Justin Masterson Rumors

AL East Notes: Clevenger, Masterson, Sox, Hoffman, Jays

Agent Josh Kusnick, who represents Orioles backstop Steve Clevenger, tells Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com that he’s unsure why the team elected to select Ryan Lavarnway‘s contract and option Clevenger to Triple-A. The sequence has Kusnick questioning Clevenger’s future in Baltimore, and he went so far as to say, “If Steve is going to lose his job to someone with no options remaining, the same age and same position, then it would be great if he could find a major league opportunity somewhere else if it’s not going to work out in Baltimore.” Kusnick says that he and Clevenger haven’t been told of a specific area that Clevenger needs to improve, and he feels that Clevenger has proven himself at the Triple-A level to the point where he should have a chance to stick in the Majors. The 28-year-old Clevenger has a strong .311/.371/.420 batting line at Triple-A (760 plate appearances) and has nearly identical numbers over the life of his Minor League career as a whole. Both the Diamondbacks and Padres have been linked to catchers in the media of late, though the D-Backs have stated that they’re not interested in adding a catcher at this time.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • With Rick Porcello now signed to a four-year extension, Justin Masterson is the only Red Sox starter not signed beyond 2015. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford spoke to Masterson about that reality, but the 30-year-old didn’t seem fazed by pitching in a contract year for the second straight season. Masterson spoke about his decision not to take an extension with Cleveland last spring, noting that he disagreed with naysayers stating that he should’ve taken the two-year offer that was on the table. “No,” said Masterson. “I would have actually felt worse if I had taken it because I knew I wasn’t feeling good. I just think it’s based off the person. But for some people it can make it hard to play.” Masterson had physical issues from the onset of Spring Training in 2014, writes Bradford, but he’s feeling healthier this year and more focused on the season than a contract.
  • Fangraphs’ David Laurila looks at the parallels between Hanley Ramirez as a 22-year-old and Xander Bogaerts, who is entering his age-22 season. Laurila interviewed Ramirez as a 22-year-old back in 2004 and sees similarities in Ramirez’s approach as an inexperienced hitter and the one presently utilized by Bogaerts. One key difference, Laurila notes, is that while Bogaerts’ .240/.297/.362 line from last year was disappointing, Ramirez batted just .271/.335/.385 at the Double-A level when he was 21 years of age. Laurila opines that we shouldn’t be surprised to see a Bogaerts breakout this summer.
  • Blue Jays prospect Jeff Hoffman spoke with Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel (audio link) about his return from Tommy John surgery and the progress he’s made since college and pitching in the Cape Cod League. Hoffman, the ninth pick in the 2014 draft, feels that his command is all the way back and is looking forward to getting his Minor League career underway. McDaniel also asked Hoffman about whether or not he followed trade talks in the offseason — Hoffman was prominently mentioned in the Orioles-Blue Jays Dan Duquette talks — to which Hoffman replied that he’s aware of trade discussions but tries not to focus on them. “My agent does a good job of making me aware of what can and can’t happen, and what will happen, because a lot of the stuff out there is kind of crazy,” said Hoffman. (McDaniel also spoke to Twins prospect Nick Gordon — another 2014 draftee — about his transition to pro ball, making for a pair of interesting interviews.)
  • The myriad transactions of Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos will be put to the test this year in a season that could very well determine his future with the team, writes Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. Davidi tracks much of Anthopoulos’ more notable moves, including how he masterfully manipulated the CBA’s former draft pick compensation system. Anthopoulos turned Marco Scutaro, Rod Barajas, Miguel Olivo, Scott Downs, Frank Francisco, Kevin Gregg, John Buck, Jon Rauch and Jose Molina into Aaron Sanchez, Justin Nicolino, Daniel Norris, Asher Wojciechowski, Jacob Anderson, Dwight Smith, Kevin Comer, Joe Musgrove, Matt Smoral, Mitch Nay and Tyler Gonzales — often by acquiring marginal free-agents-to-be and offering them arbitration in order to stockpile draft picks when they rejected. This year is a blend of both trades and scouting/development, and if the team fails to make the playoffs, “someone else may very well get a chance to push this team over the finish line,” Davidi writes.

Pitching Notes: Richard, Masterson, Morrow, Hochevar

Spring Training will always involve unfortunate news of injuries, but it also represents an opportunity for players making a comeback — whether from injury or otherwise — to reestablish themselves. In addition to restoring their own career trajectories (Scott Kazmir, anyone?), such players can deliver immense value to the teams that give them another chance.

Let’s take a look at a few situations from around the league, focusing on pitchers:

  • When lefty Clayton Richard signed a minor league deal with the Pirates, everyone’s first thoughts went to the hurlers whose careers have recently been revived in Pittsburgh. (A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and Edinson Volquez being the prime examples.) As Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, that is essentially what Richard was thinking about, too. “I was able to talk to [Volquez] a little bit and see what he thought of the organization,” said Richard. “It was positive. Just in talking with [GM] Neal [Huntington], [manager] Clint [Hurdle], and [pitching coach] Ray [Searage], I got a good feel of what they are all about. it made sense for me that this was the place.” The non-roster invitee is said to be hitting the gun in the low-nineties, where he previously has worked, and says he is “loosening up my entire body through my delivery” after having seen his motion limited in the past by shoulder troubles.
  • After good vibes at the opening of Red Sox camp, Justin Masterson had a less-than-promising outing yesterday, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. A scout called Masterson’s work “awful,” while manager John Farrell said the righty “started to flash some better stuff into the fourth inning” but lacked “late action” on his pitches from “inconsistencies and when the velocity drops.” That group of issues — i.e., mechanical struggles and waning fastball velocity — were perhaps the two most-cited underlying difficulties that led Masterson to fall from his early perch near the top of this year’s free agent class to a one-year, $9.5MM deal with Boston. Of course, there is still plenty of time for Masterson to rebound this season.
  • Brandon Morrow of the Padres also signed a make-good, one-year deal but was guaranteed much less than Masterson. But he is off to a strong opening to his year, having posted nine innings with one earned run and seven strikeouts against two free passes thus far. In post-game comments today to his counterpart, Cubs skipper Joe Maddon said that Morrow showed “real stuff” in his four scoreless frames, as MLB.com’s Alyson Footer tweets. It seems at this point that the fifth starter’s role is Morrow’s to lose.
  • Royals reliever Luke Hochevar made his way back to competitive action today, throwing a clean inning, as Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports (Twitter links). Working his way back from Tommy John surgery, Hochevar nevertheless landed a $10MM guarantee (over two years) to return to Kansas City. He was throwing in the 92 to 93 mph range in his work today, but despite that successful first appearance still seems likely to start the regular season on the DL.

Central Notes: Lester, Reds, Simon, Moss, Masterson

Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija both helped their former Athletics teammate Jon Lester in his decision to sign with the Cubs, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes. Of course, Lester was already familiar with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein from their time in Boston. “I think the Theo-Jon bromance was going to happen anyways,” says Hammel. “But [Lester] was definitely interested, and he was picking our brains all the time.” Here are more quick notes from the Central divisions.

  • The Reds didn’t attract much attention this week, but they quietly traded two starters (Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos) who didn’t project as well as one might think in 2015 for talent that could help them immediately, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs writes in a piece for FOX Sports. Shortstop Eugenio Suarez (acquired in the Simon deal) projects to be as good an offensive player as Didi Gregorius next year, and pitcher Anthony DeSclafani (acquired in the Latos deal) might turn out to be almost as good next year as Latos anyway.
  • Simon could move to the Tigers‘ bullpen if they re-sign Max Scherzer, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press suggests. Publicly, the Tigers won’t say that, Fenech writes, because they would look like they lost if Scherzer signed elsewhere. But it seems possible that the Tigers could be thinking of Simon primarily as a backup plan for their rotation.
  • The Indians‘ trade for Brandon Moss was a deal worth making, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Moss is expected to fully recover from offseason surgery, and the cost to get him (minor league second baseman Joey Wendle) wasn’t steep. With Moss in the fold, Pluto writes, the Indians will likely work to trade fellow lefty outfielder David Murphy, who has one year remaining before free agency.
  • Pluto also writes that the Indians dodged a bullet when Justin Masterson didn’t accept their three-year, $45MM extension offer last offseason. Masterson, of course, suffered through a year of injury and poor mechanics, and with him under contract, the Indians would have had about half their payroll committed to three players: Masterson, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. Masterson agreed to a one-year deal with the Red Sox this week.


Red Sox Rotation Notes: Masterson, Depth, Aces

The Red Sox and Justin Masterson believe the righty’s poor year in 2014 was the result of bad health and bad mechanics, and is likely to be the exception rather than the rule, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. “Last year was purely health. We tried to make corrections through mechanical type things because I wasn’t experiencing any pain, but I lost some flexibility and quite honestly a lot of other things,” says Masterson. “I have confidence this will probably be one of the best seasons I’ve ever had.” Heading into 2014, Masterson looked poised to land a big free agent contract, but instead he ended up with one year and $9.5MM, plus up to $2.5MM in incentives, with both he and the Red Sox gambling on a return to form this season. Here are more notes out of Boston.

  • In addition to Masterson, the Red Sox added Rick Porcello and Wade Miley this week. GM Ben Cherington is pleased with his team’s starting pitching depth despite giving up Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster in the Miley trade, WEEI.com’s Ryan Hannable writes. “We’ve been able to acquire the three starters that we have this week while still maintaining really what we consider the top end of our young pitching,” says Cherington, adding that the Red Sox “still have what we think is really good young pitching depth besides the five guys that will likely open the season in the rotation.” The Red Sox currently have Porcello, Miley, Masterson, Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly penciled into begin the season, with Brandon Workman, Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Edwin Escobar, and Eduardo Rodriguez queued up behind them.
  • As much depth as the Red Sox have, though, they don’t have anyone who could obviously be considered an ace. “[T]he whole No. 1 starter thing kind of is overrated,” Cherington says, via Britton. As Britton points out, though, to say otherwise right now might be seen as an insult to players like Kelly or Masterson, and by expressing satisfaction with the pitching they have, the Red Sox can take a stronger negotiating position if they want to try to trade for a pitcher like Cole Hamels or Jordan Zimmermann. Britton notes that most World Series winners in the past 20 years at least had a pitcher who had pitched like an ace at one time, although it’s also the case that aces can emerge quickly, like Corey Kluber did last season.

AL Notes: Melky, Jays, Red Sox, Masterson

With the Winter Meetings in the books, be sure to check out this interesting piece from Joe Lemire for Medium.com regarding the change wrought on the process by changes in communication technology. Texting has replaced in-person dealmaking and reporting, writes Lemire, which in some ways undermines the purpose of teams gathering in one place. Of course, as we found out this week, the annual meet-up is still capable of supporting a hotbed of transactional movement.

Here’s the latest from the American League:

  • The Mariners have made free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera a three-year offer, Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com reports (Spanish language link). Cabrera is looking for at least one more guaranteed year, says Rojas. This news reflects a recent report from Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune, who suggested that the sides were at something of a standoff along those lines.
  • The Blue Jays are looking at the free agent market for a second baseman but are not interested in guaranteeing more than three years, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. “You won’t see any four or five-year deals,” said GM Alex Anthopoulos.
  • Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald (Twitter link) rejects the idea that the Red Sox made a mistake by not landing Jon Lester. That assessment, says Silverman, will depend upon whether the team finds a suitable alternative.
  • Justin Masterson says that the Rangers were one of several claims to make him an offer before he signed with the Red Sox, the Herald’s Scott Lauber reports on Twitter. That offer was for $6MM in guaranteed money, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford tweets.

Red Sox Sign Justin Masterson

The Red Sox made another addition to their rotation by signing right-hander Justin Masterson to a one-year contract.  Masterson will earn a $9.5MM base salary, plus he can earn another $2.5MM in total incentives by reaching certain innings thresholds.  He’ll earn another $500K if he hits 185 innings, and then another $500K for every five innings after that, up to 205 innings.MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Baltimore Orioles

Masterson, 29, fell off significantly last year after a three-year run in which he averaged 205 frames and a 3.86 ERA (that included outstanding campaigns in 2011 and 2013 sandwiched around a dud in 2012).  In 2014, he scuffled to a 5.88 ERA in 128 2/3 innings last year, striking out 8.1 and walking 4.8 batters per nine while dealing with a variety of shoulder, knee, and back issues. Masterson lost nearly three ticks on his average fastball velocity last year, though he managed to carry a typically stellar 58.2% groundball rate.

In the aggregate, Masterson presents a classic buy-low opportunity after entering 2014 as a significant extension candidate or future free agent target. He will look to regain his form with the organization that drafted and developed him.

ESPN.com’s Buster Olney was the first to report an agreement between Masterson and the Red Sox.  WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reported the contract length and value while Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports had the breakdown of Masterson’s incentives.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Justin Masterson Close To Deal With Unknown Team

Justin Masterson is close to a deal with an unknown team, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. Masterson has most strongly been connected to the Red Sox of late, with the Tigers and a variety of other teams showing interest.

The Red Sox recently made Masterson a one-year offer with the idea of using him as a starter. A one-year deal would give Masterson the opportunity to rebuild his stock after a disappointing and injury-wracked 2014 season and hit the free agent market again next offseason.


Rangers Notes: Rosario, Masterson, Floyd

The Rangers have been discussing trades with the Braves, Mets, Diamondbacks and Nationals at the Winter Meetings, though they’re reportedly no longer talking to the Dodgers about Matt Kemp.  Here’s some more out of Arlington…

  • The Rangers and Rockies have continued to discuss catcher Wilin Rosario, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports.  Rosario would help address Texas’ need for both a right-handed bat and a catcher.
  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels said that offers have been extended to free agent pitchers but sources tell Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Justin Masterson “isn’t in [the] picture.”
  • Talks with Gavin Floyd‘s agent have been put on hold for now, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.  Floyd posted strong numbers (2.65 ERA, 3.46 K/BB) over nine starts with the Braves in 2014 before having his season ended by a broken bone in his throwing elbow.
  • Also from Grant, the Rangers are interested in bringing Scott Baker back on a minor league contract, though the righty is hoping to land a Major League deal.  After missing almost all of the 2012-13 seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, Baker posted a 5.47 ERA over 80 2/3 IP with Texas last season.
  • The Rangers will protect Russell Wilson from the Rule 5 Draft on their Triple-A roster, which Grant explains is a procedural move that would force a claiming team to keep Wilson on its Major League roster all season.  Texas is essentially keeping Wilson in the fold as a “Spring Training motivational speaker” since he’s obviously not leaving the NFL any time soon.

Red Sox Make Offer To Justin Masterson

10:50am: Masterson’s camp will not necessarily act on the offer immediately, tweets Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com, as it still has teams to meet with.

8:38am: The offer is actually only for one year, Cafardo tweets. Reports have not clarified whether the deal would include any option years.

With that in mind, Boston appears to be competing on more equal footing with other teams that are said to have made or weighed offers to the righty.

7:21am: The Red Sox have offered Justin Masterson a multi-year deal with the idea of using him as a starter, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported yesterday that the Red Sox had made Masterson an offer. A number of teams have shown interest in Masterson, so it’s not that surprising that he would already have at least one multi-year offer despite his disappointing 2014 season, in which he dealt with injuries and a (likely related) loss of velocity.

In October, MLBTR’s Zach Links predicted Masterson would take a one-year, $12MM deal, but that was predicated upon the idea that he would want to use that year to rebuild his value before hitting the free agent market again. Last offseason, Masterson appeared headed toward a huge contract, and he might yet be able to get one if he took a one-year deal and then had a big 2015 season.

Masterson, of course, came through the minors with the Red Sox, who sent him to Cleveland when they acquired Victor Martinez in 2009. After four straight years in which he was solid or better from the Indians (he had a poor ERA in 2012, but his peripherals that season remained reasonable), his ugly walk year resulted in a trade to St. Louis last July. For the season, he posted a 5.88 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 in 128 2/3 innings.


Central Rumors: Cubs, Lester, Masterson

If the Cubs land Jon Lester, an industry source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter) they’re next move would be to pursue a big bat – to go along with Miguel Montero – to try and accelerate their revival. The Cubs are reportedly discussing Montero with the D’Backs in a deal that wouldn’t require them giving up much in the way of assets.  More out of the Central divisions..

  • The Indians kicked the tires on Justin Masterson, but were never really “all in” on bringing him back, according to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer (via Twitter).
  • Twins GM Terry Ryan says he has no interest in the Blue Jays’ president/CEO role, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter).  “[I’m] very humbled to hear [that], but I’m a GM.  I’m a baseball guy,” Ryan said.
  • Even though word has only recently leaked, White Sox executive Kenny Williams was contacted by the Blue Jays about their team president position shortly after the end of the season, writes Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. Current Jays president Paul Beeston is part of the executive search process, which indicates the club isn’t going behind his back to make a change. Williams also likes the idea of being the first African American MLB CEO.
  • Indians GM Chris Antonetti is comfortable with his current roster, he tells Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (Twitter). The acquisition of Brandon Moss affords the club depth and versatility. We learned earlier tonight that the club would now look to build upon its seven pitcher deep rotation. We could also see them shop Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, or David Murphy, but I doubt they would receive much salary relief in a trade.
  • Ryan went on to say that the Twins have been in serious talks with both agents and clubs about acquiring pitching, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com (on Twitter).
  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer isn’t making any secret about what he wants to do this winter, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com.  “Clearly we want to add multiple starting pitchers this winter. We need to,” Hoyer said.