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Storylines: Extension talks between Masterson, Indians falter

Storylines: Extension talks between Masterson, Indians falter
Justin Masterson pitching at Target Field, holding the Twins hitless for six innings in the Indians' 7-1 victory. (Marlin Levison/Star Tribune)
March 21, 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: @AndrewIBI.

Here are the stories from Thursday, March 20th.

Tribe News:

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that talks between Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians have fallen through after Cleveland did not accept the three-year offer, which is being reported to have had an annual value under Homer Bailey's $17.5 million mark. Rosenthal states that free agency now seems likely for Masterson.
  • Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the same news, tweeting that talks between the two sides "are over." Reportedly, Randy Rowley (Masterson's agent) offered a two-year and a three-year proposal, with the two-year offer coming in at roughly $35 million and the three-year offer coming in at roughly $51 million.
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Indians countered Rowley's offers with a two-year deal and a club option at a considerably lower annual salary at roughly $14 million.

News and Notes:

  • Alex Seixeiro of Sportsnet reported that the Blue Jays have claimed outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo off waivers from the Diamondbacks and released left-hander Luis Perez in order to clear room on the 40-man roster.
  • The Astros are nearing agreement on a five-year extension with Matt Dominguez, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported. The deal will be worth around $17 million and will contain two club options worth about $8 million and $10 million.
  • The Pirates are open to dealing right-handed relievers Jeanmar Gomez and Bryan Morris, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reported, although they'd prefer to keep Gomez since he can also start.  Both pitchers are out of options.
  • Buster Olney of ESPN reported that the Red Sox aren't particularly interested in trading Mike Carp.
  • Joe Frisaro of reported that although recent reports have indicated that the Marlins could be willing to move Jacob Turner, the club isn't inclined to deal from its wealth of starting pitching at this time.

User Comments

Joe Chengery
March 21, 2014 - 11:50 PM EDT

Yes, I would favor such a Masterson trade; now, if the Indians are contending, it's going to be very hard to pull off that trade for a multitude of reasons (without Masterson, harder to make the postseason, fanbase will complain, team morale will be down, etc.). However, as I've said, Bradley or equivalent will be much more valuable and useful in all likelihood over a draft pick, especially with the Indians' issues at drafting. Even if the Indians' pick does develop, it will take three to five years before that pick provides any real value, whereas Bradley or equivalent could as soon as 2014, almost certainly by 2015.
March 21, 2014 - 10:20 PM EDT
This is why I love this website and these message boards: so many smart, insightful comments and analysis from the body of posters. You guys are all true "insider" Indians fans.

With that, I will say that the vast majority of the rest of the fans out there, from the rabble on etc to the lay fan who was only into the team because Grady Sizemore is cute are bemoaning this move (and the fact that the team didn't sign Grady back) so unfortunately, the PR on the vast majority of ticket buyers will be overwhelmingly negative as many have said. And also agree, smart marketing by the Masterson braintrust on this. Only the pundits can walk the rabble off the cliff a bit by bringing up salient points like Castrovince did, he's a good one.

Anyway, I agree with Tony, its a shame. Agree with Devin that 3 years/$45 mill might have been a far more defensible position that might have reversed the tables in the PR battle. Agreed with Rick that I thought Tito's presence would have been a difference maker in bridging the gap. Gotta agree with Hermie and themaven and many others that $17 mill is an overpay on Mast and liked much of what Lenny had to say including his thoughts on the rotation lineup (if Harang continues to look good) and all the concerns others expressed on payroll considerations make sense too.

I will say this, I firmly believe Masterson WILL finally have that back-to-back strong season. I just see him still trending up and in fact expect him to have his best season to date. Just what I see. And I see Bourn in decline compounding the economic duress we are tied to sadly.

So, if I'm right, what would you value Masterson at? Then you are perhaps getting fair value (in today's market) at $17M.

Regarding the A's model, which I agree with, would you all be in favor of trading Masterson for a Bradley type, say at mid-season if D-backs are looking for that piece to put them over the top and willing to part with a Bradley (or some other team in contention with a similar SP prospect) rather than taking the extra 1st round pick?

Even with the Bauer trade still looking bad for us, I think I'd rather have the closer to ML ready former high #1 than the crapshoot our draft might produce.

Have to say, this does put a damper on my enthusiasm for the upcoming season. :(
Ron Vollmar
March 21, 2014 - 10:09 PM EDT
Why don't the Indians just admit they cannot afford to pay him.

They have to hope that Anderson or someone else can come up through the system this year and become a viable starter in 2015.
Joe Chengery
March 21, 2014 - 4:52 PM EDT
Should have been "such a pitching prospect WOULD be more valuable than a draft pick...."
Joe Chengery
March 21, 2014 - 4:50 PM EDT
As I mentioned before, this where you could have made an argument to spend just a little more and kept both Jimenez and Kazmir, as you'd had two pitchers with comparable or better ceilings for just a little more than what you'd have for Masterson.

This does make the Indians look bad, which doesn't help with the fanbase, but by the same token, Masterson is NOT worth $17M (nor is Bailey worth $19M- think that contract has a strong chance of hurting the Reds long-term). Masterson doesn't even have the track record of Westbrook or Nagy- Masterson's velocity is better, but his command isn't, and NO ONE thought of Nagy and Westbrook as aces, and only borderline starters at best (fringe 2s).

Add in the fact that you'd have to extend at a sizable rate and year length, and such a deal would be extremely risky. Plus, I don't think anyone can say that the rotation would be in better shape with Masterson for $17M than it would have been for signing Kazmir and Jimenez for $22-23M because it would have been two quality pitchers for not much more than Masterson, and both of them were aces at one point, something that is debatable on whether Masterson has ever been one. Yes, Kazmir and Jimenez have their warts, but so does Masterson, and spending $17M on someone who is NOT a definite, bonafide ace would likely handicap the Indians long-term, especially after a season where Masterson wasn't healthy, plus a bit erratic (as has been discussed in other threads).

The two big problems:

1. The Indians don't look good to the fanbase- a PR nightmare.

2. The Indians must rely on that young pitching now and hope that the majority of it lives up to the hype sooner rather than later, as, now, you won't have any of three of Kazmir, Jimenez, and Masterson, exactly what I was worried about when this offseason started. I'd still be open to trading Masterson if the right deal came along, but whether you can get a TOR pitching prospect for him (such as Bradley, etc.), is debatable. I do think that such a pitching WOULD be more valuable than a draft pick, as well as much more helpful in the short-term, as I've stated before.
March 21, 2014 - 4:40 PM EDT
"I guess now we should be talking about what we can get for Masterson at the ASB - can't afford to let him go for only a compensation pick, IMO."

If we're in the race we won't deal him. Plus the QO likely hurts Masterson's value....I think people are being a bit premature acting like no deal before the season means Masterson is for sure gone.

If the Tribe wanted to sign Ubaldo they probably could have gotten him...something few thought possible at the start of the offseason. The QO really hurts the value of good-not great players....see Lohse, Ubaldo, Santana, Drew, Morales, Cruz....probably will be adding Masterson's name to that list next winter.
March 21, 2014 - 4:08 PM EDT
I guess now we should be talking about what we can get for Masterson at the ASB - can't afford to let him go for only a compensation pick, IMO.
March 21, 2014 - 4:00 PM EDT
Masterson is a slightly above average starting pitcher(career era
+ is 100) with a large platoon split and problems with consistency.He's 29 and in the middle of his "prime" so he's not likely to get much better.

17.5 million a year?......I don't think so.
matt underwood
March 21, 2014 - 1:21 PM EDT
what's new - oh well...

let's pull it together and win and get the draft pick next year.

if we only had a competent draft and developmental department to use those picks. I'd rather have a room full of monkeys with darts picking players than mirabellli and bud grant.
March 21, 2014 - 12:50 PM EDT
I could be wrong but I doubt they have been working on a trade with Masterson in secret.

My guess is they "low'balled" him because they have seen how the QO has kept guys like Masterson from getting big money/years. When you look at similar guys to Masterson getting 4yr/$48-52M on the open market...why jump at a 3yr/$51M offer from the player?
March 21, 2014 - 11:39 AM EDT
I agree with most of the comments here. Including those that think the Indians blew it and those who think they did the right thing. You really have to give some credit to Masterson's agent though, he handled this beautifully. Not matter what, Justin comes off looking great.

I never thought that something would work out and that Justin would stay, so I'm not so disappointed, but if there in fact was a two-year deal on the table, I do have a hard time believing that the Tribe doesn't break the bank to make that happen, overpay or not.

Unless Masterson gets hurt this year (and yes, I agree that the reticence to making a big commitment has a lot to do with his risk as a pitcher, which is way high) he has a great chance of getting paid $17m/year, maybe more, so why shouldn't he ask for that? (Bailey's AAV for comparable years is actually $19m, not $17m) Seems reasonable to me.

Now it gets interesting. My first thought when I heard this yesterday was that the Tribe was low-balling to make it look like they at least made an offer and that they were doing this knowing he wouldn't accept it, because they had used the last three weeks (btw, w basically ZERO public communication about anything) working out a trade with another team for major league ready prospects. (think AZ w Archie Bradley...)

My next thought was that they are in an excellent position to trade him at the deadline, with one of Bauer, Marcum, Tomlin, or maybe even Anderson ready to step up and join the rotation. I just do not see any way, even if they are in the playoff hunt, which I sure hope they are, that they let him walk at the end of the year. That, to me, would be the big mistake here. You gotta get something for him, maybe now.
March 21, 2014 - 11:21 AM EDT
Agree, $17M is an overpay for Masterson. That being said, with the shorter deal Masterson moved toward the Indians side of is in their best interest to move toward him. If they had offered $16M this discussion would not be going on right now.
Interesting the Tribe risked ticking Masterson off, but also revealing he wasn't willing to negotiate...It was his terms or else.

I get the fact payroll is going to bump up, but signing the staff ace to a risk friendly, shorter than mkt deal is a necessity, even if that means paying a higher rate than you'd like. It's not as if the Tribe is over flowing with upper end arms.

This being said, I think we could see the Tribe make some moves for arms. There are some nice prospects (Bauer, Anderson, Lugo & Baker) and with several high draft pks there is a good probability the Tribe targets some high end arms. Considering the Tribes MIF depth, I think there's a real possibility the Tribe makes a move from their depth for a young controllable SP.

Also, agree signing Bourn looks like it could be problematic. I wish they would have been able to trade him this past offseason. He needs a big (productive) season this yr, and with more hamstring problems popping up his future is becoming even more cloudy.
March 21, 2014 - 11:14 AM EDT
I would also add that the A's have mixed in a few decent re-tread or veteran starters (how about Bartolo Colon?) to complement their young starters. If Harang and/or Marcum have anything left to offer, I would prefer keeping them for the Major League club and stock our AA and AAA teams with younger arms who can continue to develop and come up as needed. If Harang is still pitching well at the end of Spring Training, I would make him the #5 starter (and maybe catch a little lightning in a bottle), move Carrasco to the bullpen, where he seems more comfortable and useful, and option Tomlin to AAA as our 6th starter. A starting staff at AAA that includes Tomlin, Marcum (as he continues to try and recover from injury), Bauer, House, etc... is pretty exciting to me, not to mention Cody Anderson at AA or AAA as well. Go Tribe!
March 21, 2014 - 11:13 AM EDT
The Cleveland Indians are a small market, limited revenue team. They need to use a similar approach to keeping players as the Oakland A's, who have been successful at being in the playoff hunt with a limited payroll. The A's have traded good players (especially starting pitchers) when they reach their free-agent years rather than pay them large salaries. They have been able to continuously re-stock their farm system with near-major-league-ready players while keeping their payroll where they need it. If you are going to spend long-term money, it makes more sense to pay for everyday players like Brantley, Kipnis, Santana, etc... and buy out a year or two of their free agency period, but they should not spend on big-dollar free agent pitchers (which Masterson is going to be if he stays healthy). If the Indians sign Masterson to a large dollar contract, will they be able to keep up with the increasing annual salaries of arbitration-eligible players? Who might they need to let walk in a couple of years if they sign Masterson and don't have the resources to keep other key players? At some point, the Indians need to try and get the maximum return on Masterson's value via trade (or a free agent compensation pick) and keep stocking up and re-loading with young players (especially starting pitching). It has very little to do with current market value, whether or not they like Masterson (they love him), the emotions of the fans, but has more to do with keeping the payroll where it has to be. That is the reality behind what is happening, unfortunately, with Masterson. I hope he has a Cy Young season and the Tribe wins the World Series.
March 21, 2014 - 11:07 AM EDT
Dolans are cheap. Yes. Tribe Fans are cheap. Yes. Fans have the right to spend there money anyway they want as a consumer. Dolan has the right to spend his money any way he wants based on income and budget created.

Based on Tony's payroll chart if the Indians signed Masterson for 17mil the budget would at 69 mil going to next off season. With there current budget around 82-85mil that leaves about 16 million for the rest of the team There is at this time 11 players eligible for arb next season. I don't think Kipnis would accept a 1 mil arb contract next season. If he goes to arb he probably be in range of 3 - 6mil. For 2016 there would be 16 players eligible for arb based on current roster.

Masterson has not put back to back good years to deserve a 17mil contract. Small market teams have to over pay for FA. Examples this year were Hughes,Nolasco,Garza and Ubaldo.

Bailey contract is an over pay by the Reds. It probably would mean they would have problems signing Cueto and Latos long term when they become eligible for free agency. By the way Bailey is currently out do to calf strain.
March 21, 2014 - 11:04 AM EDT
Screw around, let every one of your own FA's get signed by other teams, down to your last option, all your eggs in one basket, then drop the goddam basket. Brilliant.
All accidental, of course.
March 21, 2014 - 9:19 AM EDT

I do think the Bourn and Swisher deals (especially Bourn's) played an impact here. Been saying this all winter, but look at the future payrolls with all the potential arby guys and payrolls beyond this year have the potential to reach all new heights for the Indians.
March 21, 2014 - 9:16 AM EDT
I applaud the Indians here actually. $17M is an overpay for Masterson. Just because the Reds gave a guy that's been better the last two years $17.5M doesn't mean the Indians need to give Masterson nearly the same per year.

Nolasco, Garza, Ublado, and Jackson all got around $51M...over 4 years. Masterson is not that much better (if any) than these four that he deserves that amount over 3. Only thing with the Tribe that I disagree with is the option year...should have offered 3 guaranteed years. The salary amount is more than fair though IMO.

Agree with what one poster said....great job by Masterson's agent. Duped fans into thinking Masterson was willing to take some huge discount to stay in Cleveland, when in reality they asked for more than he was worth, simply for shorter years. This way his client looks like the good guy. Originally it was said Masterson was looking for a 3 or 4 year deal in the $40-60M range...most thought it meant he was looking for $13-15M per year....well, turns out he was looking for $17M. Big difference.

Interesting read on fangraphs from a couple weeks ago for those interested...
March 21, 2014 - 8:44 AM EDT
Wonder if a 3 yr/45 million offer would have gotten it done? 17 million is too much but it seems like they were in the ballpark. Bad for PR and the future not to get this deal done.
March 21, 2014 - 8:18 AM EDT
I think the fact that Masterson is a pitcher hindered the contract talks as much as money owed to Swisher and Bourn. Injuries are just so much more of a likelyhood, not the mention the impact of the different positions on a day to day basis.

Really, I don't see how the counteroffer was insulting when it was Masterson who said he wanted to do a club friendly deal. Well, you know what that counter offer was? It was what the Tribe could afford. What Masteron asked for? Market rate, only at a few less years. So really- no yearly discount, which in the end, is whath needed to be willing to take to actually make it work.

Sorry, but I don't see Masterson as a 17m pitcher. Salaries are exlpoding, I get that, but it doesn't make the player worth it- especially not to a club in the bottom tier of payroll. If Masterson was a David Price we might have an arguement but he isn't. If he has another good year, well, good for him- makes it less likely he takes the qualifying offer and the Tribe can get a draft pick in return. Not sure why this is shocking people, really.
March 21, 2014 - 7:55 AM EDT
2 yrs at $14mil per is a terrible offer and the Indians should have just said no to the whole thing instead of offering Masterson an insulting offer. I'm embarrassed for them today.
March 21, 2014 - 4:46 AM EDT
Don't know if anyone saw this, Heyman also reported the Indians & Jason Kipnis have set an opening day deadline for their extension talks.

Now as far as Masterson, I can't believe a supposed 3 million dollar difference "ended" contract negotiations. Masterson was willing to give up years & Antonetti has said a billion times they continue to "look for unique opportunities"

Well good job to Masterson's agent. He basically called the Indians bluff. No matter what from here on out the Indians will look absolutley awful.

Rational explanation is that they don't feel he's worth what he asked for, as a lot of comparisons lead you to a similar stat line to Jake Westbrook rather than Homer Bailey as some here have noted in the past and even Anthony Castrovince wrote last night as well.

The prevailing thought though is the Dolans are cheap and have no real desire to field a competitive team.

The truth is somewhere in the middle I suppose. Fact remains the Indians look like the bad guy here whether they should be or not.
March 21, 2014 - 4:29 AM EDT
Credit Masterson & his crew for putting the spotlight on high heat. Makes no sense that they couldn't get at least a 2 year deal to keep him on.

It seems the Dolans are back to their instinctual self-inflicting cheapness. It really makes me angry how stupid this is. It's the same old chicken and egg baloney - they cant spend now because they don't have the season ticket holders - yet - just these kinds of moves turn sour any real chance to bring back the solid backing.

Completely fed up. I thought Tito would make the difference.

I'm just dumbfounded at the sheer idiocy of this. PR nightmare completely cluster$#%^ & brought on by themselves.

It as if they were shocked by the offer.
Joe Chengery
March 21, 2014 - 2:55 AM EDT
That deal with Bourn could prove problematic, both because it may have hindered a potential Masterson deal, and because I have the suspicion that Bourn is going to have trouble staying healthy and remaining effective offensively (and even defensively), as much of his game is built on speed. Besides the fact he's on the wrong side of 30, he keeps having issues with his hamstrings, and unless he gets a good deal of rest, I fear this is going to be an issue for all or much of this season, which won't help his value in terms of a possible trade scenario. Of course, if he was off of the books, a Masterson deal would be more likely.

This is what concerned me over the offseason: Our lack of proven depth. This is why I thought Jimenez, Kazmir or both should have been retained, and you could have probably gotten the two for not much more than what Masterson was requesting. Now, we have concerns about everyone not named Masterson, and to lesser extents, Kluber, Salazar, Tomlin, and Harang.. There are larger concerns with McAllister, Carrasco, Bauer, and Marcum. At best, you might have five guys for the rotation, though probably not the five top choices you were counting, expecting more consistency out of McAllister and Carrasco.,while I think each has only had one bad outing, both got knocked around pretty good where you hope it was just a fluke rather than a disturbing sign. Hope the next few starts get them back on track.
March 21, 2014 - 1:40 AM EDT
I almost think the Indians counter offer was a slap in the face.

This is me thinking out loud here... but I wonder how much of a factor (if any) Swisher and/or Bourn's contract(s) have on this. Are the Indians worried about too much payroll for next season if they had agreed to Masterson's terms?
March 21, 2014 - 1:28 AM EDT
If they offered 15 -16 mil per year instead 12 -14 I think a deal could have been done. If he has great year, Indians offer QO, and Masterson is gone.
March 21, 2014 - 1:19 AM EDT
Shame on the Indians. That is all.

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