Justin Masterson willing to sign short-term deal to stay with Tribe

Justin Masterson

What was once thought to be a lost cause may no longer be the case. Cleveland Indians ace hurler Justin Masterson has reportedly used the last several days to let the world—and the team—know that he is not looking for Homer Bailey-type money. In fact, Masterson is willing to sign a shorter, less-lucrative contract to stay with the Indians, as long as it at least “makes sense.”

Though Masterson signed an 11th-hour one-year contract that successfully avoided arbitration, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported last Tuesday that the 6-foot-6-inch right-hander spent a good portion of the weekend discussing a potential long-term solution. The Cincinnati Reds recently signed Bailey to a six-year, $105 million deal that was all but sure to have ushered Masterson to a new team come 2015. Per Heyman, however, Masterson told the Tribe that he is willing to accept a shorter contract, said to be in the three-to-four-year range, firmly putting the onus back on the front office to attempt to agree to terms.

Indians beat writer Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group followed up the Heyman report by stating Masterson and his agent have made a three-to-four-year proposal to the Indians which is believed to be in the $40-60 million range, less than the $16 million-per-year estimates that were once discussed. They are currently waiting to hear back from the team.

“We’re trying to be sensitive to something that makes sense. We’ve been sensitive, flexible and willing to work with them. But we can’t be … a sellout,” Masterson’s agent Randy Rowley said.

For comparison purposes, a three-year, $40 million deal would be roughly equivalent to what Carlos Beltran signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Curtis Granderson signed a four-year, $60 million deal with the New York Yankees. To compare this to other pitchers, however, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza both signed four-year, $50 million deals with their respective teams; the Angels signed Jason Vargas (31 years old, 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 2013) to a four-year, $32 million deal.

Masterson, who turns 29 later this month, recently avoided arbitration with the Indians by agreeing to a $9.7625 million contract. He’s coming off a 3.45 ERA and 195/76 K/BB ratio over 193 innings last year.

Per Heyman, Rowley reportedly suggested a figure in talks Saturday with the Indians, and there is said to be a decent feeling among Indians people that they may be able to work something out with the right-hander, if not immediately then perhaps by the end of spring. With Masterson and his agent sharing their side of the story, the ball appears to be firmly back in the court of those in the offices of Carnegie and Ontario.

Image: Chuck Crow/Plain Dealer

  • Harv 21

    Are you kidding? The agent is removing the back-end risk so that they’d pay him for recent performance? Antonetti! Have your men grab the quill, the ink bottle, the drying powder and get this dude’s name on the parchment NOW! Take yes for an answer, don’t even tweak it – NOW.

    This is one of the amazing ripples from having scored a top-notch and beloved manager. Don’t know why Tito came here, but what a diff. This ain’t happening if Manny Acta or someone else of that ilk is here.

  • mgbode

    I completely agree on the Tito/Mickey angle, but, whileit mitigates the risk for the team, it also opens
    up Justin to potentially 1 more big contract if he continues to perform
    well. Still, it is very good news that Masterson is willing to bet on himself in such a fashion and the Indians should take advantage and get that deal signed.

  • Wow

    It really is the biggest no brainer in years.

  • Harv 21

    In light of Homer Bailey, Masterson can probably get close to $100m guaranteed from someone. Nine out of ten players take that right now, before their arm blows or their wonky delivery goes south sometime in the next few years. If this happens it tells me there really is something special going on right now.

    Another thing this says is that Masterson is just a different cat, and all the talk about player union reps being under pressure to get market value just ain’t necessarily so. Reminds me a little of Travis Fryman, who voluntarily voided the millions owed him in last year of his contract. He wanted go home to his young family and he just wasn’t going to mail it in to collect his last big money.

  • Adam Copeland

    The Indians MUST figure out a way to get this done. Masterson is basically willing to play under the framework that the Indians are comfortable with. Locking up Masterson for the next 3-4 years gives the Indians a legitimate shot of remaining relevant. If the Tribe can get this done it’s a major blunder.

  • mgbode

    Yes, I agree. Was just also noting that he is betting on himself here too given the age he’d be at the end of a shorter contract.

  • Jason Hurley

    Maybe he realizes how much money $15 million/year is, regardless of the length of the contract? And that liking where you are is also important?

  • nj0

    I also wonder if there’s the added gamesmanship of signing a short contract now to wait out a diminished market from all this qualifying offer nonsense. Many commentators think it will be going away in the not-too-distant future and it clearly can hurt the value of a non-slam dunk free agent. If Masterson has another middle of the road season, the market may see him more as a Jimenez and than the Bailey he’s being sold as now.

    All that said, it is an odd occurrence to see a player open to the sort of contract he’s discussing.

  • nj0

    That’s assuming a repeat of 2013. Like I said, a bad year (and a qualifying offer) would most likely put him in the Jimenez category.

    I do agree though – Big Masty does seem like a different kind of cat.

  • Harv 21

    you’re quite right, I’m assuming both decent performance and health in 2014. The player does have some risk in waiting to be a UFA. With the way Callaway has kept all the long-limbed, herky-jerky motions in line that’s still a pretty safe bet.

  • woofersus

    Last week at some point Masty was quoted somewhere saying “I’ll probably be here for another couple of years” and that he was letting his agents figure it out or something like that, and it made me think there was a chance that he really WANTED to stay in Cleveland and there was some hope the two sides could come together. It sounds like maybe from the very beginning he told his agent something along the lines of “Get me as much as you can, but this is where I want to be.”

    He may be betting on himself to a certain extent and thinking there’s still room for one more big contract, but he also locks up at least the next few years and $40-$60 million dollars rather than play another season with no long term security. There’s risk mitigation for both sides here.

    I’m sure he’d rather be closer to 60 than 40, but this makes me think there’s a high probability a deal gets done. Given the state of compensation for top-of-the-rotation starters in their prime and where it’s probably headed over the next few years, Masterson is most likely a serious bargain at 4/$40, and if he realizes his potential consistently over the term of the contract, he’ll still be one at 4/$60.

  • Steve

    “Don’t know why Tito came here”

    He’s already said – because of the much-maligned-in-this-town Shapiro and Antonetti.

  • Steve

    Agree, you can be confident that you’ll get another nice contract in three or four years, but it seems like you can get the equivalent of a second big contract on top of those three to four years right now.

    It’s nice to finally see an athlete who actually wants to stick around Cleveland, and not just pay lip service. They are few and far between.

  • Alex Painter

    Awesome response. I agree with most everyone’s sentiments. I have always pulled for this guy; he has always seemed a little different from the rest of the pack. This pretty much solidifies it for me. I hope they don’t putter around with details. For the sake of locking up younger guys past the point of the proposed duration of the contract, this needs to happen sans any kind of drama.
    Despite the down-production in even years, the Indians are a team that simply cannot let starting pitching, let alone good, workhorse starting pitching walk. As many have said, I can think of 15 teams easy that may just be handing out a Bailey-like contract if given a chance.

  • markn95

    Is this the best news out of the spring or what? If Hoynes is right about the 3-4 year and $40-60M, range, the “worst” case scenario for the Tribe is giving Masterson a 4 year contract at $60M. Obviously, that’s an AAV of $15M. Compare to Homer Bailey’s AAV of $16M+ plus 2 additional seasons, and this is a steal for the Indians. It’s rare a pitcher Masterson’s age and track record would ask for so few years on a deal.

    If we can get this done, it guarantees us at least 3 seasons of a rotation of Masterson/Salazar/Kluber/McAllister with Carrasco, Bauer, and Cody Anderson vying for the 5 spot. Obviously, those guys will be getting raises through arbitration or otherwise but this could provide a great deal of total payroll stability going forward.

  • EyesAbove

    The positive PR alone almost makes this a deal worth making. Offer him a similar deal to what we gave Swish and see if he bites.

  • Kildawg

    I say lock him up at 4/60, as an add-on after this year’s contract, but have only 40 guaranteed, plus offer performance bonuses and a conditional 5th year for a total of a 5/78 deal (still competitive with Bailey and with fair value on both ends while the team also has a CYA provision).

  • Steve

    Worst case would be that he wants his current contract ripped up and made a 3 year $60M deal, or essentially a 2 year, $50M extension.

  • Steve

    He’s already seemingly going to give the team a big discount, he’s not going to give them one that big though.

    If he takes unguaranteed money, and a team option for a 5th year, I’ll eat my hat.

  • Jason Hurley

    Given that there’s goodwill between player and club, it would be foolish of the Indians to insult him with a crap offer now. They seem to be acting a bit more responsibly as an organization now, so hopefully all of this bodes well.

  • Harv 21

    agree. Let’s be clear: given the league-wide demand for competent starting pitching this is a true home team discount. Fans always complain about the lack of reciprocal player loyalty. I don’t care how he ends up pitching, given how many potential millions Masterson would be leaving on the table he has earned some major fan love.

  • Steve

    Agree, though I feel that Masterson has been given quite a bit of the fan love. I don’t know anyone who got too down on him after that tough 2012, and despite a very good 2013, he had more than a few rough outings, and again, little to no negativity. He’s got some teflon.

  • Harv 21

    fans have been fine to him, but I mean, you know, luv. The kind Swisher and Giambi get, and even John Rocker got for no good reason in the couple of months he was around. Benefit of the doubt, buck him up cheering. I’m guessing it will happen.

  • I could go either way on a Masterson extension, provided it’s under four years, but would like to quibble/nitpick on Scott – not sure I’d use free agent pitchers to compare with Masterson. Not really a similar situation, as Masterson doesn’t have that kind of leverage.

  • Pat Leonard

    This is another example of Masterson trying to be the good Christian, in my eyes. He doesn’t really care too much about the money, but doesn’t want to set a bad precedent for fellow pitchers in the league. Ultimately, I do believe he values being on the Indians more than anything else.

  • Pat Leonard

    At the risk of starting a holy war, I’m not sure if it’s entirely Tito, although I certainly think he’s part of the equation. Masterson just isn’t a guy who values money as highly as other things. If he did, he wouldn’t have gone with Randy Rowley as his agent. Rowley has his own sports management agency with 2 employees. He has two MLB clients… one is Justin Masterson, the other is Rich Thompson, who hasn’t played in the majors since 2012 and was earning around league minimum. At any rate, I hope the Indians do the right thing and honor this choice.

  • That’s a best-case, IMO.

  • I’m not certain why you’d think he doesn’t value money. He clearly does. He’s also a player rep, and won’t take a complete discount deal on account of it.

  • Pat Leonard

    He clearly values money and is willing to accept much less than what Bailey received? Please do explain.

  • He’s willing to take less cause he knows he can’t get that deal, because the Indians won’t offer it. He’s seeing the affect the qualifying offer has had on similar players, and probably doesn’t wanna be in Ervin Santana’s boat come spring next year (or worse, have a bad year and miss out on a payday). He still clearly values money, as show by his agent’s comment. You’re romanticizing him.

  • Harv 21

    so maybe insteade he values the atmosphere Tito has set up? The winning last year? Or is it just this magnetic city and the tens of thousands of empty seats each game?


  • Pat Leonard

    That’s fair. I don’t agree, but I think it’s a fair comment. The Indians won’t offer that deal, but someone else would when he hits free agency.

  • Pat Leonard

    To me, his agent’s comment says, “We want something that can be considered fair. My client is a player rep and can’t take a deal that would hurt the negotiating power of his fellow players.” I don’t see anything beyond that… if anything, it still says to me that earning top dollar is not the priority.

  • Doubtful – you’d need to factor in the draft pick compensation. He’d have to have a fantastic year to get something like that in free agency. Bailey wouldn’t have gotten that deal in free agency, either. That’s why it’s hard to compare free agent contracts to an extension.

    Please don’t misinterpret me – not saying Masterson ONLY cares about money. I think that’s clearly being refuted by his willingness to be flexible here. He seems to value playing for Francona and seems to like it here. But if he really “didn’t care about the money,” he would have signed an extension already.

  • I can agree it may not be his top priority. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t value it/doesn’t care about it.

  • Pat Leonard

    Oops, careful… I’m not saying that he doesn’t care about the money, just that there are other factors involved in the decision that may weigh higher.

  • BTW, just saw this post by Anthony Castrovince: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140305&content_id=68758774&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

    It’s worth a read regardless, it’s Castrovince, but if anyone’s in a rush here’s a real nugget:

    “Of course, Masterson has more collective bargaining agreement wrinkles to keep in mind than Sabathia did. The freeze Draft pick compensation put on the Ervin Santana market has to be considered, as a qualifying offer by the Indians — combined with the potential free-agent-eligibility ofMax Scherzer and James Shields — could affect his potential price tag. It’s certainly worth nothing that a three-year deal signed today would expire after the current CBA expires.”

    I have a feeling that QO is a HUGE factor here. I doubt there would be any sort of options here. The Indians should ask for a team or mutual/vesting option, and either way, it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker (but shouldn’t give him a player option, that SHOULD be a dealbreaker). So three-year deal, thinking probably around $14-15 million a year. It’s a bit of an overpay, but you’re also hedging your bets the market continues to inflate for starting pitchers. So, I suppose that’s a worthwhile gamble.

  • tom

    you guys are unreal…this will be his last year here…its CLEVELAND..!?

  • Pat Leonard

    That’s definitely an interesting wrinkle. I think $14-$15 million per year is a fair price tag over 3 years. We’ll see what happens, but man if the Tribe can lock up Masterson and if Salazar is truly able to climb to that #1 status, it’s fun to think of how ridiculous the Tribe’s starting rotation will be for the next 3 years.

  • Steve

    Giving Masterson $25M a year? Might as well ride out this season, extend the QO and say goodbye.