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Justin Masterson Rumors
The Cardinals have bolstered their starting rotation depth by acquiring Justin Masterson from the Indians in exchange for top outfield prospect James Ramsey. Both teams have officially announced the deal. Right-hander Michael Wacha has been moved to the 60-day DL to make room on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster.
Masterson, 29, is currently on the disabled list (he’s set to be activated this weekend) and in the midst of a down season as he heads into free agency. He’s earning $9.7625MM this season, of which roughly $3.3MM remains.
Masterson looked the part of a top-of-the-rotation starter in 2013, posting a 3.45 ERA with 9.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 58.5 percent ground-ball rate in 193 innings. He’s battled a knee issue for most of this season, which could very likely have contributed to his 5.51 ERA and bloated walk rate (5.1 BB/9).
Masterson’s fastball velocity has declined significantly this season, falling from an average of 91.6 mph in 2013 to 89.1 in 2014. However, Masterson’s now former pitching coach Mickey Callaway said earlier in the month that he felt Masterson’s knee injury had altered his mechanics, which could explain the dip in velocity as well as the increase in walks.
The Cardinals have been on the lookout for rotation help for weeks now, having also been connected to Jake Peavy as well as aces David Price and Jon Lester. Masterson comes with upside, to be sure; FIP, xFIP and SIERA all feel his skill-set should have resulted in an ERA in the low 4.00s this season, and he’s had a good deal of past success. However, his injury and ineffective results will leave some Cardinals fans wondering if he’s truly an upgrade over internal options.
That remains to be seen, but the Cardinals felt that Masterson could bolster their starting pitching in light of Michael Wacha‘s injury and the struggles of Shelby Miller. While Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn are reliable arms atop the rotation, Joe Kelly has been injured for most of the season, and Carlos Martinez would shatter last season’s innings total were he to remain in the rotation over the final two months (to say nothing of the postseason).
As for the Indians, they’ll receive Ramsey, a 2012 first-round pick that ranked seventh among Cardinals prospects on Baseball America’s midseason list and ranked sixth according to Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. The 24-year-old is hitting .300/.389/.527 with 13 homers in 281 Double-A plate appearances this season. Callis and Mayo note that Ramsey has the speed to play center field (though he’s not a huge threat on the bases) and the arm to play right field if a change is needed. He draws a fair amount of walks and has shown more power than some anticipated coming out of college, the MLB.com duo adds.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
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.
The Red Sox are willing to move one or both of John Lackey and Jon Lester, depending on the returns, sources tell WEEI’s Alex Speier. However, while the club is willing to move Lester within the division because he is a free agent at season’s end, they’re less inclined to move Lackey within the division, as he is controlled through 2015.
Here’s more on Lackey and the AL East…
- In a second piece, Speier writes that it will be difficult for the Sox to move Lackey, though, as he’s expressed an understandable hesitance to pitch at the league minimum next year, and it would leave the Red Sox with little to no stability in their rotation. Speier suggests a one-year, $16.5MM extension (the AAV of Lackey’s current deal, prior to his league-minimum option kicking in), which could feel fair to both clubs. Essentially, it would amount to a two-year, $17MM deal, of course.
- A trade of Lester could impact Lackey’s willingness to return to the Red Sox, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Lackey and Lester are close, and Rosenthal suggests that Lackey may not want to sign an extension or play for $500K next year if Lester is gone.
- Yesterday’s acquisition of Danny Valencia may prove to be the biggest move that GM Alex Anthopoulos makes prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, writes Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. The Blue Jays are getting contributions from two of their biggest trade chips — Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman — and the platoon of Steven Tolleson and Munenori Kawasaki has hit well to this point. Anthopoulos is still looking for a right-handed platoon partner for Adam Lind, but Nolan Reimold could fill that void. It seems to me that it’s a stretch to count on that many question marks, but Kennedy speculates that the team’s payroll limitations may be more significant than Anthopoulos has admitted to the public. Kennedy runs down the pros and cons of some speculative Jays targets.
- While Justin Masterson is similar to Yankees acquisitions Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley — all are formerly productive players with sizable salaries and diminished production in 2014 — the Yanks aren’t interested in acquiring him, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman points out that teams could be more open to acquiring Masterson in August if he clears waivers and begins pitching better following a DL stint, but the Indians, who are still in the Wild Card hunt, may just hang onto him then. Cleveland is “very willing” to move Masterson, who has reportedly drawn trade interest from other clubs.
The Royals are interested in Andrew Miller but aren’t currently pursuing Jonny Gomes, Major League sources tell Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Multiple reports have previously connected the Royals to Gomes, but it appears their interest has waned for the time being. Miller, of course, is being pursued by many teams due to his dominant numbers and relatively inexpensive salary. He’ll be a free agent at season’s end but could alter the composition of a bullpen and be a vital postseason piece. Miller tells Bradford that if he’s traded, he’ll harbor no hard feelings toward an organization with which he has “loved” his time. “I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to an end in the next couple of days, but if it does it won’t spoil it for me,” said Miller. “If it does I’m certainly not going to burn a bridge on the way out of town.” Earlier this morning, K.C. was also linked to John Lackey.
Here’s more from the AL Central…
- Despite reported interest from the Yankees, the White Sox might have a difficult time moving John Danks, a source tells Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Anybody who throws 200 innings in the big leagues is worth his weight in gold,” the source said. “But I don’t think his weight is worth $30 million worth of gold.” Van Schouwen’s source feels that the Sox would let Danks go if he were to be claimed on waivers next month in order to free themselves of his remaining salary obligations.
- As for Chicago’s other tradeable pieces, Van Schouwen notes that Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham, Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo have limited markets due to contractual obligations (Dunn) or poor performance (the others). Alexei Ramirez would fetch a nice return, but the ChiSox don’t have an in-house replacement for the 32-year-old.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer looks at the Indians‘ current situation and feels that the team could sell some veterans without hurting their chances in the Wild Card hunt. Justin Masterson has underperformed, and Asdrubal Cabrera has been decent at best, but both have drawn trade interest, Hoynes reports. He suggests calling Oakland and San Francisco about Cabrera to peddle him as a second base option. Ultimately, the Indians could benefit from relying more on names like Jose Ramirez, Danny Salazar and Zach McAllister than their declining stars, Hoynes writes.
- Glen Perkins made no effort to hide his feelings on whether or not the Twins should extend Kurt Suzuki when asked by Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press over the weekend: “That would be the ideal. I think everyone else would agree. Not even just pitchers. He’s fit in this clubhouse great, too, with everybody.” GM Terry Ryan told Berardino that he’s been happy with Suzuki’s contributions, though he acknowledged that Suzuki rates poorly in terms of pitch-framing. Berardino noted that the Orioles, Blue Jays and Giants had scouts in attendance at Twins games over the weekend.
- In more Twins news, Ryan is sending assistant GM Rob Antony on the team’s current road trip to Kansas City and Chicago while he settles in with VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff and special adviser Wayne Krivsky to work out deadline deals, writes La Valle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Ryan acknowledged the team’s position as sellers, telling Neal: “As long as it stops in the near future, then it is worthwhile. … This isn’t what anyone signed up to do. Nobody wants to watch a club get into late July and be in a position where you don’t have a chance.” Neal lists several Twins trade candidates, including Suzuki, Josh Willingham, Brian Duensing and Casey Fien.
Here’s the latest out of the American League:
- The Red Sox could be involved as both buyers and sellers, according to reports from ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark (Twitter links). After inquiring with the Phillies on lefty Cole Hamels, Philadelphia has sent scouts to watch Boston’s Double-A affiliate. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have sent their own “top scouts” to take a look at the Cardinals‘ New York-Penn League club over the last few days, suggesting that a deal sending Jake Peavy to St. Louis could still be in the offing.
- Though recent reports may (to some extent) suggest otherwise, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said earlier today that the team’s priority at this point is to add an “offensive piece,” as Bryan Hoch and Jake Kring-Schreifels of MLB.com report. “It still feels like the pitching needs more help, but honestly, the offense has been consistently poor throughout the entire year.” Cashman added that, while second base prospect Rob Refsnyder could be the team’s “second baseman of the future, maybe as early as next year,” he would potentially only see time in the outfield at the MLB level this year and would not represent an immediate upgrade over incumbent Brian Roberts at the keystone.
- Justin Masterson of the Indians may still be working through a rehab assignment, but that has not stopped teams from inquiring as to his availability, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. Hoynes writes that the interest in Masterson suggests both that the trade market for starters is wanting for quality and that teams value players differently, with some potentially willing to bet on a return to the righty’s results from 2013. Of course, as manager Terry Francona notes, a healthy and productive Masterson could also provide a significant boost to Cleveland’s own chances.
- As they peruse the market from the buy side, the Indians are looking for players with future control rather than rentals, tweets ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden. That is unsurprising, given the team’s careful resource management and somewhat long postseason odds.
- We learned earlier today that the Tigers are expected to pursue a left-handed reliever. The club does not appear to be in the market for a left-handed hitting outfielder or an infielder to play on the left side, as Chris Iott of MLive.com reports. “I don’t know that either one of them would be real high on our priority list at this point,” said GM Dave Dombrowski.
- The Angels are unlikely to deal for a starter in advance of the trade deadline, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Though the club has some payroll available to make an addition, it is hesitant to ship out more prospects after a series of recent moves.
Originally recalled for a two-day period with Darwin Barney on paternity leave, Cubs second baseman Arismendy Alcantara has been informed that he will be with the team at least through the All-Star break, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Alcantara, who ranked 33rd on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s Top 50 prospects, says he was surprised by the news. Manager Rick Renteria offered praise for the 22-year-old, who collected his first four Major League hits in today’s contest.
Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…
- Reds right-hander Homer Bailey left today’s game after five innings due to a slight strain in his right knee, but he won’t see his name added to the list of significant injuries that have stricken contending teams today. The Reds have announced that he is expected to make his next start.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he’s glad to see Vance Worley performing well with the Pirates, though he did imply that it’s too early to say that the Twins gave up on Worley too soon: “Give him a little time to see what he does over the course of starts. We’ll talk about that in October. See how it goes. I know he’s done well.”
- The Indians are hopeful that Justin Masterson‘s two weeks on the disabled list will not only give him a chance to heal, but to help him get his mechanics back in line, reports MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway feels that Masterson’s knee has affected the way he’s been able to land during his delivery, which would explain the sharp decrease in velocity Masterson has seen this year.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn would need to receive an offer that knocks his cell phone out of his hands in order to trade Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Avisail Garcia or Jose Abreu, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com. However, Hahn notes that oftentimes, a trade will come together when a rival club’s initial inquiry is on a player that is unavailable, as it leads to the suggestion of alternative options.
Indians starter Justin Masterson has been dealing with a “nagging” knee issue since early in the season, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Soreness in his right knee has lingered since his second start of the year, says Masterson, and now will cause him to miss at least one outing. It remains to be seen what this could mean for Masterson’s status as a pending free agent (and possible qualifying offer recipient or even trade candidate). The righty has seen his ERA jump from a 3.45 mark over 193 innings last year to the 5.03 level in his 93 frames in 2014, though his peripherals and ERA estimators show less cause for concern. The larger issue, perhaps, is the fact that his average fastball velocity has dropped from 93.1 mph last year down to 90.5 mph this season.
Here’s more on Masterson and the rest of the AL Central…
- Meanwhile, in response to a reader question, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian writes that Masterson’s diminished velocity may have played a role in the club’s decision not to come up to the righty’s asking price for an extension. The hurler’s historical inconsistency may have been the greater factor, says Bastian.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn says that recent draftee Carlos Rodon (who went third overall) could be in the club’s rotation as early as next year, reports Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. “Based on our scouting evaluation that’s certainly a possibility,” said Hahn. “But until you get a guy in and get to know him and spend day in and day out with him, I think it’s a little risky to put time frames on guys.” Of course, the first step will be to complete a deal with the lefty, who must sign by July 18.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski acknowledged his team’s need for bullpen help to hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on the Inside Pitch show on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (via MLB.com’s Jason Beck). Dombrowski did note, however, that the team would be looking for more of a middle-relief type of arm than a late-inning option, as they’re comfortable with Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan in the eighth and ninth innings. Nathan has struggled to a 6.28 ERA this season and briefly looked to have turned a corner, fanning five in a pair of scoreless innings, but he’s allowed two runs in two innings since.
- In a mailbag piece with readers, James Schmel of MLive.com writes that he expects the Tigers to acquire some bullpen help this July and suggests Chad Qualls as an ideal candidate. He also opines that if the Rays end up designating Erik Bedard for assignment, the veteran lefty would make a logical addition to Detroit’s pitching staff. He also feels that Don Kelly is the most likely roster casualty when Andy Dirks is activated from the disabled list, as that would allow Detroit to keep both Dirks and the surprising J.D Martinez on the roster.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
Pitcher Scott Carroll had a strong big-league debut for the White Sox on Sunday, pitching 7 1/3 innings and allowing just two runs, one earned, against David Price and the Rays. It’s been a long journey to the Majors for Carroll, who is 29 and was a third-round pick of the Reds all the way back in 2007. He made it all the way to Triple-A before the Reds released him in 2012. The White Sox then scooped him up, but he got hurt while pitching in Venezuela after the season and needed Tommy John surgery. He got back to the mound just eight months later, pitching for Double-A Birmingham near the end of the 2013 minor-league season. He had pitched well in four starts for Triple-A Charlotte in 2014 before finally getting the call. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- The Cubs have become baseball’s version of a prison, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. That’s hyperbole, obviously, but Wittenmyer does quote former Cubs pitcher Matt Garza on what advice he would give current Cub Jeff Samardzija: “All I can tell him is keep pitching; pitch your way out of it,” says Garza. “Keep your eyes focused, your eyes straight ahead and just pitch. There’s nothing else you can do.” Samardzija is a likely summer trade candidate.
- For pitchers, drops in velocity are worrisome indeed, as Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan points out. Justin Masterson‘s velocity is significantly off this season for the Indians – his four-seamer is off about 3.6 MPH from last year. (Jorge De La Rosa of the Rockies is at the other end of the spectrum, with a velocity increase of 1.81 MPH.) Masterson’s missing velocity may show why the Indians only offered him an extension in the three-year, $45MM range this spring.
Yankees minor-league pitcher Jose Campos had Tommy John surgery on Friday, CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler tweets. Campos, of course, arrived from the Mariners prior to the 2012 season with Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi, a trade that seems to have been cursed for everyone involved. Pineda was recently suspended ten games for his pine tar incident, Montero is with Triple-A Tacoma after hitting .208/.264/.327 in 110 big-league plate appearances last season, and Noesi has been designated for assignment twice in the past month. Here are more notes from the American League.
- The Indians have been cautious with a new contract for Justin Masterson because his velocity was down in spring training, he can be inconsistent, and has imperfect mechanics, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. That’s why they balked when he asked for a three-year contract of around $53MM this offseason, preferring a deal of around $45MM instead, Pluto suggests.
- The Blue Jays have scheduled top prospect Marcus Stroman‘s next start for Triple-A Buffalo to coincide with that of big-league fifth starter Dustin McGowan, Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca reports. That could indicate that the Jays might promote Stroman soon. Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook 2014 names Stroman the Jays’ second-best prospect (behind Aaron Sanchez) and praises the small righty’s fastball, slider and athleticism. BA ranked Stroman the 55th-best prospect in baseball before the season. He currently has a 2.18 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 20 2/3 innings for Buffalo.
Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun is again dealing with a thumb injury that hampered his swing in 2013, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. Braun and the team's doctors thought the extended rest between his suspension and the offseason would heal his thumb. That was the case early in Spring Training, as he was pain-free, but as spring wore on, Braun began to again experience numbness in his right thumb. Because he cannot feel the thumb, he's unable to tell how tightly he is gripping the ball when throwing, leading to bruising and blisters on the digit. The root of the problem appears to be a damaged nerve, which can be corrected via surgery, but Braun says he doesn't want to think about that alternative now, as the recovery would not be quick.
More links pertaining to baseball's Central divisions as we gear up for a weekend of baseball early in the 2014 campaign…
- The Cubs are exploring the idea of selling minority ownership shares as a way to help finance the stadium renovation, multiple sources tell Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com. The team is looking at selling a non-controlling interest, though no official decision has been reached. The potential sale wouldn't impact president of business operations Crane Kenney or president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who are both locked into long-term contracts. While the deal may be perceived negatively by some, Mooney points out that the Giants and Cardinals list 30 principal owners while the Cardinals have 15 investors, and both are considered to be well-run franchises. Any sale would need to be approved by Major League Baseball, Mooney adds.
- Earlier today, the Indians signed second baseman Jason Kipnis to a six-year, $52.5MM extension. At the press conference, GM Chris Antonetti told reporters that there's no "either/or" situation with Kipnis and Justin Masterson (MLB.com's Jorda Bastian reporting on Twitter). The club still has the financial flexibility to make something happen with Masterson, should talks re-ignite. The similarity between Kipnis' guarantee and Masterson's reported three-year, $51MM proposal may have led to some speculation prior to Antonetti's comments.
- Bastian also tweets that the Indians have been trying to extend Kipnis since he had just 69 days of service time; in other words, Cleveland has been pursuing an extension for their second baseman since the completion of the 2011 season. Kipnis batted .272/.333/.507 with seven homers and five steals in 150 plate appearances in his big league debut that year. The deal was wrapped up on Sunday but not announced until today, he adds.
- Fangraphs' Jason Collette looks at how Yan Gomes went from being "the other guy" in the trade that netted the Indians Mike Aviles to becoming the recipient of a six-year, $23MM extension. Gomes was never afforded a chance to catch everyday in the Blue Jays' minor league system because of their depth at the position. Collette calls the contract the "inverse of all free agent deals" as it rewards Gomes for his future production rather than past laurels. He also wonders if the new rules regarding home-plate collisions made the extension more palatable, as there is now less long-term risk with catcher extensions.