Justin Masterson Rumors

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:

Justin Masterson, Indians To Discuss Extension

The Indians and starting pitcher Justin Masterson will soon discuss a multiyear deal, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. We project Masterson will make $9.7MM in his final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason, after which he is eligible for free agency.

GM Chris Antonetti said last month he would like sign Masterson for the long term. Hoynes notes that Masterson's agent, Randy Rowley, indicated at the time that he wanted to see how the market for free-agent pitching developed. With Masahiro Tanaka's situation stalling pitching signings, Rowley may not have gotten the information he hoped to receive, but Masterson and the Indians are set to exchange arbitration figures next Friday. Hoynes notes that the Indians have not undergone an arbitration hearing with a player since 1991.

MLBTR's Tim Dierkes suggests that a five-year deal for Masterson might cost the Indians somewhere between $65MM and $85MM. With a salary near $10MM all but set for 2014 and Masterson being eligible for free agency as a 29-year-old after that, such a deal would likely be in line with his market value. Masterson posted a 3.45 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 193 innings last season.

Indians Told Masterson He Won’t Be Traded

3:00pm: MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that Terry Francona called Masterson to tell him that he isn't going to be traded this offseason.

10:21am: The Indians have yet to engage Masterson in extension talks, but those could come as part of the upcoming arbitration negotiations, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian notes. Cleveland is prepared to go with a one-year deal if necessary, he says (Twitter links).

8:56am: There are no legs to the Yankees-Masterson trade talks, a source tells ESPN's Buster Olney. He adds that Cleveland isn't close to trading Masterson or any other player at this time (Twitter links).

7:47am: The Indians are said to be open to listening to offers on Justin Masterson, and the Yankees have emerged as a possible suitor, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale reports that the Yankees would be interested in acquiring Masterson in a deal involving Brett Gardner. A third team would likely be required, since the Indians don't have a need Gardner (Twitter links).

Indians GM Chris Antonetti indicated yesterday that he'd like to keep Masterson in Cleveland long-term, but acknowledged that he'd be willing to consider offers on just about any player. The Yankees appear to have a similar stance on Gardner — a Tuesday report suggested the team would prefer to trade Ichiro Suzuki, but presumably the Yankees would have to consider moving Gardner if the price is right.

The Yankees aren't the only team reported to have a keen interest in landing Masterson. Joel Sherman of the New York Post said this morning that the Diamondbacks would "love" to find a way to acquire him from Cleveland.

Sherman On Mets, D-Backs, Masterson, Rasmus

It's still early on Day Three of the Winter Meetings in Orlando, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post is coming out of the gate with a few items of note. Let's dive in and round them up…

  • An increasingly crowded first base trade market may make it difficult for the Mets to acquire a solid return for Ike Davis, as Sherman outlines in a column.
  • Sherman adds in the same piece that the Mets have placed a "significant return cost" on Daniel Murphy, but people around the league continue to believe he could be dealt.
  • With Tyler Skaggs headed to the Angels, the Diamondbacks may no longer have the trade pieces to pry Jeff Samardzija away from the Cubs. However, Sherman says (via Twitter) that the D-Backs would now "really love" to acquire Justin Masterson from the Indians.
  • The Toronto Sun's Bob Elliott reported on Tuesday that the Blue Jays had offered Colby Rasmus to a pair of teams in exchange for starting pitching, and it sounds as if Rasmus remains in play. Sherman tweets that the Jays will use Rasmus to try to land a starter.

Overnight Notes: Masterson, Twins, Rockies, Myers

Acknowledging that he'd listen to offers for anyone and everyone on his roster in the right scenario, Indians GM Chris Antonetti suggested it'd be difficult to move Justin Masterson, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer details. Antonetti declined to comment on the possibility of offering Masterson an extension, but added, "What I can say is how much we appreciate the contributions that Justin has made to our organization and we’d love for him to be an Indian long term."

Here are a few more overnight links from around MLB:

  • If Bronson Arroyo decides he wants to be in Minnesota, he'd be the Twins' top choice of their potential starting pitching targets, says Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (via Twitter).
  • The Rockies have expressed interest in free agent reliever Ryan Madson, but remain more likely to trade for a bullpen arm than sign one, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
  • After missing most of last season, Brett Myers is healthy and is seeking a job this winter, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
  • The Diamondbacks' acquisition of Mark Trumbo is the latest example of how the team operates, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. As Piecoro points out, Arizona generally doesn't care about getting what the industry would consider "full value" for their trade chips.
  • The uncertainty surrounding Masahiro Tanaka continues to slow the pace of negotiations for the top starting pitchers already on the market, tweets Berardino.
  • A Monday report suggested another NPB starter, Kenta Maeda, could play for an MLB team as soon as 2015, but the latest word on Maeda indicates the right-hander might even be posted this winter. Ben Badler of Baseball America has the details.
  • Badler also writes that changes are coming to the limits on international spending in 2014, with MLB teams set to lose up to $300K in signing money that had previously been exempt from bonus pools.

Indians Willing To Listen On Masterson, Cabrera

10:41am: Despite their need for a shortstop, the Mets aren't in on Cabrera, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter).

TUESDAY, 10:32am: The Indians are also willing to listen on Asdrubal Cabrera, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). As Morosi notes, Cleveland has a potential franchise shortstop on the horizon in Francisco Lindor. Their willingness to shop Cabrera isn't surprising given Lindor's presence, Cabrera's $10MM salary in 2014 and the fact that Cabrera slumped to a .242/.299/.402 batting line in 2013.

MONDAY: The Indians are open to fielding Justin Masterson trade pitches, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Rosenthal reports that Cleveland will listen on Masterson, with the idea of targeting players that would remain under team control for more years.

Masterson, 28, enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2013, posting a 3.45 ERA and 9.1 K/9 in 32 outings (29 starts) for the Indians. However, he's entering his final arbitration-eligible season, meaning he'll likely earn between $9-10MM in 2014, based on Matt Swartz's projections. Masterson will also be eligible for free agency a year from now, so the Indians will have to decide soon whether or not he'll be part of the club's long-term plan.

Arbitration Breakdown: Bailey and Masterson

Over the next few months, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

Both Justin Masterson (pictured) and Homer Bailey enter their third year of arbitration with relatively similar credentials this year, and both are projected to get very similar raises around $4MM. Masterson-JustinSince both players are not first-time eligible players, the rules of arbitration generally dictate that pre-platform year performances are not very importance. Rather, the current salaries on top of which they will receive raises suffice as summaries of their pre-platform year performance.

Masterson and Bailey had pretty similar pre-platform salaries too: $5.35MM for Bailey and $5.6875MM for Masterson. In 2013, Masterson went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA in 193 innings with 195 strikeouts, while Bailey went 11-12 with a 3.49 ERA in 209 innings with 199 strikeouts. Obviously the ERA and strikeout numbers are almost identical, and the model seems to think that Masteron’s three extra wins only help him a tiny bit more than Bailey’s 16 extra innings. Playing time is extremely important in arbitration hearings, so it is not too surprising that they are still seen as similar by the model. At the same time, Masterson will definitely get some benefit from his wins. We project him to get a $4.0125MM raise as compared with Bailey’s $3.95MM raise, leaving them with $9.7MM and $9.3MM projected salaries respectively.

The comparable starting pitchers in the last few years seem to reinforce these raise approximations. In the last seven years, I looked for third-time arbitration eligible starting pitchers with ERAs in the 3.00-4.00 range, between 10-20 wins, and within 175-225 innings, and found nine guys who met those criteria. They received raises ranging from $2.5-5.9MM, which is obviously a pretty big window, but other than Zambrano’s $5.9MM raise in 2007 (which is largely viewed as an anomaly), the raises fall in the $2.5MM-$4.075MM range. Of course, the lowest raise in there was Wandy Rodriguez’s $2.5MM, but that came as part of a multi-year deal in which he was initially offered $3MM, so maybe the real range is from Kevin Correia’s $2.85MM in 2010 to Oliver Perez’s $4.075MM in 2008. In general, these seven guys are all pretty similar to Masterson and Bailey but I suspect that both inflation and slightly better performances will push them both to the high end of this spectrum.

The limitation on Bailey’s performance is definitely his win total. With just 11 wins in 2013, his team’s poor run support will cost him. A few pitchers in the aforementioned group seem to meet these criteria pretty well. One is Matt Garza, who in 2012 was coming off a 10-10 record to go with a 3.32 ERA in 198 innings. He also had 197 strikeouts, very similar to Bailey’s 199. Of course Bailey had a slightly worse ERA at 3.45, but he also had eleven extra innings pitched. Given the similarity of their numbers but with the extra win and eleven innings, it seems likely that Bailey could argue that Garza’s $3.55MM raise could be a floor for his 2014 raise.

Another possibility that Bailey could use to justify a raise closer to $4MM is the $4.3MM raise that Anibal Sanchez won in a hearing in 2012. He had even fewer wins than Bailey that year, amassing only an 8-9 record, and his 3.67 ERA was worse than Bailey’s too. He did have 202 strikeouts, but had under 200 innings (196 1/3, to be exact) which could give Bailey a leg up on him. Arbitration cases that go to hearings are often tough to use in newer hearings because obviously $4.3MM was seen by the Marlins at the time as too high and chances are a settlement would have come in below $4.3MM (the Marlins offered Sanchez a $3.2MM raise). But nonetheless, both Sanchez and Garza could help Bailey argue for the $3.95MM raise that I’m projecting for him.

This is not very different from the $4.0125MM that I have down for Masterson, even though Masterson had 14 wins. To try to find a good set of comparables for Masterson, I honed the win range to 13-15 wins, and looked for guys with ERAs in the 3.00-4.00 range who also had 175-225 innings. Perez got a $4.075MM raise from the Mets in 2008 when he won his arbitration hearing. Like Sanchez’s raise, Perez’s raise needs to be taken with a grain of salt because it was the result of a hearing, not a settlement, but the fact that Perez’s 15-10 record and 3.56 ERA looks so similar to Masterson’s 14-10 ERA with his 3.45 ERA, that it does warrant a comparison. Perez also only had 177 innings, compared with Masterson’s 193.

Another good, more recent comparable for Masterson is Jason Vargas' raise last year. Vargas got a $3.65MM raise after going 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA in 217 1/3 innings. Of course, Vargas only had 141 strikeouts which puts him well below Masterson’s 195. The extra innings and equal number of wins are a good starting point for the Indians to try to argue that Masterson shouldn’t top the $3.65MM number. Masterson would be better off trying to argue similarity to Sanchez and Perez, whose raises exceeded $4MM after winning cases, but it remains to be seen how much weight those will carry.

Overall, it’s not hard to see that both pitchers will fall reasonably close to a $4MM raise. Some of this is going to come down to how inflation is treated this year, and that is always a bit of a wild card. I suspect that if I’m off in my projections, I’m probably more like to be a few hundred thousand low for both pitchers than high, but if either one of these pitchers settles first and beats $4MM, I suspect the second player to settle to use the first as justification for a larger raise himself.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.