Justin Masterson and Indians Will Focus on One-Year Deal
The biggest story in the news of late in regards to the Cleveland Indians has revolved around the pending contract situation of their ace, Justin Masterson. Well, we got some clarity on that front Monday. As of right now, there is reason to worry.
Talks of a multi-year deal between Masterson and the Indians have been shelved for now. Both sides have decided that they are better off focusing on a one year deal for 2014 rather than continuing to negotiate for a multi-year extension. The aim would appear to be that both sides would rather avoid an arbitration case, scheduled for February 20, and settle on a deal that works for both.
However, while it is encouraging to see that both sides would like to avoid the lovers’ quarrel that is arbitration, it does raise some doubts as to whether or not Masterson will be in an Indians uniform beyond 2014. The fact that they are shelving talks would seem to indicate that they can not come to an agreement on either years, money, or both. That is a problem, but is not surprising. After all, neither side could agree on Masterson’s value for 2014. What leads anyone to believe they can agree on his value for the years following?
It will be interesting to see how this situation ends up resolving itself. It would stand to reason that any and all long-term negotiations will be put on hold by the time the season starts. This is done by most players in order to keep any contract talks from being a distraction. Whether or not they will re-address the issue following the finalization of Masterson’s 2014 salary remains to be seen. What we do know is that if Justin Masterson turns in a strong 2014 season similar to what he did in 2013, it will be very hard for the Indians to resign him.
With the market for free agent pitching, Masterson can expect to score a massive payday this coming offseason. After all, mid-level pitchers like Jason Vargas received deals that far exceed their talent level. For a pitcher of Masterson’s caliber, it would stand to reason that 2015 and beyond would be spent with a big market team due to the price tag that will be associated with him.
That leaves the Indians in a difficult spot. If they cannot agree to terms on a long-term deal now, they will need to decide sometime this season on what to do with their ace. Do they hold out hope that they can sign him to a long-term deal while competing with the like of the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, and Dodgers? In that case it’s likely that they would lose Masterson for next to nothing. Yes, they will most likely obtain a compensatory draft pick thanks to a qualifying offer, but that doesn’t make up for what Masterson brings to the table.
Or, do they trade him away mid-season in hopes of getting something back in return. Naturally, this is the route the Indians would rather not take. Trading away Masterson for prospects would bring back memories of the ill-fated C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee trades. While the move would be understandable from the stand point that you would rather get something for Masterson rather than losing him for nothing, fans would view this as more of the same and waiving the white flag on the 2014 season and maybe beyond.
However this situation resolves itself, it is going to shape how this Indians team looks in the years that follow. Do they hamstring themselves with a massive contract to Justin Masterson, or do they cut ties and focus their attention on locking up their other players to long-term deals before they reach this same point? Either way, the fans surely have an eye on this situation and are waiting with bated breath.