a club that’s merely going to tear it all down again in two years.

Multiple Teams Interested In Justin Masterson

The Braves, Cubs, Giants, Red Sox, Royals and Twins are six of the teams thought to have asked for Justin Masterson’s medicals or otherwise checked in on the right-hander, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links).  Though Masterson is coming off an injury-plagued season, he is drawing significant interest and could find a two-year deal on the open market.  The Indians, Masterson’s former club, are also reportedly in the mix for the 29-year-old.

It’s no surprise that Masterson is generating this much free agent buzz, as the righty averaged 199 IP from 2010-13 and was one of the game’s best starters during the 2013 season.  As MLBTR’s Zach Links noted in his Free Agent Profile of Masterson, a team could be in for a major bargain if the righty regains his old form.  Whether he signs for one year or two, Masterson seems destined for a short-term deal as he’s banking on that return to form and the opportunity to set himself up for a more expensive multiyear deal next winter or after the 2016 season.

The six teams Crasnick lists present an interesting array of suitors, incorporating the two pennant winners, three teams looking to return to contention in 2015 and the rebuilding Twins, who can offer Masterson a pitcher-friendly ballpark to help rebuild his value.  Team defense is also undoubtedly a big factor for Masterson, an extreme ground ball pitcher with a 56.6% career grounder rate.


AL Central Notes: Masterson, Twins, White Sox

The latest from the AL Central..

  • Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter) hears that the Twins have inquired about free agent starter Justin Masterson.  Minnesota is also checking in on free agent outfielders, but finding a starter or two is at the top of their wish list.  In my October profile of the 29-year-old (30 by Opening Day), I speculated that the Twins could be a possible match for Masterson.
  • The White Sox are scouring the market for left-handed relief pitching, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter).  The White Sox currently only have two lefty relievers on their roster in Eric Surkamp and Scott Snodgress.
  • Indians GM Chris Antonetti told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) that while the club has made a lot of progress on the trade front, it’s tough to say if they are close to a deal.

AL Central Notes: Masterson, Ubaldo, Crow, Collins, Twins

The Indians are kicking the tires on a familiar name, as Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports they’ve reached out to Justin Masterson about a potential return. The Indians are likely interested in Masterson only on a one-year deal, which, as Hoynes notes, may be the preferred option for Masterson anyway. Masterson pitched through a number of injuries last season, and if he’s healthy in 2015, he could be a prime rebound candidate and position himself for a much nicer deal on the open market in 2015-16.

More from Hoynes and more from the AL Central…

  • Hoynes also refutes previous reports that the Indians would have some interest in buying low on Ubaldo Jimenez. Though Jimenez had one of his best seasons in Cleveland under pitching coach Mickey Callaway, the organization isn’t interested in trying to fix the inconsistent righty.
  • Both Aaron Crow and Tim Collins are non-tender candidates for the Royals, but Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports (via Twitter) that the team is still considering tendering each a contract due to a lack of MLB-ready replacement options.
  • In his latest Twins Inbox, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger reports that the Twins began their search for a pitching coach with at least 30 names and seem likely to go outside the organization to fill the role. He also discusses potential free agent targets for the Twins, noting that the team is expected to pursue second-tier starting pitcher options such as Brandon McCarthy and Jason Hammel or bounceback candidates such as Masterson and Brett Anderson. Bollinger also expects the Twins to sign a corner outfielder, though he notes Torii Hunter‘s desire to play for a contender basically rules out a return to Minnesota.

Latest On Cubs’ Rotation Targets

9:21pm: The Nationals and Cubs have not exchanged names and a deal is unlikely, tweets Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.

8:04pm: The Cubs are engaged with discussions with the Nationals to acquire right-handed starter Jordan Zimmermann, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Talks are serious enough that the sides have exchanged names that would be involved, with at least one top young middle infielder likely to be part of the package.

Importantly, per Wittenmyer, Chicago would want to be able to ink Zimmermann to an extension in order to pull the trigger. The Relativity Baseball client is set to hit the open market after this season. He’ll earn $16.5MM in his final year of arb eligibility, after agreeing to a back-loaded two year deal to avoid arbitration last year.

Zimmermann reportedly rejected a five-year, $85MM contract proposal from the Nats last year, and his value has only risen. Zimmermann, 28, threw to a 2.66 ERA over 199 2/3 frames in 2014, striking out 8.2 and walking a league-low 1.3 batters per nine. And that campaign brought him one year closer to free agency, reducing his risk and increasing his leverage in talks.

Zimmermann is, of course, not the only pitching option being pursued by Chicago. Wittenmyer says that Jon Lester is still a possibility, and the club is also chasing the kind of high-upside, high-risk arms it has in the past. Justin Masterson is one of those, per Wittenmyer, who says the righty could be amenable to a low-cost, one-year deal to rebuild his value. Per Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (via Twitter), the team has had talks with Masterson, though nothing is close. Lefty Brett Anderson is another possibility, according to the Sun-Times report.

From the Nationals’ perspective, there is obvious appeal in the Cubs’ bevy of interesting, controllable middle infielders. Washington has an opening at second and has said it is interested in acquiring a shortstop option both for depth purposes and to provide an alternative to Ian Desmond, if he cannot be extended. Wittenmyer says the team feels comfortable with its staff even without Zimmermann, though I expect a free agent addition would be forthcoming if an arm is dealt.

While it is far too soon to speculate as to the pieces that might be included in a trade, the Cubs have several possible candidates that could be dangled. Starting shortstop Starlin Castro is signed to an attractive, yet pricey contract. And then there are heralded youngsters Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, and Addison Russell.


Red Sox Links: Lester, Masterson, Gregerson

Could Jon Lester end up back with the Red Sox after all?  “A well-connected baseball executive who has had conversations on the subject with the Red Sox” predicted to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes that Lester would indeed re-sign with his old team.  The exec thought the Sox could be willing to relax their policy against signing pitchers in their 30’s to long-term contracts by offering Lester a six-year deal worth at least $20MM per season.  Unless Lester is still willing to give the Sox a bit of a discount, I would think it’ll take a lot more than six years/$120MM to outbid the field for Lester’s services — MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Lester would receive, at minimum, a six-year, $147MM contract this winter.  If the Red Sox were willing to give Lester a six/$120MM deal, I would think they would’ve just offered him that deal in extension talks last winter and avoided this entire situation.

Here’s some more from Fenway Park….


Central Links: Moore, Royals, Tigers, Cardinals

Though there’s been speculation that Royals GM Dayton Moore could be a possibility to take over the GM slot in Atlanta following Frank Wren’s dismissal, Royals owner David Glass told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that Moore is “absolutely” staying with the Royals. Moore’s contract runs through 2016, but as Heyman and others have noted, it’d seem odd to leave town after getting the Royals to their first World Series in 29 years. Glass had nothing but praise for Moore: “He’s done a great job. He’s as good as it gets as far as a general manager.”

More news from baseball’s Central divisions…

  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis breaks down how the Royals constructed their World Series roster, noting that the club has 14 homegrown players (draft or international signing), nine acquired via waivers or trade and only two signed via free agency (Omar Infante and Jason Vargas). One could make the case that Jeremy Guthrie also belongs in the free agent category, as he technically hit the open market for a couple of weeks between the end of the 2012 season and re-signing in Kansas City. However, the most intriguing part of Callis’ piece, for MLBTR readers, may be a comment from Moore on the importance of Jake Odorizzi‘s role in the James Shields/Wade Davis trade: “…he also kept Yordano Ventura out of that deal at that time.”
  • MLive.com’s Chris Iott makes five predictions about the upcoming Tigers offseason in his latest piece, prognosticating that Detroit will not make a serious run at re-signing Max Scherzer, nor will it spend lavishly on its bullpen, perhaps adding one mid-range option at best. As he notes, the combined $17MM owed to Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria is already more than the $15.4MM the club spent on last year’s entire Opening Day bullpen. Iott does, however, foresee a re-signing of Victor Martinez. For his last two predictions, he expects an internal competition for the fifth starter slot and that one (or both) or Andy Dirks and Don Kelly will be non-tendered, based on recent comments from GM Dave Dombrowski. Bottom line: he expects Detroit to spend on retaining Martinez and acquiring a center fielder rather than on the bullpen or rotation.
  • The Cardinals aren’t likely to re-sign any of their five free agents, writes MLB.com’s Jen Langosch. That means that Justin Masterson, A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Ellis and perhaps most notably, lifetime Cardinal Jason Motte and the resurgent Pat Neshek are ticketed for new jerseys. Neshek is probably the most intriguing of the bunch, as the 34-year-old signed a minor league deal last offseason but earned an All-Star nod en route to a final ERA of 1.87 in 67 1/3 innings with 9.1 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9.