Justin Masterson Rumors

Extension Notes: Lester, Masterson, Wood

Extension season is unquestionably upon us, with several notable deals going down in recent days. What else might be forthcoming? Last year, between February 17th and April 4th, major league clubs committed a cool $641.4MM to extend nine players over a total of 45 years.

We just took a look at the latest on Chase Headley and the Padres, who seem at a standstill as the third baseman approaches his walk year. Yesterday, we heard that the Reds and Homer Bailey could be approaching a lengthy new deal. Here are some more notes on potential extension situations around the game:

  • The Red Sox have yet to initiate extension talks with Jon Lester, the lefty said today. As Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports, however, Lester remains unconcerned. The 30-year-old indicated that he was willing to talk through the season. "If it's something we do get done in Spring Training, great," said Lester. "If it's not, I think you have to take everything as it comes. If that involves going through the season still talking or getting it done early, you have to play it by ear." He also made clear that he stands by earlier statements that he hopes to reach a deal to stay in Boston, but did not promise a breezy negotiation. "I'm not going to go back on what I said," Lester explained. "I said what I said from the heart and I mean it. We'll see where it goes from there. We've still got a long way to go. It's going to be a tough process."
  • Justin Masterson and the Indians are making final preparations for their arbitration hearing on Thursday, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. But Masterson — who will become a free agent in 2014 if he does not reach a new deal — indicated that he was still hoping to talk out of the adversarial process. Though apparently aimed at his 2014 salary, rather than long-term possibilities, Masterson's comments were interesting. "We're seeing if it's possible if we can make something happen before we leave [for the arbitration hearing]," said Masterson. "We're trying to see if we're being too stubborn or not. We're trying to be smart and reasonable. We're definitely moving a little bit here and there to see what can happen."
  • After posting a breakout year just in time for his first season of arbitration eligiblity, Cubs hurler Travis Wood says that he has had little dialogue about an extension, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (subscription link). After landing a $3.9MM contract to avoid arbitration, it does not sound as if Wood is expecting further discussions before the start of the season. "We'll see what happens," said Wood. "I would love to stay here, but right now we've got to get focused on spring and get ready for the season." 

Quick Hits: Heyward, Masterson, Red Sox, Yankees

The Braves have signed Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel to long-term deals in recent weeks, but don't expect them to do the same with Jason Heyward, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Heyward recently signed a two-year deal with Atlanta that did not delay his free-agency eligilibility, and now it will be difficult for the Braves to get Heyward to commit to a deal that's worth less per year than the $20MM-$22MM Freeman will get at a comparable point in his service-time clock. Here's more from the East divisions.

  • Homer Bailey's negotiations with the Reds could have an impact on Justin Masterson and the Indians, the Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes writes. Hoynes broke the news that Bailey and the Reds are in discussions about a six-year deal that could be worth $100MM, and a Bailey deal could set a precedent for an extension for Masterson, who was similarly valuable in 2013 and also is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.
  • The Yankees spent heavily this offseason, but they now have a injury-prone, top-heavy roster and little depth, Joel Sherman of the New York Post argues. That's especially true in their infield, although Sherman notes the situation might have been better if the Yankees had acquired Jhonny Peralta, Omar Infante or Logan Forsythe, all of whom they pursued this offseason (Peralta and Infante on the free-agent market, and Forsythe via trade).
  • The Red Sox are making plans now that Ryan Dempster and his salary are out of the equation for 2014, writes CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam. McAdam writes that the Red Sox have known about Dempster's decision for the past two weeks and have been looking for a veteran free agent pitcher, but probably one who would start the season at Triple-A and provide depth. The Red Sox could also save Dempster's salary for a trade-deadline acquisition.
  • Stephen Drew and the Mets still aren't close on a contract, Newsday's Marc Carig reports. Carig also notes that the Mets have interest in former Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan, who is making his way back from Tommy John surgery. The Mets' level of interest may depend on how well the team does at the beginning of the season. Hanrahan is not expected to be ready to pitch until May.
  • The Phillies still aren't interested in rebuilding, writes USA Today's Bob Nightengale. "We're committed to this core. We want to surround them with the best possible players. In time, hopefully we'll be able to transition to some of younger players," says Phillies president David Montgomery. "But now, we want to give this group every chance to win.'' GM Ruben Amaro Jr., meanwhile, repeats that he expects the Phillies to do better this season because of improved health. "Listen, if Ryan [Howard] is on the field, we are winning games," Amaro says.

AL Central Links: Ryan, Royals, Indians, Martinez

Twins general manager Terry Ryan was released from the hospital today after undergoing surgery to treat cancer discovered in his neck, the team announced. He'll spend the next several days at home recuperating as the Twins get their 2014 Spring Training underway. Here's more out of the AL Central…

  • Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star looks at the Royals' payroll in an effort to correct critics that mocked GM Dayton Moore calling the 2014 payroll a "gamble." Those critics pointed to the additional $25MM in revenue teams are receiving from national TV revenue, but Mellinger spoke with Forbes Sports senior editor Kurt Badenhausen who explained that the $25MM number is a myth. The Royals' increase (after MLB takes its share) is more like $5-10MM, he explaines. Mellinger writes that while owner David Glass and Moore have each had their failures, the success or failure of the past seven years will ultimately be determined by the 2014 Royals' on-field results.
  • Indians left-hander Nick Hagadone and GM Chris Antonetti both are relieved to have the long-standing grievance between the two sides resolved, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Antonetti said he and the rest of management feel Hagadone can be a big part of the bullpen going forward, and Hagadone said he was happy with the grievance's outcome: "In the end, I thought it was very fair. I’m happy with the outcome. I’m happy I can just concentrate on baseball."
  • MLB.com's Jordan Bastian writes that the Indians and right-hander Josh Tomlin tried to settle their pending arbitration case but were unable to do so before today's hearing. Announcement of a result can be expected in the near future. Within that piece, Antonetti says he is still hopeful of avoiding a hearing with ace Justin Masterson.
  • The Tigers are planning on getting Victor Martinez some occasional time behind the plate in 2014, writes MLive.com's Chris Iott. In reference to interleague games in National League parks, manager Brad Ausmus told Iott: "We can't not have Victor play for five straight games." Martinez says that he's excited to get back into some games at catcher. Additionally, Miguel Cabrera could still work some games at third base, with Martinez handling first base Iott writes. Both will work on those positions in Spring Training.


Indians Notes: Bourn, Tomlin, Masterson, Kipnis, Jimenez

One year ago today, the Indians plucked Michael Bourn off of the free agent market with a four-year, $48MM deal that includes a fifth-year vesting option. The now-31-year-old center fielder had languished on the market, hampered in part by being tied to draft-pick compensation, and ended up with a deal that fell shy of expectations. But Bourn's 2013 season ultimately came up somewhat short as well: missing about 30 games due to injury, Bourn put up a .263/.316/.360 line in 575 plate appearances. He swiped 23 bags, but was caught 12 times attempting a steal, and his often-stellar defense ratings fell towards average. In the end, Bourn was worth only 2.4 rWAR and 2.0 fWAR, his weakest tallies since emerging in 2009. The Cleveland faithful will hope that a bounceback 2014 begins to turn the contract back in the club's favor. Meanwhile, for the remaining free agents that have turned down qualifying offers this time around, Bourn's situation at least shows that a sizeable contract can still be had as camps begin to open.

Here's more out of Cleveland:

  • It has been a busy arbitration season for the Indians, who still have two unresolved cases even after winning a hearing against Vinnie Pestano and agreeing to an extension with Michael Brantley to avoid another. One of those — the case with righty Josh Tomlin — will be going to a hearing on Friday, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The sides are separated by less than $200K ($975K vs. $800K), so the stakes tell much more for the player than the team.
  • The other remaining arbitration situation involves key starter Justin Masterson, who filed at $11.8MM against a team counter of $8.05MM. As Hoynes reports, Masterson says he will be open to considering long-term extension talks after his 2014 salary is arrived upon. "We'll talk, we'll listen, we'll see," said Masterson, who is set to qualify for free agency next year. "To want to be a part of [the Indians' core] is there, but there is always the temptation in the back of your head as to what comes next."
  • Another possible extension candidate in Cleveland is star second baseman Jason Kipnis, who is coming off of a huge 2013 campaign and will qualify for arbitration next year. He tells MLB.com's Jordan Bastian that he would be interested in discussing an extension, indicating that previous talks had taken place and could restart once the above-noted situations are tied up. "Why would I not listen?" Kipnis said. "Yeah, I'm open to hearing what they have to say or what they have to offer. It'd be stupid not to. I know they've got some arbitration cases to finish right now. I think once everything's done with that and the spring starts flowing along, we'll start talking again."
  • A re-signing of outgoing Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez will not occur unless "something extreme" takes place, reports Hoynes. Given the value that Cleveland has put on the pick it stands to gain if Jimenez signs elsewhere, as well as the pick it would sacrifice to sign fellow free agent starter Ervin Santana, the club seems unwilling at this point to ink either pitcher.

AL Central Notes: Indians, Jimenez, Masterson, Royals

After defeating reliever Vinnie Pestano in an arbitration hearing recently, Cleveland still has three more players scheduled to face a panel. One of them — outfielder Michael Brantley – is reportedly close to a long-term deal. Pestano discussed his feelings upon going through the process, as MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports. The reliever said he was surprised mostly by the team's use of statements he'd made to the press against him. "You're being honest and accountable and saying the right things and being there," Pestano said, "and then later you find your own words in the paper, and somebody is trying to use your words against you to drive your value down. Whether that played a big role in the decision, I don't know." Though not necessarily expressing ill-will towards the team, Pestano did indicate that the hearing would have a future impact. "I definitely think it'll affect how I see things going forward," said Pestano. "I don't really know if I can be as honest and up-front anymore. I've got three more years of arbitration left. I don't know what they'll pick to use against me next year or two years from now."

Here's more from the Indians and an American League Central competitor:

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Indians haven't been in touch with Ubaldo Jimenez or his agents at Relativity Baseball in "weeks." Cleveland is, however, said to have inquired on fellow righty Ervin Santana, who (like Jimenez) will require the sacrifice of a draft choice if he is signed by a new club.
  • MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports (via Twitter) that Indians hurler Justin Masterson is willing to discuss an extension in Spring Training and may even consider talking with the team during the season, if necessary. Last we checked in, extension talks had been shelved while the sides focused on avoiding an arbitration hearing that remains scheduled for February 20th. 
  • Royals GM Dayton Moore says that the club's payroll will land around $90MM for the coming season, tweets Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. That tab falls beyond the club's "break-even point," says Moore, and thus constitutes a "gamble."

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Rosenthal’s Latest: M’s, Cruz, Rodney, Reds, Drew

The Mariners are "back in business, showing strong interest" in Nelson Cruz and Fernando Rodney again, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest column. The Mariners, who are said to have some financial leeway by new team president Kevin Mather, is also looking at the trade market for starting pitchers, though they're not currently focused on David Price or Jeff Samardzija. Rosenthal also notes that the Indians aren't having any conversations on Justin Masterson, nor are the Reds inclined to move any of their starters, further limiting the list of trade targets. More highlights below…

  • Cruz could be a fallback option for the Rangers, but probably only if he's willing to sign a one-year deal. Bringing Cruz back would allow the Rangers to deal Mitch Moreland.
  • Rosenthal wonders if the Reds should be thinking about dealing a starter. While they're trying to extend Homer Bailey, that seems to be a tall order as he's just one year from free agency. Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto are all only controlled through 2015, and as Rosenthal notes, not all can be long-term pieces.
  • The Athletics aren't considering making a run at Stephen Drew and shifting Jed Lowrie from short to second base. The A's are comfortable platooning Eric Sogard and Nick Punto.
  • A rival executive wondered to Rosenthal if the Braves would match up with the Mariners on a Dustin Ackley trade, but Rosenthal hears that the Braves aren't looking for a second baseman. They currently have Dan Uggla, who is owed $26MM through 2015, and three fallback options in Ramiro Pena, Tommy La Stella and Tyler Pastornicky.
  • Braves GM Frank Wren said he doesn't hold any ill will toward players who go to arbitration hearings — such as the ones he could face with Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman: "We don’t look at it as an antagonistic process. We look at it as a solution to a disagreement on a player’s salary."

Masterson, Indians Put Extension Talks On Hold

Pitcher Justin Masterson and the Indians appear to have "shelved" discussions of a long-term contract extension, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. For the time being, at least, the sides will instead focus on dealing with Masterson's arbitration case.

Hoynes reported about two weeks back that player and club were set to negotiate a long-term deal. While both sides are said to be interested in a new contract, Hoynes says that "talks have gained little, if any, traction." Today's news echoes another recent report, from MLB.com's Jordan Bastian, that discussions to date have failed to produce momentum.

Of course, the two parties still have plenty of work left to do on reaching a salary for 2014. Masterson filed at $11.8MM, with the team countering at $8.05MM. The resulting $3.75MM gap is the largest in absolute terms of any of the year's arbitration cases, leaving both sides facing a high-stakes hearing if a settlement cannot be hammered out. Spanning that gulf could be tricky, and GM Chris Antonetti has indicated that Masterson's case (or that of one of his teammates) could go to a hearing. Masterson's hearing is scheduled for February 20th, Bastian tweets, which does leave plenty of time to find a compromise.

Masterson, a 6'6" righty who turns 29 in March, has logged four straight seasons of at least 180 innings for Cleveland. Though he has posted middling earned run averages over two of those campaigns (4.70 in 2010 and 4.93 in 2012), his other two tallies are those of a top-of-the-rotation starter (3.21 in 2011 and 3.45 in 2013). In the aggregate, he was worth 11.7 fWAR in the 2010-13 span, placing him among the top thirty starters in the game during that stretch. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has pegged Masterson's extension value in the range of $65MM to $85MM over a five year term.


Indians Notes: Arbitration Hearings, Masterson

As MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows, the Indians (along with the Cubs) lead the league with four unsettled arbitration cases. Cleveland must settle or face a hearing with Josh Tomlin ($975K vs. $800K), Vinnie Pestano ($1.45MM vs. $975K), Michael Brantley ($3.8MM vs. $2.7MM), and Justin Masterson ($11.8MM vs. $8.05MM).

  • Though the Indians are known as a team that pursues a "file and trial" strategy on a case-by-case basis, the club has gone a league-high 22 years since it went to a hearing. But with four potential cases GM Chris Antonetti says "there's a very high likelihood we could end up in a hearing," tweets Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. 
  • Masterson's case features the greatest absolute dollar gap of any in baseball. With a $3.75MM bridge to gap, a hearing could be necessary, reports MLB.com's Jordan Bastian
  • Meanwhile, "little progress" has been made in discussions of a long-term deal between Masterson and the Indians, Bastian reports. The 28-year-old had an outstanding bounceback season in 2013, returning to his 2011 performance levels with a 3.45 ERA and even lower FIP, xFIP, and SIERA marks (3.35, 3.33, and 3.40, respectively). Set to hit the open market next year as one of several attractive starting pitchers, Masterson could cost the Indians $65MM to $85MM over five years in an extension scenario, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has suggested.

Central Notes: Anderson, Meyer, Bourjos, Indians

Former White Sox first-rounder and top prospect Brian Anderson is making one last comeback attempt, he tells MLB.com's Scott Merkin. After trying his luck as a pitcher, the soon-to-be 32-year-old Anderson is looking to catch on as an outfielder once again and believes he's made adjustments that will allow him to succeed. Making those adjustments didn't always come easily, he tells Merkin: "…I was too stubborn to fully commit to making adjustments. That led to my demise and my inconsistency at the plate. I wanted everything that came with the big leagues without having to prove myself." Anderson is hoping for a Spring Training invite with a chance to win a fourth outfielder gig before hitting his way into more playing time. Here's more out of baseball's Central divisions…

  • Steph Rogers of Getting Blanked interviewed Twins top pitching prospect Alex Meyer and covered a number of topics ranging from the best advice he's received to the transition to pro ball to the most beneficial aspects of winter ball. Meyer tells Rogers that he treasures the time he's been able to spend with former Reds left-hander Tom Browning in winter ball. Says Meyer of Browning, who pitched a perfect game in 1988: "If I can continue to pick his brain for the limited time I have left, it would be so beneficial."
  • New Cardinals center fielder Peter Bourjos told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he wasn't surprised to be traded by the Angels this offseason. Bourjos told Hummel that one of his goals with the Cards is to steal 40 bases, adding that it will depend on how he swings the bat because he knows drawing walks is not one of his strengths.
  • MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tackles a number of trade Indians scenarios in his latest Inbox piece but ultimately concludes that Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson and Lonnie Chisenhall will all be in the organization come Opening Day (though he doesn't believe Chisenhall will start at third base).
  • Earlier today, I ran down several NL Central notes, including pieces on Kolten Wong, Mark Reynolds and several Cubs topics.

Arbitration Filing Numbers

MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker is the place to go to see the arbitration contracts agreed upon thus far, as well as the figures exchanged between teams and players that were not able to reach agreement before today's noon deadline to swap salary positions. Matt Swartz's arbitration projections are available here.

As MLBTR has previously explained, 146 players officially filed for arbitration (after some eligible and tendered players had alread reached agreement). Of those, 40 players will exchange figures with their clubs. Of course, those players can still reach agreements before their hearings (which will take place betwee February 1st and 21st). If the case goes to a hearing, the arbitrator must choose one side's figures, rather than settling on a midpoint.

For the Braves players listed below, however, Atlanta says it will cease negotiations and take all cases to a hearing. Two other teams that have swapped figures with some players — the Nationals and Indians — also have employed variations of the "file and trial" approach with their arbitration cases.

Though a tweet from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal indicates that the Reds have joined the list of teams employing "file and trial," GM Walt Jocketty did not seem to echo that position in comments today to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. It turns out that the team has only taken that position with respect to players whose deals were valued under the $2MM level, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

We will use this post to keep tabs on the the highest-stakes arbitration situations remaining — those where the player files for at least $4.5MM: