Justin Masterson Rumors
Masterson, the Tribe's opening day starter, earns $3.825MM in 2012 after avoiding arbitration this past offseason. Masterson is controlled through the 2014 season and has pitched to a 4.47 ERA with a 6.9 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 56.4 percent ground-ball rate that is tied for sixth-best in the Majors. Masterson's control has taken a significant downturn this season, as evidenced by the rising walk rate (2.7 BB/9 in 2011) and his AL-worst 11 wild pitches.
Knobler reports that both the Reds and Rangers had scouts present to watch Masterson's start against the Twins in Minneapolis yesterday, though he wasn't particularly impressive. He allowed eight earned runs to the Twins over 5 2/3 innings on seven hits, two walks a and a hit batter.
The Indians are also open to trading Shin-Soo Choo for the right price, and both the Pirates and Reds appear to be interested at the moment. There have been rumors over the past few weeks that they could deal Chris Perez as well, but Knobler calls it "doubtful" that Perez will be traded.
Ian Kinsler (five years, $75MM), Carlos Santana (five years, $21MM) and Brandon Phillips (six years, $72.5MM) are the latest star players to sign long-term extensions. Here's more extension chatter from around MLB...
- The Indians have spoken to the representatives for Justin Masterson about an extension, but the sides appear to remain far apart, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets. Talks seem to be on hold for the time being. Tim Dierkes suggested in January that a four-year deal in the $27MM range could work for the Indians and the Randy Rowley client.
- Dave Cameron of FanGraphs shows that the aging curve for second basemen is pretty steep, but says the Kinsler contract was a deal worth doing for the Rangers.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has the year-to-year breakdown for Santana's deal (on Twitter).
- Mike Axisa explains that the Santana extension doesn't provide the Indians with a substantial discount in a piece at FanGraphs. However, the Indians did extend their control over the catcher.
The Indians have extended starting pitchers C.C. Sabathia, Jake Westbrook, Cliff Lee, and Fausto Carmona in the last decade, in most cases getting cost savings and extra free agent years in the process. Fresh off a breakout season, could 26-year-old Indians righty Justin Masterson be next?
Masterson's 2011 season featured career-bests in innings (216), ERA (3.21), walk rate (2.7 per nine), home run rate (0.46 per nine) and wins (12). His always-strong groundball rate held up, and his 6.6 K/9 was acceptable. The knock on Masterson has always been his difficulty retiring left-handed batters. Though he wasn't able to put them away with strikeouts, Masterson limited his walks against left-handed batters and posted a 3.88 xFIP against them. In general, he might not be able to maintain 2011's 6.3% home run per flyball rate, but Masterson still remains capable of a sub-4.00 ERA.
Masterson has three years and 108 days of Major League service, so he's arbitration eligible for the first time this winter. Matt Swartz's projections call for a $3.6MM salary in 2012. Masterson's arbitration case may be tied to the fates of other first-time starters such as Jeff Niemann, Max Scherzer, and Matt Harrison this year, among others.
In recent times, extensions for pitchers with three to four years of service have been rare. Perhaps once a player is on the cusp of his first big payday through arbitration, he prefers to see that through for at least one year. If an extension is preferable to Masterson, his agent Randy Rowley could look to Johnny Cueto's contract, signed a year ago with the Reds. At an even three years, Cueto had less service time than Masterson, one reason Masterson bests Cueto by 82 2/3 innings. Cueto still managed four more wins, but they're otherwise comparable, with the career and platform year ERA edge going to Masterson. The numbers converge further if we only look at Masterson's 87 career starts.
Cueto signed a four-year, $27MM deal. He received $16.2MM for his three arbitration years and $10MM for his first free agent year, with a club option at the same price for another. The same contract would be a reasonable target for Masterson, perhaps with a few hundred thousand tacked on so he could top Cueto.
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.
A few links to pass along regarding clubs in the Central divisions ...
- The Indians are facing an offseason of difficult decisions, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. With basically the same roster, the Tribe's payroll would jump from $49MM in 2011 to roughly $70MM next season, explains Hoynes. Several key players like Shin-Soo Choo, Justin Masterson, Chris Perez and Asdrubal Cabrera will be eligible for arbitration, and the Indians own options on Grady Sizemore ($9MM) and Fausto Carmona ($7MM).
- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa dismissed a rumor that he will manage the Cubs next season, writes Kevin Roberts of MLB.com. A report surfaced earlier this week that the Cubs would hire La Russa and Reds GM Walt Jocketty (formerly the Cards' GM) in an effort to lure impending free agent Albert Pujols this offseason. This one seems to be falling apart, as Reds owner Bob Castellini has said Jocketty will be back with the Reds in 2012.
- The AL MVP Award is now Tigers righty Justin Verlander's to lose, opines Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link).
A couple notes regarding the Red Sox and Indians, who both won on Saturday night (in Boston's case, twice) ...
- The Red Sox wanted to trade for both Erik Bedard and Rich Harden once their attempt to acquire Hiroki Kuroda from the Dodgers fell through, tweets Peter Gammons. Bedard, of course, ended up in Boston, while the acquisition of Harden was nixed by Red Sox medical staff.
- It's unclear whether the Indians were the team that placed a waiver claim on the Rays' B.J. Upton, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, but it'd make sense for the Tribe to do so. Outfielders Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo are banged up, and the Indians were one of the teams interested in Upton prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, according to Hoynes.
- Lost in the shuffle of Jim Thome's first homer since rejoining the Indians was the Major League debut of reliever Nick Hagadone, writes Hoynes. Hagadone, a lefty, was acquired along with Justin Masterson in the deal that sent Victor Martinez to Boston in 2009. That doesn't look like such a bad swap in retrospect, especially if Hagadone turns out to be a solid member of the Tribe's bullpen.
In the latest edition of Full Count from Ken Rosenthal, we learn how this year's trade deadline could have turned out drastically different..
- The Rockies wanted five of Boston's top prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez: Will Middlebrooks, Kyle Weiland, Josh Reddick, Felix Doubront, and Ryan Lavarnway. The Red Sox would have gotten more than just Jimenez in return as Rosenthal tweets that the Rockies offered Jimenez and outfielder Seth Smith in return for the quintet of prospects. There were other possible fits in such a deal including Ryan Spilborghs, Chris Iannetta, and Rafael Betancourt.
- The Rangers had enough prospects to get Carlos Beltran in addition to Koji Uehara and Mike Adams at the deadline. To do that, they would have needed to take either Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland out of the Adams deal as the Mets are fond of both. Rosenthal was told that one of the two pitchers was in the offer for Beltran.
- The Indians traded their two best pitching prospects to land ace Ubaldo Jimenez but the deal wasn't just for this season. Cleveland is mindful of the big picture and they have their key pieces locked up for the next few years. Jimenez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Shin-Soo Choo are under control for the next two seasons while Justin Masterson and Chris Perez are under control for the next three. If the Tribe doesn't win in the next few years, they can always flip some of those players for prospects.
John Tomase from the Boston Herald has some notes about several Major League topics in his latest article:
- Tomase reminds us that at the 2009 deadline, the Red Sox reportedly offered the Mariners any five of the following prospects in exchange for Felix Hernandez: Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, Josh Reddick, Yamaico Navarro, Nick Hagadone, Felix Doubront, and Justin Masterson. While a Boston official disputed the specific names, Tomase says the reports were in the ballpark.
- Regarding a trade though, Tomase quotes King Felix himself as saying that he wants to stay in Seattle: "I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m not trying to think about it. I’d love to stay here (with the Mariners). I’m part of Seattle now and I’d like to be in Seattle."
- San Diego's Anthony Rizzo, acquired in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, is off to a blazing start at Triple-A. Rizzo has posted a monstrous line of .400/.471/.744 with seven homers, eight doubles, and a triple through 102 PAs, but despite that production the Padres aren't giving up on Brad Hawpe yet. Manager Bud Black cites Hawpe's career success, but it'll be hard to ignore his .149/.194/.194 line much longer.
- Manny Ramirez's abrupt retirement had many questioning a Rays' lineup that was struggling to score runs, but as Tomase points out, the Rays have gone 14-5 since Manny called it quits. The Rays were 0-6 with Manny on board.
Tomase's article also features several more quotes from Felix on his appreciation for Seattle as well and is a good read all-around.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti told Alex Speier of WEEI.com that Carlos Santana has fully recovered from last year’s knee injury and shouldn't face any limitations this season. He sure looked good when he dove to start a triple play over the weekend. Here are some highlights from Antonetti’s conversation with Speier:
- The Indians expect Justin Masterson to build on last year’s success and become a reliable major league starter.
- Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price, the prospects Cleveland acquired in the Victor Martinez deal “have a chance to contribute to [the Indians’] major league pitching staff in the near future,” Antonetti said.
- Dealing Martinez wasn’t easy, but Antonetti knows difficult trades are part of the game. “Nearly every team faces the reality that it can’t retain every player it values,” he said. “Inevitably some players will leave via free agency and some players will be traded prior to reaching that point.
- Antonetti says the Indians are on their way to becoming a championship caliber club. “The timing of our success will largely depend upon how quickly this group transitions from a collection of young players with potential to a championship caliber team that consistently produces at the Major League level,” Antonetti said.
Paul Hoynes and Terry Pluto at the Cleveland Plain Dealer have the latest on the Tribe....
- In a mailbag, Hoynes explains that the Indians likely didn't consider bringing back Manny Ramirez because they preferred to add a player who could handle the outfield - like Austin Kearns.
- Within the same article, Hoynes says that the Red Sox have approached the Indians multiple times about the possibility of re-acquiring Justin Masterson. The Indians aren't likely to move the right-hander, but Hoynes points out they'd be "silly not to listen."
- Hoynes also adds that he still thinks Jeremy Bonderman could become an Indian, on a minor league deal. However, he doesn't see the team signing Kevin Millwood unless the veteran's asking price goes down.
- In a separate piece, Fausto Carmona tells Hoynes that he's happy in Cleveland and unfazed by trade rumors involving him: "I never read the newspaper in the Dominican Republic. I can't control the situation. A lot of people see something on the Internet and call me and say do you know about this trade? I just tell them I'm ready to play, no matter what the situation."
- Pluto says he's come around on the Orlando Cabrera signing after finding out it was only for $1MM. He notes that, if Cabrera plays well, the Tribe could turn him into a midseason trade chip as they did with Russell Branyan last year.