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IBI Power Poll: What to do with Jimenez, Kazmir and Masterson?

IBI Power Poll: What to do with Jimenez, Kazmir and Masterson?
October 7, 2013
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The season is over.

It’s still hard for me to decompress from that statement and the 2013 season, but it’s time to close the doors on a fantastic run to the playoffs. I’ll focus my next Corner of Carnegie and Ontario on this 2013 team, but it’s time to move the power poll forward, and start taking a look at the 2014 season and beyond.

Last week’s question was ‘What should Terry Francona do with Chris Perez?’ This question got a clear majority from IBI’s faithful readers.

The poll received 215 total votes, and 128 of those voters, or 59.53% of the entire vote wanted Chris Perez to be “booted off the playoff roster.” This isn’t surprising considering his final performance with the Cleveland Indians almost cost them their shot at the playoffs. 68 of the voters, or 31.63% of the voters wanted to see Perez left in the bullpen, but not as the closer. Only 19 voters, or 8.84% of the vote thought that he should be allowed to earn his way back as the Indians’ primary closer.

The results of what actually happened, or would have happened with Perez, are now a bit murky. The Indians and Terry Francona placed Perez on the 25-man roster for the one-game playoff, but he didn’t make an appearance in the Indians’ loss. It’s not known whether or not Perez would have been an addition to the actual ALDS playoff roster or not, so really all camps can go home satisfied, for now.

This week’s question focuses on the future of the Cleveland Indians’ starting rotation.

The 2013 rotation ultimately consists of six current pitcher: Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber, Scott Kazmir and Zach McAllister. Four of those starters, Masterson, Salazar, Kluber and McAllister will be back for the 2014 season. Salazar, Kluber and McAllister are the only three starters that are locked for 2015 and beyond, not taking into account any of the minor league pitchers, such as Cody Anderson, Trevor Bauer or even Carlos Carrasco.

The three players in which the Power Poll will focus on this week are Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson and Scott Kazmir. Jimenez and Kazmir will likely be free agents come the end of the World Series, and Masterson will be in a similar position next year. Assuming that none of the players will accept or be tendered an offer, who will the Indians sign, and how will the Indians handle the starting pitching rotation going forward?

It’s impossible to configure a poll with all the possibilities, so I’m just going to focus on these three, excluding the possibility that the Indians may go an entirely different route altogether, but let’s take a look at the three potential free agents, and what they could be offered.

Justin Masterson: Masterson is the wildcard contract of the bunch, considering the fact that he isn’t a free agent until the end of the 2014 season. So, why consider him in this power poll? It’s easy. Whatever the Indians should decide to do with Kazmir and Jimenez in 2013 will directly influence what they do with Masterson next year.

What is Masterson worth? Fangraphs has his 2013 value at nearly $17 million per year, and as the Indians ONLY consistent starter over the past three seasons, you can bet that his agent knows this number.  His value over the past three seasons is $44 million dollars, and he is still in his prime.

You have to believe that Masterson’s ceiling is going to be in the five-year, $100 million area, and that a worst case scenario will have him in the Anibal Sanchez area of five-years, and $80 million. Sanchez signed that deal prior to turning 29 years old. If Masterson were to sign a deal this year, it would be prior to his 29th birthday. The mirror there is obvious.

Masterson’s upside is simple. He’s consistently good, and he goes deep into ballgames consistently.

Masterson’s downside is simple. He can give up runs in droves when he’s not hitting his marks, and he’s reached his upside.

What will Masterson inevitably get if he waits until after 2014?

What will the Indians offer him? Will the Indians offer to extend his contract prior to 2014, and will he accept it if they do?

Will the Indians let Masterson’s contract status influence what they do in 2014 with regards to Kazmir and Jimenez?

You have to believe that Masterson is at the top of the list, right?

Ubaldo Jimenez: Jimenez was phenomenal in 2013, and while he was the best starter for the Indians during the second half of the season in 2013, we all know his baggage. Jimenez has a mutual option for the 2014 season at eight million. Cleveland will certainly want that deal. Jimenez will turn it down. Cleveland will certainly tender Jimenez a one-year deal at around $14 million. Jimenez will likely turn that down.

Fangraphs has his 2013 value at slightly above $16 million dollars, but below Masterson’s nearly $17 million dollar value.  You do have to keep in mind that while Masterson was much more consistent over the long haul of 2013, but that Jimenez had a second half that Masterson hasn’t really ever matched. Of course, prior to that, Jimenez had 1 ½ years in which he was arguably the worst pitcher in baseball. Jimenez also has a three-year value of just over $20 million dollars…and like Masterson, he is in his prime.

What is the true value of Ubaldo Jimenez? While his agent will try and say that those 1 ½ years were a fluke, most teams will ponder whether or not 2013 was a launching off point for Jimenez, or whether or not it was an amalgam.

You have to believe that Ubaldo, being not even arguably one of the top two or three free agent starters during this offseason, has a ceiling in that five-year, $100 million dollar area. His floor is going to be somewhere in that realm of five-years and $80 million as well. The unknown with Jimenez is really how much teams value him based on his prior two seasons, and whether or not they want to offer him a five-year deal, or something less with options. Jimenez is about to turn 30.

Jimenez has to be looking at Mickey Callaway and Terry Francona’s influence, and weighing that with his dramatic 2013 improvement. Might that be in play here?

Will the Indians offer Jimenez a long-term deal after Jimenez turns down both $8 million and $14 million?

Will Jimenez turn down the $14 million, or is it possible he takes that deal? The big question here is do you take a risk on a guy that seemed to have a horrible psyche prior to 2013 before recovering, and whether or not he’s an ace or a mistake-prone-pitcher-ready-to-happen.

If he’s the guy at the end of 2013 though, his upside is higher than Masterson. He’s an ace in that scenario, and a dominant one at that.

Scott Kazmir: There may not have been a better story in baseball than Scott Kazmir. He wasn’t as dominant over any stretch of baseball than both Masterson and Kazmir, but he certainly had games in which he was every bit as good as he was in his prime. When you combine that with the fact that he hadn’t played meaningful professional baseball in two full seasons, it really brings this all into perspective.

Fangraphs has Kazmir’s value in 2013 at $12.7 million, which is rightfully below both Jimenez and Masterson. The argument for Kazmir really isn’t on par with the other two guys, but really, as a supplemental player. Of course, some may say that Kazmir’s value could end up in that $13-15 dollar range based on the fact that he is a lefty, and that he may be climbing the ladder to the pitcher he was prior to 2009.

If he is climbing that ladder, than he’s clearly an ace. The problem is that his future is hazy because there is nothing to fall back on with regards to recent body of work.

What do you offer Kazmir though? Clearly he isn’t going to be offered a four or five year deal (if he is, he’ll take it for sure), so what should the Indians offer him? You have to believe that the wheel house is going to be a two or three year deal in the $12-$15 million range right now. It could be slightly below that based on the fact that his three-year value is that $12.7 million number. There’s just so much unknown.

Kazmir is 29 as well (his birthday is two days after Jimenez), but there are durability concerns.

Will he build on his 2013 season in 2014, or will he begin to falter after throwing a full season for the first time in two years?

Will the Indians be willing to offer him a two or three-year deal on top of potentially signing Ubaldo and/or Justin Masterson?

Will Kazmir be willing to take perhaps a two-year deal with the Indians, with an option at the end, or even with incentives?

Will Kazmir be a casualty of the fact that Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson will be the focus of the cash delivery?

Before we attack this poll, keep this in mind. The money that’s ultimately offered will be fluid, so I’m going to assume that the money they’ll be offered are the numbers that I mentioned in this column. I realize that ultimately, those numbers and years could be flawed, but If I start diving into the different levels of money that each pitcher could get, it could get complicated.

Taking that into account, what will the Indians do in 2014 and beyond with these three pitchers?

 

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Rocky55
October 8, 2013 - 1:20 PM EDT
I'd do the qualifying offer to Ubaldo & then try to sign him for 4 or 5 years at a reasonalble level. Mickey's got him rolling, maybe he's comfortable, maybe he'll prefer staying. He hated Colorado, seems to like Cle. When he's on he's better than Masterson.

Try to extend Masterson but don't go overboard. I like him but he isn't worth $100 million. I don't mind the long term, think he's good for a while & might get better as he gets older.

Kazmir should be gettable & will be needed, unless some other team loses their minds.
Rick
October 8, 2013 - 2:02 AM EDT
What a difference a year makes. No mention of either Bauer or Carrasco - the 2 biggest pitching prospects on the horizon when heading into '13 with modest expectations.

Can't agree with you Tony on Salazar - I'm 54 - and this arm is the most exciting I have ever seen in a Tribe Uniform. His mound poise is off the charts; he owns the field. Baseball people everywhere are drooling over him the same way they over the Marlins Fernandez.

As for the questions put;

#1 - Really want the front office to resign Kazmir. First off resigning him is the most realistic - money wise as well as risk wise - and he is a lefty.

#2 - would love to have Ubaldo back but only if it is along a 2-3 year deal - and I do believe he may consider it after testing the market. I don't believe he is going to get in the upper 100 mill long term range. He can't be trusted to give you 100+ innings and pitch like he did for 3 months in 2010 and 2 months in 2013. He'll always be unpredictable and high maintenance and hence I believe the tribe still has an outside shot to get him back for under 40 million ....longshot as it may be.

#3 Masterson is the typical small market #1 who would be a solid #3 or #2 in a big market club - and there isn't anyone - from New York to Los Angeles who wouldn't want him right now. The Indians proved everyone wrong when converting him as a starter - and as a result - Justin has a chance to earn many many millions more should his arm stay healthy. I think it is possible to get him to stay for 2 years - but it's likewise a longshot because his stock is sky high having rebounded with such a solid season. Thus painful as it may be, trading him if you can't sign him makes sense.

A major factor in all of these narratives is that the franchise is on the rise - making staying here under Tito, Callaway & Antonetti an attractive sell. With all this emerging pitching, despite questions in the bull pen, we are one large RH impact bat away from being a formidable franchise.

What an incredible turn in a year. Can't wait for Goodyear in March '14.
Tony
October 7, 2013 - 10:15 PM EDT
The "ace" term gets thrown around way too much if you ask me. Really, there are only 10-12 true "ace" pitchers in all of baseball. I like Salazar, but until he shows he can be durable, can pitch deep into games, and has three good pitches on a consistent basis, he's still a #2 or #3 to me and not an ace. He most definitely can be an ace, but there are some things he has to show beyond striking guys out.

As for the budget this offseason, I expect it to be about the same and in the $80-90 million range.
Davis6
October 7, 2013 - 8:56 PM EDT
Salazar is looking like an ace in the making and Jimenez and Kazmir looking close to ace like. I'd bet they sign Kazmir to a 3 yr deal and Jimenez to a 4 yr deal. If that happens early this offseason, I can see Masterson traded for a haul before the start of next season. Of coarse all this depends if the market values of Jimenez and Kazmir put them out of the Indians monetary range. The big question is what is the Indians monetary range? Has that changed now that they are proven contenders? The Dolans always said they would spend when the time was right. I'd say they are there.
discollama
October 7, 2013 - 8:45 PM EDT
Here's a list of FA pitchers, Lester has a club option.

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/09/top-34-free-agent-starters.html
Walter
October 7, 2013 - 7:25 PM EDT
Offer Ubaldo one yr qualify offer. If no Indians pick up another high pick for 14.

Sign Kazmir for 2-3yr contract.

Offer Masterson 4 yr contract.

Is Jon Lester FA this off season for red sox?
yourtribe
October 7, 2013 - 7:08 PM EDT
sign kazmir.

let ubaldo go.

if masterson doesn't sign an extension now, I would try to trade him for our 4 hitter. might even trade him with an extension.
Seth
October 7, 2013 - 3:48 PM EDT
If Masterson wants a 5-year deal, that would be a big pass for me. He's a 2-pitch pitcher. He doesn't have much to work with when the inevitable velocity loss comes into play. It will just be a slower, more hittable sinker. He can probably be an effective reliever for a while, but I would be surprised if he's still a decent starting option even 3 years from now.
Tony
October 7, 2013 - 1:01 PM EDT
If the Indians could sign Masterson to a 2-year deal they would do it yesterday. I don't view it as much of a possibility. As this point, to get him to forego free agency which is now less than a year away, they are going to have to give him a strong offer.....something in the line of at least 4-5 years. Probably at least 5 years (including his final year or arbitration). It will be interesting to see if any developments with regard to extension talk come out of the Progressive Field offices this offseason and in spring training.
BrianM
October 7, 2013 - 12:10 PM EDT
I like the idea Hermie, but I don't think he would go for that 2 year deal. I do however agree that he may have some loyalty to the org, and may be more willing to sign a long term deal this winter rather than waiting till he becomes a free agent.
Hermie13
October 7, 2013 - 10:18 AM EDT
I'd approach Masterson with a 2-year deal first. Tribe got CC to sign a 2-year deal heading into his final season before free agency and also got Asdrubal to sign one recently.

Masterson may so no but may feel some loyalty and be willing to give up 1 year of free agency (he'll still be on the young side when he hits free agency). Would give him some guaranteed money and not like he hasn't had inconsistencies in his career either (see 2012).

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