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MLB Storylines: Have Masterson, Indians reached an impasse?

MLB Storylines: Have Masterson, Indians reached an impasse?
January 22, 2014
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In this MLB News and Notes segment, I will be giving occasional reports on the latest news and rumors throughout the MLB. I also will try to tweet news and rumors as I see them, so feel free to follow me on Twitter: @ajnicholsIBI.

With no major signings or trades occurring on Tuesday, there are no "Top Stories." Instead, I will give a rundown of all of the day's news and notes.

Here are the stories from Tuesday, January 21st.

News and Notes

  • Indians general manager Chris Antonetti told's Jordan Bastian that there is a very good chance that the Indians may go to an arbitration hearing with a player for the first time since 1991. While the Indians have not reached deals with four arbitration eligible players – Justin MastersonMichael BrantleyVinnie Pestano, and Josh Tomlin – Masterson appears to be the player expected to force Cleveland to go to a hearing. Masterson requested $11.8 million, and Cleveland offered $8.05 million. The $3.75 million gap represents the largest difference of any arbitration eligible players still not signed in the MLB. Bastian reported that little progress has been made between the Indians and Masterson in their contract extension talks.
  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reported that Grant Balfour is expected to make a decision on his next team within the next week.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweeted late Tuesday night that the Rays have acquired Logan Forsythe from the Padres in a four-player deal.
  • The Phillies signed Bobby Abreu to a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training. Abreu, 40, has not played in the Majors since 2012.
  • Philadelphia also signed pitcher Chad Gaudin to a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite.
  • The Twins and Korea's Hanwha Eagles are discussing a buyout that would send Minnesota pitcher Andrew Albers to Korea, according to Shi Davidi of
  • Recently retired Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan and the Astros have expressed mutual interest in a working relationship.
  • The Dodgers signed catcher Miguel Olivo to a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training.
  • Mike Puma of the New York Post tweeted that the Yankees are still looking for bullpen help and have shown some interest in Mitchell Boggs.

User Comments

Joe Chengery
January 24, 2014 - 1:47 AM EST
Obviously, "blue-choir" should be "blue-chip" - whoops!
Joe Chengery
January 24, 2014 - 1:45 AM EST

The perception that the Indians have not had many "blue chippers" in their system has been a constant knock for a while, even while saying we have depth. Yet, how many blue chippers live up to the hype and how many fall by the wayside?

Look at some of our own that have faltered/not lived up to expectations: Adam Miller, Drew Pomeranz

and others:

Andy Marte
Ian Stewart (seen he just got signed a day or so ago, to a Minor League contract, I believe).
Phil Hughes
Joba Chamberlain

Even some of the Tigers' famed prospects haven't lived up to the hype, including Andrew Miller, Jacob Turner, and Rick Porcello. All of them were considered aces or frontline starters. I don't think any of them are- 3 starters for the last two, maybe, but not 1s or 2s in my mind.

Never mind the fact that virtually no farm system has more than a handful of blue-chippers, especially nowadays when the talent is rarer and is more spread out with the last few rounds of expansion and the disparity in team budgets.

Therefore, that knock always seems to come back to the Indians, yet no team can build from within and have all blue-chip prospects filling their prospects. Even the powerhouse 90s Indians teams were a mixture of draft picks, trades, and free agents, and not all of those picks and trades were considered blue chippers either. Solid yes, some blue chippers, yes, but not all blue chippers.

So, publications can keep knocking the lack of "impact" talent in the Indians' system, but depth is as or nearly as important as blue-choir talent because no one can expect to fill a majority of a farm system and a ML roster with blue-chip talent. Even if a team could do that, it's doubtful they would all live up to that potential, based on the examples above and countless others who haven't. I definitely agree that there is more there than some might think, and especially in the position player department. The starting pitching is still a bit thin, but hopefully can begin turning around this year, while the bullpen seems strong for the most part.
January 23, 2014 - 1:34 PM EST
Posted this elsewhere, but Garza just got 4yr/$52M.

I think Masterson can get more but is he really worth that much more? I originally said 5yr/$75M (his 2014 arby year + 4 free agent years)....starting to think that's way too high for him though. 5yr/$65-68M is probably more in line with what one should conisder. Buy out his arby year at $10-11M and give him 4 free agent years worth $55-57M....
January 23, 2014 - 12:59 PM EST
It is hard to go down fighting for the likes of Lee and Sabathia when you don't have the means to be even in the ballpark of what they eventually got. I think the Masterson situation is one that can get closer to the finish line on, but one that I think is going to become more and more of a concern as spring training (and the season) wears on. If I were a betting man, I'd gamble that he plays out the season with the Indians and leaves as a free agent (Indians get the 1st round pick after offering the QO).
Cleveland in Cali
January 23, 2014 - 12:57 PM EST
Ace or not, I wish the Tribe would stop dicking around with Masty, make him a real, competitive, aggressive longterm offer now, and let the pieces fall where they may. I don't mind losing Masty for a first round pick as long as we fight, and don't just concede defeat, which is how I felt both the Sabathia and Lee negotiations went down-- but lowballing him definitely does more harm with than good, in negotiations with him and other potential free agents. No matter what happens, though, the Tribe front office must improve its ability to scout players, both in drafts and trades. The success rate of Tribe drafting is absolutely horrendous.
January 23, 2014 - 10:03 AM EST
Your tribe the drafting was bad for yrs, it's not just drafting that teams develop and acquire talent. Look at trades too, funny how effective they've been at one end of the spectrum and failed on the other. To be fair, the farm system is about developing and acquiring talent, not just drafting it. That leads to international FA as well, the tribe has landed some talent over the yrs and have a cpl international prospects that are primed to compete at the big league level soon.

To look and this system and view it, void of talent though is just a self revelation of ones knowledge of the system. Rather, lack of knowledge. This system is hardly void of talent, there are few star potential players, but there is depth, upside and intrigue tied to a number of legit prospects. Furthermore, the age and level of play is encouraging from a number of these guys.
Joe Chengery
January 23, 2014 - 2:17 AM EST

Definitely agree with you: The Indians are LIGHT YEARS ahead of the Browns; even the Indians'leanest years are stronger than all but 2 Browns' seasons ('03 and '07, I believe, their 9-win playoff season and 10-win just-missed-the-playoffs season). Let's just hope the fans start showing that loyalty and support- you'd think most would be getting tired of the Browns continuously spinning their wheels and not getting anywhere.

After all, Browns' tickets aren't cheap either, and they've made very little to no progress over the last 15 years. Some fans have shown that loyalty and support to the Indians, but you'd like to see more of them show that loyalty and support instead of ripping the Indians and ripping Dolan - after all, there is no salary cap in baseball- it is the toughest field of the three professional sports leagues, yet the Indians are light years better than both the Cavaliers and the Browns. The Cleveland team that is likeliest to break the championship drought in the near future is the Indians, with the Cavs a distant second, and the Browns an even more distant third.
January 22, 2014 - 8:10 PM EST
Agree with Matt. Just like the browns, horrible drafting has killed the farm. AAA lineup last year was a joke.
January 22, 2014 - 7:10 PM EST
Comeback player of the year for 14 in Grady Sizemore? Red Sox offered him a major league contract.
January 22, 2014 - 6:51 PM EST
Masterson is not going anywhere. He will be Indians #1 starter for 14. He will become a FA in 15, Indians offer QA, Masterson signs elsewhere and Indians end up #1 draft pick for the June draft in 15.
I disagree that this organization is a joke. The Indians have more winning seasons than the other team that resides in Berea which is the current laughing stock of the NFL.
January 22, 2014 - 4:42 PM EST
Last year we gave Michael and Swish four year contracts 9 or above. Don't you think it is about time to get off the porch and run with the other dog? A winning team brings fans and money. What's a matter with having good club instead of stocking other teams with our good player? Are we a development of others? Please, I hope not. We don't want to rebuild every year. Do we???
Chuck Galeti
January 22, 2014 - 3:46 PM EST
Just sign Scott Baker.

And give this lovable, unemployed, substance-abusing sportscaster a drink!! Please!
January 22, 2014 - 12:38 PM EST
I don't think it's quite as much of a guarantee that Masterson will be gone though.

While everyone points to CC and Lee as examples of why we can't sign him, I think we should be pointing to Jake Westbrook as hope that we can resign/extend him. CC and Cliff Lee were Aces....Masterson for as much as I love the guy is simply not even close to be on the levels of those two. He's a very good #2 when he's on but that's his ceiling. Which brings me to Jake Westbrook...

The 3 years prior to signing his extension before the 2007 season, Westbrook posted fWARs of: 3.4, 3.3, 4.0.

Masterson over the last 3 seasons has posted fWARs of: 4.3, 1.9, and 3.4.

Not saying fWAR is the end all be all, and obviously the economics of baseball are vastly different now than they were even 5-6 years ago. But Masterson is not an elite pitcher, he's a very good that isn't likely to land an elite contract or be one of the 3 biggest names on the market, hell probably isn't even gonna be one of the 3 biggest pitchers on the market.

Another thing I find interesting...Ricky Nolasco over the last 3 seasons has posted fWARs of: 3.1, 2.5, 3.0. Difference between him and Masterson over the last 3 years has been 1 win. Is Masterson worth $20M more than Nolasco? Maybe...but he may find it hard proving to other teams that he is. Edwin Jackson is another guy to look at...fWARs of 3.5, 3.5, 2.2 leading up to signing his 4yr/$52M deal last winter...that's a difference of .4 WAR from what Masterson has done the last 3 yeasr. Again, worth $20M more than Jackson?

Again, I do ultimately think Masterson signs elswhere next winter...but I don't think he'll end up vastly out of the Tribe's price range unless he just absolutely goes off in 2014 and has the best year of his career by far. Going to be very interesting to see what guys like Ubaldo, Santana, and Garza ultimately sign for this winter. They are guys that are more on par with Masterson. Not your Tanaka's and Kershaw's (or hell, even your Anibal Sanchez's).
mat underwood
January 22, 2014 - 12:20 PM EST
yeah, this story is getting old... of course we have no problem paying 30+ year old average at best players $13m. a forced response due to years of horrible drafting and player development.
Joseph Devito
January 22, 2014 - 11:17 AM EST
Is there any doubt we will not sign Masterson? Us fans know the routine. We lost two starters, a closer and our set-up guy. No doubt Masterson will eventually be gone too. And who do we add to the team: a washed up David Murphy and a washed up starter Marcum and a bunch of relievers who have names we can't pronounce. Is Shelley Duncan available? What a joke this organization is.
Jake D.
January 22, 2014 - 10:42 AM EST
Per Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have reportedly agreed to terms with RHP Masahiro Tanaka on a seven-year, $155 million deal. Tanaka can opt out after the fourth year.
January 22, 2014 - 10:08 AM EST

Lackey is only signed thru the 2014 season...however, he has a $500K team option for 2015, and no that's not a typo. Due to him missing a lot of time with injury, his option became a league min option. Unless Lackey's arm falls off that's sure to be picked up, so he'll at least be around for 2015 (though they could trade him). I just think the Red Sox, who have shown restraint in spening under Cherington, will focus on Lester before Masterson. If they lose Lester (very possible), then I think Masterson makes a lot of sense as he could be a #2 behind Bucholtz.

Red Sox AAA pitching staff looks pretty stacked though for 2014. Barnes, Raunado, Webster, Workman, and eventually Owens. Their interest in Masterson could depend on how those guys perform/mature in 2014.
Joe Chengery
January 22, 2014 - 10:02 AM EST
Hermie13: I don't recall how long Lackey is there long-term, but I don't see Boston resigning him for the long-term. Dempster is either gone or will be gone. I'm not sure about Doubront either as a long-term fixture. I personally see plenty of holes in that rotation opening up and plenty of reasons why they would target Masterson (that I mentioned in my previous post). Add in the fact that they don't seem to be in the mix for Tanaka, and I'd think that money wouldn't be an issue either. I still think Boston is a prime destination, if not the prime destination for Masterson in 2015. For the record, I don't see Masterson as great either.

Ron H: Three things - 1. Someone else brought up the idea a while back (in the 2013 season) when Arizona was rumored to be interested in Masterson. I didn't say it was an absolute given they would even do that deal, just something that was mentioned as a topic/possibility a while ago.

2. You should know that record is not the best way to evaluate a pitcher. There are much better metrics than record, which isn't always in the hands of the pitcher, but is sometimes in the hands of the offense that doesn't score for him despite his pitching well.

3. TINSTAAPP: There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. Bradley is still an unfinished pitching prospect, whereas Masterson is established. Keep in mind there was another highly-touted pitching prospect from Arizona who was considered a "can't-miss" prospect, even more so than Bradley, and he didn't pitch well for the Indians in 2013: Trevor Bauer. And, Bradley also has command issues. Does that mean he'll struggle like Bauer? Not necessarily, but he's far from a finished product, and Bauer's struggles only remind us of the TINSTAAPP concept.
Ron H
January 22, 2014 - 9:41 AM EST
What kind of an idiot would even mention Archie Bradley and Masterson in the same sentence?
Masterson is a 14-12 pitcher at his best while Bradley is the top rated pitching prospect in all of baseball. The Indians would be lucky to get Trevor Cahill from the D Backs.
January 22, 2014 - 8:44 AM EST
If we could get a guy like Archie Bradley for Masterson I'd definitely be open to trading him...but just see absolutely no way that happens. Masterson is good but he's not great.

Boston makes some sense for Masterson in 2015, but they don't really have that big a need in the rotation unless they lose Lester (who they would try to resign before getting Masterson). Lester, Buckholtz, and Lackey is a solid 1-3. Masterson could still fit in there but they may decide to go young kids/smaller free agent signing to be the #4. In any case, smart money is on Masterson pitching in a different uniform come 2015.
Joe Chengery
January 22, 2014 - 1:38 AM EST
This is more of an indication that the Indians have little chance of retaining Masterson beyond 2014, all the more reason why I think signing Jimenez long-term may be the better move and being open to any impactful trade for Masterson (FOR prospect, such as Archie Bradley, as the centerpiece). If nothing comes up that the Indians think is worth trading Masterson this season, then you provide Masterson with the qualifying offer, try to resign him (but likely won't), and take the draft pick.

The likeliest place where Masterson will wind up in 2015 is Boston, unless the Indians trade him to another team and he resigns with them, but still think the likeliest place is Boston (history with Red Sox, Farrell, money, need in the rotation).

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