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MLB Storylines: Masterson extension talks put on hold

MLB Storylines: Masterson extension talks put on hold
January 28, 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.

Here are the stories from Monday, January 27th.

Top Stories

  • One day after hearing that Jason Kipnis is "absolutely" open to a long-term extension with the Indians, reports surface saying that ace Justin Masterson and Cleveland will put their extension talks on hold and focus instead on Masterson's arbitration case. Two weeks ago, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that talks between Masterson and the Indians on a contract extension had "gained little, if any, traction." This latest development seems to further lessen the chances of Masterson being in Cleveland past 2014.
  • In a television interview with Steve Burton of Boston's CBS4, David Ortiz said that he wants to retire as a member of the Red Sox, but a new multiyear deal may be necessary to make that happen. When he was asked what would happen if Boston did not give him a multiyear deal, Ortiz said: "Time to move on."

Other News and Notes

  • The Indians signed infielder Elliot Johnson to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.
  • Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News wrote that Prince Fielder will hit third in the Rangers lineup in 2014, right in front of Adrian Beltre.
  • According to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune, the Mariners feel comfortable using a rotation ofCorey HartJustin Smoak, and Logan Morrison at DH and first base until Hart's surgically repaired knees are ready to handle outfield duty.
  • Infielder Chris Nelson agreed to a minor league deal with the Reds.
  • The Rockies and shortstop Paul Janish reached an agreement on a minor league contract.
  • Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reported that Johan Santana could be a half-a-year away from pitching in big leagues again.

User Comments

January 29, 2014 - 8:58 AM EST
I can see the argument that Masterson is better than Bucholtz as I agree, Bucholtz just can't stay healthy.

But Lester is far and away better than Masterson. Only once over the last 6 seasons has Lester not thrown 200 innings and even that year he threw 191. He's never had a fWAR under 3.2....Masterson only twice has reached that. 4 times in the last 6 years Lester has had an fWAR over 4....Masterson once. And 3 times Lester has been over 5....Masterson has zero 5 win seasons. Lester >> Masterson. I don't know how you can call him erratic til last year...when last year was only his 4th best season in the last 6 years. Even his two "bad' years were better than just about any season Masterson has had.

Lester is a guy you can truly count on as your #1....Masterson not so much, which is why I think the Red Sox will focus on resigning Lester as opposed to getting Masterson. Plus Lester won't cost them a draft pick.

And I don't get your point on Victorino. While they did give him more money than some thought he'd get, they didn't give him as much as we gave Swisher or Bourn....they actually were very conservative with their spending in 2012 going after the second tier guys who did not cost draft picks. Now I'd put Masterson in the 2nd tier as far as talent but since he'll cost a draft pick (most likely) I think they'll pass on him. As far as Ortiz and a long term deal....again, don't think that has anything to do with trying to save money. They just aren't being stupid. Why give Ortiz a long-term deal, why not just give him a QO after the season if he hits well again? Who will give up a draft pick to sign a guy that will be 39 in 2015? They don't need to give Ortiz a multi-year deal.

There are just so many teams other than Boston that could be in on Masterson (Yanks, Tigers, Angels, Rangers, Dodgers, Reds, Astros, Blue Jays, Orioles, etc) that I think the BoSox pass on the draft pick and getting in a bidding war for a guy that's not an Ace. Maybe I'll be wrong, but other than the "he was with them before" argument it just doesn't jive with how they've handled things of late.
Joe Chengery
January 28, 2014 - 11:25 PM EST
Hermie13, I can see Detroit, especially if Scherzer isn't resigned, in regards to signing Masterson.

However, I still think BOS is still the best bet for the following reasons:

- He's one of their own original draft picks who they thought highly of, though as a bullpen pitcher, not as a starter.
- In truth, Masterson isn't that much different from Lester and Buchholz; all three have had consistency issues, and I'm not sure any of them are a true #1. Lester was erratic until last year, plus had an injury issue of his own if I remember correctly. Buchholz has not been durable, and while he looks like a #1 at times, he looks like a 3/4 at other times, weaker than Masterson, in fact.

Even if you want to slot those two ahead of Masterson, Lackey isn't in the same category. Besides the fact he wasn't a Red Sox originally, he's about five years older than Masterson, so by most accounts, Masterson would be an upgrade. Plus, Lackey could probably be traded in a market where 3/4 startes are getting $12+M/year. Add in the fact that Boston isn't financially strapped for cash like most organizations, and I still see Boston as better than 50-50 to sign him.

As for the next wave of young Boston pitchers, I'm not familiar with all of them offhand, but how many from the last few waves of pitching actually made the Majors and pitched for Boston? Lackey and Buchholz come to mind, and both took a while to really establish themselves. The rest either flamed out or were used as trade bait.

Chances are that Boston will be fortunate to get 1-2 starters out of this next group, with the others flaming out or being used as trade bait. Besides that, BOS is in win-now mode, evidenced by the fact that they didn't take long to rebuild. Combine that with the fact that they play in maybe the toughest division in baseball, the AL East, and you have to ask yourself: "Which pitcher gives me the better chance to win each fifth day- an established Masterson or a highly-touted prospect who is unproven?" The answer would likely be the former, and Masterson and one of those touted prospects would be a better, more likely option for BOS to contend and win the AL East than two highly-touted prospects at the end of your rotation.

Even if they are looking to conserve money (which hasn't been a BOS feature in the past, and it wasn't in the 2012 offseason- recall the overinflated deal they gave to Victorino as one example), that may be why they're not eager to give Papi a multi-year deal because they have that money marked for other means in the 2014 offseason, such as a pitcher such as Masterson. Still think he's on Boston's radar and a pretty solid bet Masterson winds up back in Boston in 2015.
January 28, 2014 - 4:48 PM EST
Another wild card thrown into the mix...

It's being reported that AJ Burnett WILL pitch in 2014 and is open to signing with any team.

Pirates would still seem like the favorite but they have filled out their rotation and they may not have the money left.

Burnett is older and pitched in the NL the last two years but numbers were very good. 2.92 xFIP last year while striking out close to 10 batter per 9....if I'm Cleveland, jump in and see if you can't steal Burnett on a 1-year deal. May not be able to fit him in the budget either without being creative but can't hurt to try. Cleveland did reportedly try and get him from the Yanks a couple years ago...and no draft pick attached to him...
January 28, 2014 - 4:41 PM EST

I don't think Lackey at this point is necessarily better than Masterson either, but he had a very good 2013 after missing all of 2012. Is getting older but should have 2 more years left IMO, plus 2015 he'll be making the league min, so safe bet that he'll be in Boston still and that option will be picked up. Solid #3. Agree on Bucholtz's health or lack of, but they still love him. Masterson very well would be the #4 (maybe #3) in that rotatoin in 2015...seams overkill, especially with Doubront around who nearly posted a 3-win season in only 161 innings last year, he'd be a solid #3/4. They only need one of their minor leagers to step up and claim a 5th spot. Remember these kids will get all of 2014 in AAA too, so think it's more than reasonable to expect one to be ready by 2015. Hell, the rotation is so stacked right now Doubront may be in the bullpen.

Again, not saying Masterson can't end up in Boston...I just think it's unlikely unless Lester leaves. They don't need him and don't seem to be willing to part with picks....and guess I just doubt they'd do it for a #3 starter in their rotation (maybe #4). There are just several teams I see more likely to steal Masterson than Boston. Hell, Detroit worries me more than Boston.
January 28, 2014 - 4:34 PM EST
errr...that should read "Don't think signing Ubaldo absolutely closes the door on a Masterson signing either"....d'oh
January 28, 2014 - 4:30 PM EST
I guess I just don't see how you can get that vibe fully in January. Consider both CC and Westbrook signed extensions in April of their walk years. Still got 2 full months to work out an extension with Masterson, even if talks are shelved til after a potential February arby case, still got a solid month+ to work something out.

Unless Masterson is flat out saying no or asking for something ridiculous (like 6 years and $100M), think you have to keep approaching him about an extension and work under the assumption you can still extend him.

Don't think signing Ubaldo absolutely closes the door on a Ubaldo signing either. Does make 2015's payroll look ugly at first, but I think a guy like Bourn could be moved (think he will bounce back some this year) and several deadweight arby guys could be let go.

I just don't think the Tribe should be worrying about their 2015 rotation right now. Worry about the 2014 one.
January 28, 2014 - 4:28 PM EST

I believe that Boston could very well use Masterson. Lackey is good but not necessarily better than Masterson, plus he's getting a bit old, plus he's pretty much just as inconsistent year to year. Buchholz is brilliant when healthy, which is almost never. Lester is a true stud, consistent as hell. Doubront is okay but I wouldn't trade Kluber for him. I do see your point about the Sux being more thrifty & protecting the draft picks, but they've always valued draft picks. Webster looked good for Pawtucket but might not be ready yet. I never liked Ranaudo & still don't, but maybe they do. JMO, FWIW.
January 28, 2014 - 3:58 PM EST

My point is they should have an impression whether Masterson will resign or wants to test the mkt. if he makes it clear he wants to test FA then I think they should make it a priority to resign Jimenez.

Right now, I think it comes down to the Tribe and Jays.
January 28, 2014 - 3:53 PM EST

No problem.

I've heard Masterson really enjoyed Boston. Also, there were rumors the Red Sox have tried to reacquire Masterson in the past. Don't remember source on that, bc it's been awhile. Just saying, it seems rational.

Good point re: Red Sox approach to FA. I think they've maintained a good approach for a big mkt club.
January 28, 2014 - 3:47 PM EST

"they should resign Jimenez if it seems certain Masterson will walk"

That's a nice idea...but I don't believe the Indians will know they can't sign Masterson until next winter. I mean as soon as Ubaldo declined our QO most thought he was a done deal he was gone...but now things seem different. Masterson easily could end up in a similar situation.

To me, you sign Ublado if you believe the deal is good value and it gives you the best shot at winning in 2014. Don't do it only if you think Masterson will walk next winter.

Also, bit off topic (though somewhat related) but...

Corey Kluber will have a better year in 2014 than Masterson (and not because Masterson has a bad year)....
January 28, 2014 - 3:38 PM EST
I agree, Hermie. I'm willing to bet just about anything that Masterson is not a member of the Red Sox in 2015. The Red Sox have a ton of SP talent in their minors that are already or will be major league ready by 2015. The Red Sox are not the big-spending monster some people think they are. They are building their team to last for a long time.
January 28, 2014 - 3:25 PM EST

I still don't see Masterson going to Boston. Anything is possible, but if they resign Lester, they very likely won't have any need for him. Lester, Bucholtz, Lackey is a solid 1-3, plus they still have Durabont and their AAA rotatoin is stacked with guys with higher ceilings than Masterson. Only way I see Materson in Boston next year is if Lester leaves (who I forgot to mention in guys that are better than Masterson slated for free agency next year)...and even then I'm not sold it happens.

Has no one noticed that the Red Sox have yet to sign a free agent that required a draft pick under the new system? They went after Victorino instead of Swisher last year and have shyed away from guys like Cruz and Choo this year. I think Masterson having been with Boston before is being very overblown in regards to where he may or may not end up next year IMO.
January 28, 2014 - 3:18 PM EST

wow, yeah that's way my bad. Sorry bout that.
January 28, 2014 - 3:08 PM EST
They won't do it but I'd trade Masterson to the DBacks for Corbin anytime. He was discussed at length in re the proposed Asdrubal to AZ trade. Corbin's not a world beater but had a 1.166 WHIP in 200 IP as a 23 yr old. Then again, why would AZ make that trade?

As I said before, all the Redsux have to do is crook their fingers at Masterson and he'd run to them screaming like a teenage girl at a Bieber concert. Masterson's gone. I agree with the consensus in preferring to get young talent rather than draft picks. I'd also rather re-sign Ubaldo than to just get draft picks. It's a good draft for pitchers but I'm not sure anything late 1st round projects to be as valuable as 3 years of Ubaldo.
January 28, 2014 - 2:16 PM EST
As for the Dbax farm system, and the Yankees, I'm not talking prospects. I'm talking big league talent, and big league ready talent, not prospects, (yrs away) but a deal could include prospects if something were to go down.

Here's a cpl examples of what I'm taking about...
Masterson for Ivan Nova and Brett Gardner (NYY).
Masterson for Trevor Cahill and AJ Pollock or Chris Owings (Dbax).

Regardless, it is hypothetical anyways. Just saying, they should resign Jimenez if it seems certain Masterson will walk, and if that's the case, they could move Masterson and get a good return.
January 28, 2014 - 2:05 PM EST

I think you misread the post. I never said Kipnis would get 4/$45. I'm not sure where you got that...I said 4/5 yrs. The salary figures I mentioned were re: Jimenez.
January 28, 2014 - 2:02 PM EST

I'm not talking prospects, I mentioned big league ready talent. That could include young talent . But a deal would likely include a cpl prospects coming back.
Joe Chengery
January 28, 2014 - 12:28 PM EST
The only way I could MAYBE see Masterson netting Bradley is if Arizona can negotiate with Masterson and sign an extension before the trade takes place. Otherwise, probably not for one year of Masterson, and I don't know if Masterson will give up FA. I still think Boston is his likeliest destination in 2015 for reasons I've mentioned before.
Joe Chengery
January 28, 2014 - 12:11 PM EST
I've been saying about resigning Jimenez and having the ability to trade Masterson if the right deal comes up or if the Indians falter in '14 (hope not).

I really don't think you want to get just two first round draft picks for your two best pitchers (excluding Salazar) and have just two draft picks that MIGHT contribute something in 2017 or 2018 at the earliest. That's too much of a gap with the current group, never mind the fact that the Indians still are not strong at drafting (Chisenhall is a big question mark, Howard is very close to a bust without the proper adjustment and commitment- both high-round picks; there are other recent examples too). The Indians just have not been good at drafting first-round picks; add in the fact that you hope they'll be late-1st-rd picks, and that may increase the chances that the Indians might miss, as they have done even as recently as the 2006 and 2008 drafts.

Add in the fact that losing both Masterson and Jimenez from the rotation requires the Indians to have depend on all of Salazar Kluber, McAllister, Bauer/Carrasco/Tomlin/Anderson (2 from this group to excel), as there's not much else in terms of viable pitching prospects (House maybe, but no more than a 4/5, while Colon is still 2-3 years away, and probably a 4/5, maybe a 3)., and it could really weaken the Indians' chances at contending as more position prospects and bullpen prospects get established, plus retaining the likes of Kipnis, Brantley, etc. And supplementing the starting pitchers we do have meaningfully via FA will be hard, and you likely won't get the quality of pitcher as Masterson or Jimenez via FA at the dollars the Indians can pay (Kazmir was a rare exception, and few if any thought he would do that great- think the Indians could have resigned him).

Supplementing them via trades won't be easy either, as the farm system is just starting to gain strength. You don't want to weaken it unless you're really getting a difference maker (not Samardzjia in my mind), so, Jimenez might be your best FA possibility to really strengthen that rotation with a frontline or near frontline starter to give the Indians that strong rotation to compete for the next 3-4 years, just in time for the draft pick from Masterson to help out if the Indians don't trade Masterson during the 2014 season.

As I said elsewhere, if you had to trade Cabrera to free up the money to resign Jimenez, even if you get next-to-nothing for him, I'd do it. Cabrera is not the strongest candidate to bounce back based on the metrics and breakdown of his swing. Add in the fact he won't return in 2015, the fact he's a liability defensively, and we can manage with Aviles, Adams, and Johnson in the fold, I'd do it to keep Jimenez.

The rotation takes a different, stronger look if Jimenez is in that rotation for 2014, and especially beyond 2014. Is Jimenez a risk? Sure. But, Masterson and every other pitcher is too- we don't know how Masterson will react to a FA season, plus I think his H/9 and K/9 rates will return closer to his career acts in 2014, thus indicating he may not be as strong in 2014, and he had some weak moments himself in 2013, even before the injury.
January 28, 2014 - 10:42 AM EST
If the Tribe could get Archie Bradley for Masterson I'd definitely consider it...but I just don't see it. Masterson is simply not elite. I'm sure some will point to James Shields and what people seem to ignore is that Shields was/is better than Masterson. And if Fister could only get what he got...what makes anyone think Masterson can get a guy like Bradley?

Agree with Tony, Masterson provides more value being on the 2014 team than what he'd get in a trade.

I don't agree with some that say Masterson is definitely gone. Sure it's the most likely scenario but again, Masterson is simply not elite and barring a breakout 2014 he's not going to get insane money. As things stand right now, even with Kershaw extended you've got a few pitchers that are better than Masterson slated to be free agents. Shields and Scherzer head the list. Homer Bailey is ahead of Masterson as well. And even guys like Dan Haren, Josh Johnson, and Jake Peavy could end up being better than Masterson. Easily could have called Ubaldo the 2nd or 3rd best pitcher on the open market....same with Garza. Garza with no pick attached barely got $50M. Ubaldo may not get even that. Masterson right now doesn't look like he'll be getting even Sanchez's $85M to me (maybe I'm in the minority there).

Again, I do think ultimately Masterson is gone...but don't think it's a 100% lock like some are saying, actually think the odds are a lot closer to 50-50 than 100% he's gone....but again, probably in the minority there too, but just think with a draft pick attached, plus a still strong free agent class....and Masterson's market won't be as strong as some think.
January 28, 2014 - 10:36 AM EST
It is interesting to see the same parallels between Masterson and Homer Bailey. They both have the biggest gap difference regarding what they are asking and what the team is offering. They both at the moment are in contract extension talks that are going nowhere at this point. They both have a chance to go to arb in Feb. They both play for Ohio teams and are FA at the end of the year.

If Masterson wants a big payday he will need to have best season of his career. He can not have a good year followed by a bad year as his history shows. With that said the Indians really are in the driver seat when it comes to Masterson. The pressure is on Masterson to perform this season.
January 28, 2014 - 10:34 AM EST

4yr/$45M for Kipnis just doesn't make sense for Cleveland IMO. It doesn't buy out anything but his last pre-arby year and 3 arby you don't get him for anything more than you already have him. Plus...unless Kipnis turns into Mike Trout, he's not getting nearly $45M in his 3 arby years, so you're overpaying him AND not getting any extra years.

I definitely think Kipnis should be near the top of the Indians to do list in regards to an extension, but needs to be 5 years for it to make sense or at least 4 years plus an option. Something similar to Santana but with a bit more money perhaps. Still say 5yr/$35M is more than fair. Maybe go as high as $40M if you can get a 6th year option included.
January 28, 2014 - 10:23 AM EST

I'm not saying you could get him, but the DBacks still have Archie Bradley in their farm system. They also have Chris Owings and Braden Shipley. To say they have nothing of significant value is silly. If you're trying to say they would seem to be poor trade partners because there's no way they would give up Bradley, we don't need any more SS so Owings is out, and Shipley can't be traded for another 7-8 months, then I would agree with you.
January 28, 2014 - 9:53 AM EST
Willie, the dbacks and the yanks have nothing of significant value in their farm systems. Unless they trade someone on their big league rosters, I think a deal with either of those teams is highly unlikely.
January 28, 2014 - 9:25 AM EST
Tony, I agree they don't need to trade Masterson, but they should explore it. I think they could get a good return, with some controllable big league talent in return. I'd rather have real big league ready talent now, than wait 4/5 yrs to get a return on a draft pk ~ if it ever paid off. Point being, depends on the potential return via trade.

Also, another way to look at it could be to see any trade of Masterson as a deal that virtually equates as... Jimenez + whatever return for Masterson.
January 28, 2014 - 9:01 AM EST
My guess is that extension deals like Santana signed before he was even eligible for arbitration are the only ones within the Indians' means for core type players. Kipnis is next up this year or he's likely to leave after 2017. That's a difficult model to apply to pitchers due to the significantly higher injury risk than position players, so I doubt many homegrown starting pitchers ever stay more than six years.
January 28, 2014 - 8:55 AM EST
As I said in yesterday's piece, no need to trade Masterson. He provides more value for what he brings in performance in 2014 and the first round pick as compensation, but also with a qualifying offer over his head next season the Indians might be in the drivers seat for a deal more to their liking. We will see.
January 28, 2014 - 8:53 AM EST
Now that an extension with Justin Masterson seems unlikely, I think the Tribe should turn back to Jimenez. Jimenez's price tag should be more to the Tribes liking. I'd suggest maybe 3/$39 or 4/$44 would be palatable. Throw in a vesting option yr for $14 M and maybe some incentives and I think they'd get a deal done.

Masterson is one my favorite Indians, but if he's not going to be here (with the Indians) long term, IMO, they are forced to move on a mkt that is favorable for their financial position. Read: go after Jimenez, whose mkt seems to be lagging.

That being said, I would suggest it could be beneficial to see the Tribe sign Jimenez and then flip Masterson for several young big league talents. The Dbax and Yanks might be potential trade partners, they were linked to the Tribe in rumors earlier this offseason.

Glad to hear Kipnis wants to remain with the Tribe long term. It would be in their best interest to lockup Kipnis for 4/5 yrs, IMO. Also, I like the Elliot Johnson addition, he adds more depth / options in the MIF.b
January 28, 2014 - 8:29 AM EST
I hope this news makes it clear to the dreamers who still think Masterson isn't a complete goner at the end of the season. I'd like to see the Tribe get bold. Get Ubaldo on a 3 year deal, even if it means $45M, and trade Masterson for a decent haul of prospects. I'd rather have Ubaldo than Masterson the next 3 years anyway, and this way you get legit prospects out of the deal instead of a couple extra draft picks that are essentially worthless because this group can't draft at all.

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