The Cleveland Indians avoided arbitration with Justin Masterson yesterday by signing him to a one-year deal at a little less than $10 million per year.
They can still talk about a multi-year deal since Masterson can be a free agent at the end of this season, but with the recent deal between Ubaldo Jimenez (four years, $50 million) and the likelihood that the Reds and Homer Bailey will agree to a six-year, $100 million deal, the odds of the Tribe’s #1 starter staying here past 2014 seem remote.
Of course, the reflex for all Indians’ fans was to trade the big right-hander since he likely will walk away at the end of the season.
As usual, there are several flaws in that argument.
First, everyone assumes that Masterson will have the same kind of season he had last season when he won 14 games with an ERA of 3.45. However, you don’t have to go that far back to find a season where Masty went 11-15 with a 4.93 ERA.
That was 2012.
Another season like that, and Masterson’s price will come way down.
The second reason is that the Indians were a playoff team last season, and would like to make it again this season.
No matter what you get for Masterson, they likely won’t impact this year’s team as much as a proven starting pitcher who will throw 200 innings for Terry Francona’s team.
If the Tribe had won 76 games last season, you might consider trading a player you may not be able to sign after the season, and looking toward 2015, but the reality is Cleveland won 92 games in ’13, and would like to make the playoffs again this season.
Now, if the Indians struggle at the start of the season and approach the July 31st trade deadline being out of the race for the post-season, then it makes sense to see what you could get in return for the big righty.
But, you can’t move him right now unless you could make a deal that helps the ballclub this season.
Now we’re going out on a limb here, but another situation that bears looking at is the qualifying offer the Tribe made to Jimenez after last season.
GM Chris Antonetti could do the same with Masterson, thus keeping him in a Cleveland uniform for one more season at $14.1 million for 2015.
And we don’t know if Masterson has to have a six-year deal like Bailey appears to be getting in Cincinnati. Perhaps, he would be willing to listen to a four-year hitch, because he likes it here and of course, the Francona factor.
In recent seasons, the Indians have not wanted to go more than three years with a pitcher, but a guy who has been a horse and an innings eater might be an exception.
Of course, the pressure is on Masterson to have another solid season to make the Indians and/or other teams want to offer him a four-year deal following the 2014 campaign.
The point is you can’t deal your #1 starting pitcher coming off a playoff season and heading into a season where you want to get back to the post-season
It wouldn’t make sense to the players who inhabit the clubhouse, or to an already questioning fan base.