Masterson signs at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario?
Is Masterson really going to get less years and money?
There is an abundance of joy at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario. While I’ll get into the real reason of my feeling of happiness in a minute, it’s hard not to love watching Spring Training baseball.
I love the colors and the nuances of what spring training truly is.
It’s not often in baseball that you can get excited about three starters pitching in less than four innings in the same game, withTrevor Bauer being one of those pitchers. In the regular season, it generally means a starter imploded, and needed to be replaced by another starter in a game that was a lost cause.
In the spring, it’s just a normal part of the game. You see, spring training truly lets us look at the game of baseball in the rawest of forms, which is why I love this sport.
Look at today’s box scores.
The much talked about Justin Masterson went three innings, giving up three hits and a walk, while striking out three. He was followed by Aaron Harang, the soft tossing righty, went two innings, giving up two hits and a walk, while striking out two. He gave way to Trevor Bauer, who went two more innings, giving up three hits and a walk, while striking out four.
I’ll get into Masterson more in a minute, but if you hit Goodyear Ballpark today, you really got some starter bang for your buck.
It’s in the spring where you get the dream scenario of watching Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez playing in the same game. It was such a scenario last year that gave me a glimpse into the future, and was reminiscent of the Vizquel/Alomar era. Sure, Lindor and Ramirez hadn’t yet played a second in the majors, but it’s spring training…ridiculous comps are more than the norm.
Lindor rolled out a game-winner earlier this week, and is really starting to serve notice that his bat may be just as ready as his glove.
In the spring, you get to see players such as Jake Lowery crush a grand slam in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. For those that don’t know who Lowery is, he’s seriously one of the nicest youngsters in the system, and while he’s not a top ten prospect, he’s a guy that you really find yourself rooting for. Regardless of where he ends up in the system, he’s a blast to watch, and he now has a memory that nobody can ever take away from him. It’s spring, so hope springs eternal for players like Lowery.
Perhaps my favorite minor leaguer in the system, Joe Wendle, also found himself rolling out a game winner, and is showcasing a bat that many scouts think may be better than originally thought.
I’ve never professed to be an evaluator, or a scout, nor do I want to be either. I’m simply a fan of the game. I’m the guy that’s watched every game I could find from the minors to the majors over the years, looking for players that do things the right way on the field. In the spring, you get to see a lot of these very players, getting their (sometimes) one shot to wear the big league colors.
I’m often amused at the banter between fans, professing how “good” or “bad” a player is because of numbers, or velocity, or ranking spot, or potential. There’s merit to that, but it’s never been why I’ve followed this game I love, and the spring really bears that out to me. Numbers are important. I scour the articles of Michael Hattery and John Grimm and Jim Piascik, hunting for that numbers that stand out to me. I implore you all reading this to do the same, as all three bring unique perspective to the sport I love, and are really good at what they do. They are an important part of the game. But there’s a joy in believing that Jose Ramirez can play in the major leagues (he can), or that Joey Wendle might be a comp to either Jason Kipnis, Cord Phelps or Jared Goedert (at some point, all were comped to each other).
There’s something special about watching Danny Salazar slowly unpack his 100 MPH heater and envision a true ace, and not have to worry about someone else’s naysaying definition of what an ace truly is.
I love my friends and their eccentricities with regards to their favorite players. My man Steve Orbanek told me that he thought Ubaldo Jimenez was awesome the first time we ever talked because he had a great smile. Of course, at the time, he may have been the worst pitcher in baseball, and while Steve knew that, it didn’t take away from the hope that an underdog would improve and find his way back to ace-status. Well, he did, and it cost Steve his favorite starter, although I suspect he’ll have a secret affinity for the Baltimore Orioles this year.
My Dad called me up last August and asked me what I’d heard about Josh Tomlin. I hadn’t heard much, but had never really been much of a fan. My Dad them implored me to find out about Tomlin, and wanted me to find out when he was going to “force his way back into the rotation.” It turns out my Dad loves Tomlin simply because he gets the most out of his talent.
My man Michael Hattery wanted Drew Stubbs to become the five-tool player he was never meant to be, and was ready to throw out a three-year, $39 million deal to Scott Kazmir. One of those players had numbers to back him up, and the other really didn’t, but that didn’t take away from Mike’s desire to see both of those guys succeed, or to continue to wear an Indians jersey.
Spring Training, like the sport of Major League Baseball is inconsistent and uneven and a showcase for youth trying to make a name, and injured trying to find health and old timers trying to find the fountain of youth. It’s all so imperfect…
…which makes it perfect.
News broke earlier this week that Cleveland Indians’ #1 starter Justin Masterson was not only willing to sign a three or four-year deal with the Cleveland Indians, but that he asked for it from the club. According to CBSSports.com scribe Jon Heyman, “Justin Masterson named his price in contract discussions with the team over the weekend…to a shorter-term deal…perhaps even as little as three years.”
Masterson’s agent, Randy Rowley (who is immediately my favorite agent of all time, if there can be such a thing) noted that Masterson was driven to lower his total years based on the fact that, according to Heyman, he was motivated…by his admiration for manager Terry Francona, his strong feelings about his teammates and family situation.”
So, what does this all mean?
First things first, this really doesn’t change the Indians in their approach to Masterson over the next few weeks. According to Paul Hoynes, the Indians have only been offering Masterson “something in the three-to-four-year range.” Masterson, by noting that he would accept a deal in this range if the price is right, just confirms a general thought that he likes Cleveland, likes the manager, and is willing to stay.
Let’s not mince words here though: he’s in an extreme position of power. While many throw around the “qualifying offer” as a threat, Masterson will eventually sign a nice deal, regardless of what happens. That qualifying offer is still a legit threat, especially for Masterson. But, it’s nine months away, he’s got nine months to let things come to him, and the Indians arguably need Masterson right now as much as any player. Rowley said himself about free agency, “We’re nine months away…The burden’s on them, we don’t have to do anything.”
Yeah, some of that is surely posturing, but they surely have the upper hand here, especially after the Homer Bailey deal.
So what kind of money would we be looking at for Masterson?
The first part of this is realizing that Masterson would be signing a three or four-year extension, on top of his $9.8 million deal for the 2014 season that he just signed with Cleveland to avoid arbitration. If we are to look at Homer Bailey’s deal, his first year is $9 million, with escalating numbers past 2014. While he only makes $10 million in 2015, by his final season, he’ll be making $23 million, with a $25 million mutual option. My guess is that the Indians will be looking more on the average of that deal, as opposed to escalating numbers, especially considering the deal will be as many as two years shorter over the lifespan of both contracts.
So, what is the floor and the ceiling for a potential deal for the Indians’ righty? My best guess here would be that the Indians will be starting off in the realm of $15 million, with Masterson starting off near $20 million.
Let’s be clear. I don’t think either numbers are the realistic end-game for either player, but merely starting points. I’m sure the Indians have already started below that $15 million number, which is why Masterson isn't signed already. His outward statement that he’s willing to sign a three-or-four year deal is likely his way of maximizing each of those seasons salary-wise. It’s his way of saying, “Fine, you don’t want a long-term deal per se, so here’s your way around that.
He’s taken away all of the excuses that the Indians front office can make, when they hide behind long-term contracts. Of course, you could argue that a three or four-year deal IS long-term for the Indians for a pitcher a year away from 30. I know CC Sabathia was rumored to have gotten a four-year offer, but you could make a case that the Indians knew he wouldn't accept it. I try not to include PR offers into my consideration. You have Jake Westbrook's three-year deal, and that's it.
The end-game for the Indians will ultimately be at looking at the average of Bailey’s entire contract, which comes in at $17.5 million, counting the 2014 season. If this is the case, as I suspect it is, the Indians will be looking at a three-year deal in the realm of $52-to-$54 million, or a four-year deal in the area of $68-to-$72 million.
Masterson will want to focus on the escalation portion of Bailey's deal, knocking out that first $nine million season. If you simply take away that year for Bailey, the average bumps up to $19 million per season. That’s a three-year extension for Masty at $57 million, or a four-year extension at $76 million.
So, put that into some perspective. Yes, Masterson looks like he’s sacrificing years, but is he really? If you really believe that he's going to sign a six year, Bailey-like deal, that's ultimately only one more season onto a four-year deal (understanding that he's already received a contract for 2014. If he’s looking at a four-year deal in the realm of $19 million, and you tack on this year’s arbitration-avoiding $9.8 million, you get a five-year, $86 million deal overall. Anibal Sanchez signed a five-year, $88 million deal with the Tigers. That's been my comp for almost a year now. Of course, that's assuming he gets a four year deal at $19 million, which I can't fathom the Indians would ever do.
The Indians signing Masterson to a four-year, $76 million deal is far-fetched to be sure, but it’s unknown what exactly Masterson has really even asked for.
So let’s cut to the chase.
If the Indians can sign Masterson to a four-year extension at $15 million a year, that is the steal of a lifetime. I’m really not crazy about the years, but they would be insane to pass that up. If the Indians sign Masterson to a three-year deal at $15 million, that’s even better, and Chris Antonetti should be celebrated with the finest meats and cheeses in all the land.
Can the Indians get that done? What if they do escalate the deal and add a mutual option? I can’t imagine Masterson would go that route, but it does answer the $15 million option for one, and it does give him two more years of guarantee past that. Maybe it’s not as far-fetched as it seemed even a week ago.
Then there’s a crazy scenario.
What if Justin Masterson really wants to stay in Cleveland? What if his wife, who is pregnant with Twins, really does enjoy the town they now call home? What if her cookie business (dying to try them) is so important to her and so connected to the people in Cleveland, that she doesn’t want to uproot their family? What if Masterson’s relationship to Chris Antonetti, Terry Francona and the Indians’ organization as a whole is so important to him, that signing a big deal to stay here is worth more than the hassle of taking a risk to sign a massive deal somewhere else…especially noting that it doesn’t always work out money-wise, or career wise?
What if Justin Masterson just doesn’t want to leave?
How game changing a scenario would that be?
When the Indians hired Terry Francona, my gut was that the culture of the Indians was about to change, and it was going to be more than just theory. He chose to come to Cleveland, an organization that was starving for a top-notch manager. From that moment, the Indians were a different team. Players couldn’t just shrug off the Tribe as a team that couldn’t be taken seriously. Their new manager, at the very least, gave them credibility.
What I like the best about all of this is hearing a player say things like “it does feel like home,” as Masterson did yesterday when discussing the possibility of staying in Cleveland. You can see it in his demeanor on the field and in the dugout. He’s comfortable here. Of course, he’d be comfortable anywhere, which is likely what makes him a relatively special player to begin with. He certainly doesn’t have the upside of a guy like Ubaldo Jimenez, but you could make a case that he gets more out of what he’s given, as well as a laid back persona that is special in professional sports.
In a world in which final contract years can cause stress, Masterson seems to be letting all this roll off his back. Players look at him as a leader, and that may very well make him a must sign at this point.
Masterson also is thinking of the team’s future. When talking to the Plain Dealer yesterday, he said, “…with Swish, Bourn and Brantley…other people see that (their signings) and say, ‘maybe this is the place to be.’ And I’m not talking just about the fans, but the players as well.”
Many times players talk a good game, but this is the locker room qualities that many talk about when Masterson’s name comes up. We are deluged with numbers these days, and I love them as well. While I’m not a “sabremetrics guy” by any stretch of the imagination, I follow the statistical stylings of Michael Hattery, John Grimm and Jim Piascik fairly closely, and aspire to understand how the numbers can assist in projecting what players can do. I also understand the value of a high performing player who simply doesn’t act like a jackass on the field or in the locker room.
Masterson is often described as a leader, a community guy, and a “player teams covet” because of his make-up. In other words, he’s the pitching version of a guy like Jason Giambi. People respects him not for what he says, but for what he does. He’s a workhorse, an atypical professional worker, who doesn’t rest on laurels.
I’m not going to sit here and say that I’ve been a proponent of signing Masterson prior to today. I’d be lying to you if I said I was.
I am now.
While I don’t necessarily believe that Masterson’s pronouncement means a whole lot with regards to the shortening of his potential deal, I do believe this is a guy that will pitch well, will continue to do whatever he can to get better, and will continue to be a force in the rotation, dugout, bullpen and community.
What’s that worth? I’d definitely sign him to a three-year, $50 million dollar deal, and not look back. Anything less than that, and I seriously would consider altering the Thome statue into a Masterson statue.
It’s hard not to love a guy that wants to be a part of the Cleveland Indians.
I do believe that the Indians have had a feeling that Masterson was going to stay long before this past weekend.The CSI crew talked about this very thing way back in late October, when debating on what the Indians might do with their starting pitchers. Part of our speculation was that this very shrewd managerial team of Chris Antonetti, Terry Francona and Mark Shapiro had a clear idea on who would stay, and who would go.
While I don’t think any of us figured that Masterson wanted to stay to the extent that he would leave years or money on the table, we did think it was possible that the Indians liked his intangibles a whole lot better than both Kazmir and Ubaldo. This isn’t a knock to either of the other two pitchers, as you can make a case that Kazmir and Ubaldo both had parts to their game that were more enticing than Masterson.
But Masterson was clearly the leader of the rotation. My belief was always that if the Indians were going to make an offer to Masty, that Ubie and Kaz would be gone. That appears to be what’s happening.
Now let’s hope the “discount” gets it done.
Perhaps in the next three weeks, Masterson and Kipnis will join Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to long-term deals signed. It’s just the sign this team needs to create the type of franchise stability that will allow the fans to build trust, and allow Francona to build success.
Now let’s sign these guys, and get on with it.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
@Walter The fans will show up if the team can put together two post season years in a row.
They just have to sign Masterson now. Nowhere else are they going to get that kind of deal for a guy with his ability and leadership. He is the perfect leader and front man for Salazar, Kluber, McCalister, Carrasco, Bauer, and Anderson to be built around. If we needed he could even be a top notch closer.
I too dream of Lindor and Ramirez playing in the middle of the diamond. I honestly think its something we could see by 2016. I wonder what position Kipnis would move too?
With Santana, Kipnis, Gomes, Brantley, Lindor, Ramirez, Chisenhall, Frazier, Naquin, Aguiler, Wendle and Rodriguez we really have the makings of what could be a strong core for many years to come. Not that everyone one of those guys are going to be stars but its a nice talent pool to draw from for the next 5 years and that's even with out our two vets Bourn and Swisher.
And still, not my worry, that's someone else's who's getting paid the big bucks to figure these things out.
It doesn't matter to me at all, that's Antonetti's problem, not mine. 8--)
Nobody believed in what the Indians did with Masterson but Masterson and the Tribe. Boston saw him as a solid pen man and the Tribe turned him into a solid #3 starter - with a shot at improving into even better. That is an enormous difference in earning potential - which he now stands to cash in on now.
So the idea that Boston's championship and their managers former relationship DOESN'T temp this guy speaks volumes. He really loves Cleveland. HE WANTS TO STAY HERE.
Isn't this why we brought Tito in?
And now, finally, to the financial flexibility question. Yeah it is a risk. It is. But the plan all along is to win and fill up the stadium again. Well they are winning. And most of the seasoned handicappers don't believe they can continue it. Hands down people believe this team takes the down elevator and KC takes their place chasing the Tigers and nailing a wild card spot.
I don't believe it. The reason is the dogout - I don't respect Ned Yost and his crew. Talent ever where but they are on their third year of 'coming on.'
What is more is that is what I see on the field in Goodyear as well. This team believes they are going to take DOWN THE TIGERS. And then the sky is the limit.
I've too Surprise too and I don't see that in Surprise.
KC is desperate to win. The Indians expect to win.
Ownership needs to quietly open up and spend and then recede back into the woodwork.
I'll take it a step further. This is one of those moments. Hesitation is bad enough. You don't pull the trigger now and you don't belong in the club of rich guys with big toys.
I think it was great to see Masterson and his agent throw out this 'love' if you will and pin down the Front Office and ownership to make a play.
I have mentioned many times why I love Masterson over Ubaldo - and it's not just because I believe he's consistently been and will remain the better pitcher talent wise.
First, Hermie13 is right on the 'discount.' At least money wise. It goes to show how Masterson's crew has played a masterful hand. They have turned their client into the Anti-Lebron.
Look at the national press - he's viewed as 'giving' his small market team a 'had me at hello' discount - when dollars wise it really is a safe way for Masterson to get security AND PROVE HE IS A GENUINE #1 - AND still be young enough to cash in with a big payday in 5 years time - provided he holds up health wise.
Second - the Dolans have to pay or shut up. I don't believe the Dolans are too comfy with how big the payroll is now, and really if they do take on Masty at 17 mil a year - then they will be crossing the rubicon in a big way.
Because they haven't seen a huge uptick in season ticket buyers - and that seemed to be the line drawn. Until the fans come back we'll be puttering along at 80-83 million.
And while I agree with Joe C that the priority has to be to lock up these developing young studs - turning down Masterson would be a big set back to filling up the stadium again.
Kluber, Salazar, Bauer, and gang are not the here and now right this minute priority - because you can deal with them later.
I think it is telling that this is anything but a done deal because it is perculating in the media. Everyone outside of Cleveland is scratching their heads why the Indians have not jumped this and gone all in.
I also believe that the Dolans had to have made some strong commitments to Tito to get him on board and to say no to Masterson at this point is to say no to Tito. Bad idea.
Also, the vibe in Goodyear is electric. I've never seen this. You say no and it is so ridiculously self-destructive. It would send exactly the wrong message.
If they don't pay up then they better have a blockbuster come opening day, like Cole Hammels throwing on the mound.
Otherwise they are going to rearm all the haters who have gone somewhat silent since Tito re-energized the franchise - by cutting themselves off at the knees being pennywise and pound foolish.
The real key is keeping Salazar, Kluber, and Bauer, long-term if they show improvement and stability. A solid case could be made for McAllister as well- they are likelier to be the future of this rotation, not Masterson. Salazar and Bauer's ceilings are higher, and you could make a solid argument that Kluber's is equal or better. Even McAllister is in the same zip code as Masterson's, and all are younger than Masterson, some by good margins, and at least two of them will need to be factored into free agent signings after 2017, where Masterson could still be here if it's a four-year deal, unless year 1 is 2014.
The main point: You don't sacrifice your future rotation or too much financial flexibility to retain Masterson, even if it doesn't sit well with the fanbase. The Indians have to determine where that breaking point is for this signing to truly benefit the Indians. The gesture by Masterson and his agent are nice, but it's still not a slam-dunk Let's Present the Contract and Sign on the Dotted Line Deal yet.
Wasn't one of the big issues some had with signing Ubaldo was how much of the payroll we'd have tied up in just 3 players? Is Masterson so much better than Ubaldo that it doesn't matter anymore?
Don't see how this is really the "going rate" when guys like Nolasco, Jackson, Garza, and Ubaldo are getting less than $13M per year.
Sure Sanchez got $17M but was also better (and didn't have a draft pick attached). Bailey is the one guy that is comparable to Masterson that got $17M...and really don't see how 1 comparable guy (out of about 5) makes it the going rate.
5-6 years also doesn't appear to be the going rate at all. 4 years does.
So agree Masterson is giving us a discount in years if he goes 3...but if he does want 4, that's not a discount.
By my count the Tribe could potentially have 14 arbitration eligible players next winter. Makes it very hard to say exactly what the Tribe payroll will be but think a reasonable estimate at this time is somewhere between $68M and $81M without Masterson or Cabrera back. Adding in Masterson and nearly $17M and you're talking about $87M-100M potentially. Is that doable? Maybe (at least if it's near the lower end of that spectrum) but even if it is doable (I think upper 80s is doable) doesn't leave much room to add anything else.
And in 2016 I just don't see how at this point the Tribe would hope to keep the payroll under $90M in 2016 if they add Masterson to a nearly $17M salary. Would have to non-tender a lot of guys and hope that guys like Kluber, McAllister, and Salazar don't make much in arbitration that year. May even struggle to get under $100M.
Adding Masterson even on a 3yr/$50M deal makes things very dicey after 2014. Obviously limiting it to closer to $14-15M a year doesn't make things a ton better though does give you the breathing room you may need to keep a guy like Axford (if he has a good year).
And who knows...maybe the Tribe can trade Bourn and solve this potential issue...
Or maybe the Tribe is preparing to push the payroll to $100M...
3yr/$50M is almost an overpay for the Indians IMO in terms of money. Sure I do love the years and if the Tribe signed him to that I would not be upset at all, but nearly $17M a year is a discount for Masterson how exactly?
Over the past three seasons he's average a 3.2 fWAR and been "worth" an average of $14.9M per season. Sure, numbers numbers. But we've seen with guys like Nolasco and others that teams are buying into things like War, FIP and xFIP more and more.
And while so many are pointing at the Bailey deal.....consider that it's only a 5 year free agent deal (6th year covers 2014, which Masterson is already signed for) and Bailey is a year younger. Again, 4 years for Masterson is not some kind of great deal we'd be getting, in reality that's probably what he would get on the open market right now (I'd be shocked if he got 5 years on the open market to be honest).
Don't get me wrong, definitely would like to see Masterson around past 2014. Suggested a 5yr/$75M deal on here months ago (or 4yr/$65M not counting 2014). The 4yr/$65M free agent part puts him at a $16.25M AAV...bit of an overpay based on how's he's pitched but not terrible. Still think it's in the Tribe's best interest to try and keep it at/under $60M for 4 years though if possible. 3 years would be very nice too but don't see why we should give him $50M when comparable guys hitting the market are getting that (or less) over 4 years. If he's really looking to give a team discount then 3yr/$45M or less is what I'd look at. $15M AAV is more than he's been worth and more than nearly all his comparables have gotten.
Again though, while I think 3yrs/$50M is an overpay per year, it's not so bad as to not like the deal. Still think that if the Tribe just waits Masterson out that they get him for less AAV in free agency next winter. Sure it's a gamble for the Tribe as maybe he bucks the recent trend and gets more money or becomes the first pitcher to get 5 years after a QO....but think it's an equal gamble for Masterson to risk testing that market and risking injury this year.
Like Jim, I, too would have preferred Ubaldo's upside, especially since he would have been at a cheaper price, and might have also given the Indians the chance to resign Kazmir and have two pitchers for almost the same price as Masterson.
With that said, I am happy to hear that "Cleveland feels like home to him." I, like many, am amazed that he would take a three- to four-year deal, especially after the Bailey deal, though I do see the reasoning behind it. I still have some concerns about the length (especially if it's a four-year deal) and the AAV, but combining the intangibles with the fact that Kazmir and Ubaldo are no longer options, I'd be inclined to complete the deal, especially based on the following reasons:
1. The length is shorter than expected, which is important for the following three reasons.
2. It will hopefully allow the Indians to lock up (besides Kipnis) the future members of the staff that solidify themselves (Salazar, Kluber, McAllister, Carrasco, Bauer, Anderson, Tomlin) sooner rather than later (I.e. Before Masterson's potential new contract ends).
3. We get Masterson for the remainder of what are usually considered his "prime" years.
4. If Masterson does regress or is injured (hope either is not the case), the deal won't be as long, though the money amount per year won't help.
5. As I mentioned before, it is imperative to resign one of the two of Jimenez or Masterson because of the PR factor. Allowing both to leave for draft picks would not sit well with the fanbase, who is hopefully getting excited enough to come out to the ballpark more frequently than the past several years and not keep saying, "Dolan is cheap."
Obviously, Jimenez is gone, so it must be Masterson. Add in the fact that he is well-liked and the intangibles are there should only help the Indians get the fanbase more enthusiastic again to the point where they will regularly support the Indians at the ballpark each night (at least 20-25K each night, with more 30K-40K+ nights without needing a special promotion to bring them out).
I do agree that the Indians likely had a good idea of which pitcher would be willing to commit to a more favorable deal and which would be the best "fit" for the Indians' staff long-term. Hopefully, it works out long-term- still some risk involved with the amount, and length to a degree, plus the fact the last two (Nagy, Westbrook) didn't go as planned, but, hopefully, the third time will be the charm for the Indians. Go Tribe!
I like your enthusiasm & I agree with it. Masterson & Kipnis (C'mon Kip, sign already!) locked up long term, with Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Crockett, & even Wendle on the horizon, makes for exciting future prospects for the Tribe.
I agree with your assessment of Tito's impact & have said so myself; the whole perception of the organization underwent a sea change when the new Skipper climbed aboard.
This is the most baseball fun I've had since the 90's. Go Tribe!