April 18, 2014

Tribe Weekend Recap: Masterson’s ill-timed stinker, the Carrasco conundrum, Asdrubal’s impatience, and roster decisions

Jason Kipnis

The Cleveland Indians took two of three from the San Diego Padres and headed to Chicago for a four-game set with the team they owned last year, the White Sox. A 17-2 season-series was never going to happen again, especially with the off-season improvements the South Siders have made. We saw a lot of that this weekend with Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu looking like potential thorns in the side of the Indians for years to come.

After losing the first two, the Tribe took a see-saw affair Saturday 12-6 and looked to leave Chicago with a split Sunday. Corey Kluber gave the Indians a solid performance, but was touched up for an eighth inning solo homer to Marcus Semien which broke a 1-1 tie. But this Tribe team doesn’t quit. They came right back to get two off of closer Matt Lindstrom with the key hit by the hot-hitting David Murphy. But you have to get 27 outs to win a game, and the Tribe couldn’t close. [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Opening day fun, starting pitching concerns, Vinnie’s future, and Wahoo

Jason Kipnis

If I told you the Tribe would lose two of three in Oakland to start the year and then come home to take two of three from Minnesota, I am sure many of you would have taken it. Though the opposite actually happened, the record is still the same: 3-3. The weekend series with the Twins should have turned out differently, but we witnessed lots of sloppy play and even sloppier pitching, particular from the starters. Opening Day was a success on the field once the bad weather passed. Saturday and Sunday, however, left a lot to be desired.

It is easy to jump to early conclusions. That would be irresponsible as an Indians fan. Do not forget that this was just one week; six games to be exact. There are 156 games left to be played. Things will get better, things will get worse, but one thing is for certain: A season is not shaped by April 6.

As we have done for WFNY each of the past four seasons, Monday mornings at 10 a.m. will be a look back at the good and the bad of the Tribe’s weekend series. This particular one had plenty to discuss. [Read more...]

Indians 2, Athletics 0: It took a while, but it was worth the wait

Asdrubal CabreraTo borrow a phrase from the great George Costanza, I stayed up late to watch the Tribe start their season and “yada yada, I am very tired today.” It rained all day in Oakland and getting this game in looked bleak most of the day. But the baseball Gods usually arrive on Opening Day. They did, the sun came out, and the Tribe’s 2014 debut started right on time.

I’m sure many of you were sleeping, and if you weren’t, the Indians offense with runners on base may have put you there. But in the end, it felt like another nail-biter 2013 stretch drive game where the pitching gave them a chance to win and the bats did just enough late to pull out a victory.

The first game of the each season is always going to see two teams trot their best starter out to the mound. The A’s sent 24-year-old stud Sonny Gray out to square off with Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, making his third consecutive Opening Day start. With free agency pending, it could be the last opener Masterson starts in a Tribe uniform. Lets hope not. The way he pitched last night had all the makings of an ace. We’ve seen this kind of dominating performance out of Justin before, but to fire out of the gates like this was very encouraging.

In seven stellar innings, Oakland could muster little against Masterson and his array of pitches. He had it all working last night. You usually know how things are going to go with Justin judging by his first couple of innings. When his command is there, he is extremely tough to beat. [Read more...]

Setting the lines on the 2014 Indians

Michael Bourn

It’s that time of year again! The time when Jon makes up fake gambling lines for the upcoming Indians season and then makes foolish fake prop bets on them.

As a reminder, I make stuff up, then make up more stuff, then after the season we see how I did at making stuff up.  Waste of time? Or INCREDIBLE WASTE OF TIME?  Let’s get to it. [Read more...]

March Madness 2014 – Dayton takes down Syracuse, Justin Masterson and Alex Mack – WFNY Podcast – 2014-03-23

WFNY Podcast LogoIt has been far too long since I talked to Jacob and now that his Dayton Flyers have taken down Syracuse, we decided to chat.

We also talked about Justin Masterson and his contract situation with the Indians as well as Alex Mack and his contract situation with the Browns.

Check out this episode!

Justin Masterson’s offer might be fair, but that doesn’t make it good: The Diff

Angels Indians BaseballIt’s a popular opinion to dislike the Dolan family for their ownership of the Cleveland Indians. Ever since purchasing the team in 2000, they’ve been characterized as cheapskates unable to consistently afford to compete in the non-salary cap landscape of Major League Baseball.

Last night’s news that Justin Masterson negotiations have ended for the spring certainly didn’t help that narrative. Per the reports, the team’s ace had been eager to sign a short-term deal to stay in Cleveland after narrowly avoiding arbitration for a final time. Now, it appears he’ll at least test the open markets this winter.

Despite the popular opinions, there actually might be some logic to what the Indians might (or might not) be doing with this maneuver. There might be sound reason for hesitation with Masterson’s reported three-year $52 million offer. Let’s explore some reasons why.

[Read more...]

Justin Masterson negotiations with Indians reportedly end for spring

mastersonredsThe Indians and Justin Masterson have stopped conversations about a long-term deal until after the season, per multiple reports on Thursday night.

The two sides narrowly avoided arbitration last month. That one-year deal worth $9.7625 million will take the soon-to-be 29-year-old into free agency this winter.

For weeks, we have seen rumors of Masterson’s eager willingness to sign a purported short-term, team-friendly deal to stay in Cleveland. Terms were reportedly in three-year $52 million range, as Rosenthal reported.

Masterson was 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA in 32 games (29 starts) last season for the 92-win Indians. We’ll certainly have more on this story on Friday. Stay tuned for our thoughts.

NCAA tourney, Indians pitching rotation and more with TD – WFNY Podcast – 2014-03-20

WFNY Podcast LogoFirst things first, please go vote for WFNY as a website and the WFNY podcast at Cleveland Scene Magazine’s awards.

Secondly, it’s been a bit, but it’s good to be back. I had no voice for about a week thanks to a surgical procedure, but thankfully the voice came back. With today being the start of the NCAA tourney, I just had to get resident tourney nut TD on to talk about that, plus the Tribe. Here’s some other stuff we talked about.

The first day of the NCAA tourney and Ohio State vs. Dayton

The Indians pitching rotation

The Justin Masterson contract proposal to the Tribe

Cincinnati vs. Harvard

Oregon vs. BYU

Deadspin article about oddsmakers vs. NCAA bracket builders

TD is to Kansas as Kirk Herbstreit is to Ohio State

Check out this episode!

Rumored details of Justin Masterson’s contract proposal to the Indians

Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson has been pitching very well this Spring so far, but the club still hasn’t worked out a long-term deal with their best pitcher. The debates rage on whether Masterson is a “true number one” starter, but it matters little in a sport where Homer Bailey cashes in big time to the tune of $105 million for six years. It seems it might be even easier than that anyway as Jon Heyman reports that Masterson probably isn’t even looking for Bailey dollars.

While it isn’t known exactly how much Masterson requested, a fair estimate could be in the range of $50 million for three years, which would put him at just about $60 million for four years counting his agreed-upon salary of $9.7625 million for 2014.

Of course it all sounds like a lot of money, and these are just estimates but this is just what it costs to keep starting pitching in 2014. The idea that Justin Masterson isn’t pressing like crazy to see if he can get every last dime out of the Tribe is pretty remarkable considering the way the rest of the league runs. Yes, Masterson’s rumored dollars are pretty healthy, but there’s a lot of value for a team like the Tribe in only committing to four years instead of a full six. It’s an idea that really does look good for both player and team.

Of course the contract is a risk as we don’t know just where Justin Masterson will plateau. Is he a true number one starter? That’s a nebulous term anyway. Justin Masterson is the best the Indians have. He makes their pitching staff better. He’s still in his 20′s. He’s started 125 games for the Tribe in the last four years and he has been an especially easy choice to be their opening day starter in recent history.

As Jon Heyman points out, Justin Masterson has made reasonable offers to the Indians and they can’t afford to ignore him. While MLB money is still pretty wacky, there’s little doubting that Heyman is right. So what is the Tribe waiting for?

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

[More Tribe: About Kenny Lofton’s prolonged “Get off my lawn” moment]

Animated: Santana Homers, Masterson strikes out eight

Catching Spring Training action is a little more difficult than I would prefer. I don’t blame the Tribe, but it seems strange in this day and age that every minute of Spring Training isn’t available on TV for every team playing in the majors.

Anyway, the Tribe played split squad yesterday and Carlos Santana hit this bomb.

Carlos Santana Homers GIF

You don’t want to make too big a deal of every little thing that happens in Spring Training, good or bad, but Justin Masterson seems to be pitching pretty well. He struck out eight more batters yesterday, which is obviously good. Even more importantly though, he’s now tossed 13 scoreless innings to begin the Cactus League season, while compiling an excellent 14/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 innings.

Things are encouraging.

Tribe names Justin Masterson Opening Day starter

Justin Masterson

It was only a matter of time, but Justin Masterson has been named Opening Day starter for Cleveland when the Tribe heads to the Bay Area and takes on the Oakland As on March 31.

The 28-year-old is coming off an All-Star season in which he posted a 3.45 ERA with 195 strikeouts over 193 innings. He continues to be the subject of back-and-forth contract talk as the player and his agent recently stated that he would be willing to take a shorter-term deal to stay with the team. Masterson’s Cactus League ERA remains at a nice 0.00 through eight innings. He didn’t allow a hit to the Diamondbacks on Tuesday, though he did walk one and hit two. Slacker.

“I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but I like where we’re at,” said Masterson of his spring. “We’re along the path, in the zone, the ball’s moving really good, which is always exciting, and I’m hitting a few people here and there.”

Masterson, who will making his third straight Opening Day start joins CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Dennis Martinez, Gaylord Perry, Mel Harder, George Uhle, Stan Coveleski, Willie Mitchell, and Bob Feller as players who have started three consecutive Opening Days for the Tribe1. Assuming the rotation holds, a new and improved Zach McAllister appears geared for the start during the team’s Home Opener.

(Image: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

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Footnotes:

  1. Sabathia, Colon, Martinez, and Perry were all pitching for different teams the following season []

The Top Five Tribe Rotations of the Past 20 Years

cliff cc

With the 20-year anniversary of Jacobs/Progressive Field almost upon us, we will be taking a look at top-fives in each aspect of the Indians on the field.  We started last week with the bullpens and today we will move to the starting rotations. Coming up with five groups was not an easy task. Let’s be honest here: The Indians have for the most part, been built around their offense and bullpen. That was the John Hart model. Hart’s protégé was Mark Shapiro, who took over the GM reigns during the transition of 2001. Shappy groomed current GM Chris Antonetti, but the landscape has changed over the past six years. When the Indians had their best success, it was because their starting pitching was at its strongest.

And with that….. [Read more...]

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

The Tribe’s future rests with the development of Salazar, Carrasco and Bauer

 Untitled

If you build them, wins will come

I truly despise using the old “in our market” excuse. It is the single worst thing about the game I love the most, Major League Baseball. We all know that the sport is completely unbalanced—the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers can do whatever they want thanks to rich local TV contracts while our Cleveland Indians have to watch every penny. Chris Antonetti’s job is that much harder because he can’t afford to swing and miss on medium-money free agents. On top of that, the drafting and developing of young players is paramount to the success of the organization.

[Read more...]

Indians avoid arbitration with Justin Masterson

Justin Masterson

The Cleveland Indians and ace right-hander Justin Masterson managed to succesffully avoided a mid-day plane trip to Florida, agreeing to terms on a one-year, arbitration-avoiding deal. Take it away, boys…

Recall, the Indians and Masterson filed arbitration values that were vastly different—the team submitted a $8.05 million one-year bid; Masterson, conversely, asked for $11.8 million. MLB Trade Rumors (correctly) estimated that he would receive $9.7 million, proving once again that web-dwelling writers know more than anyone1.

In 2013, the Giant Jamaican posted a 14-10 record and 3.29 ERA in 32 games (29 starts). Masterson is slated to be a free agent following the conclusion of the 2014 season and has, thus far, been unable to come to terms on a multi-year deal with the Indians’ front office. Both sides have said they’re open to a long-term deal, but as Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group writes, “it’s believed those talks have gained little, if any, traction.” If you ask our own Jacob, this may not be such a bad thing.

Image via Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer

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Footnotes:

  1. Mostly. []

Pitchers and Catchers Report! Wahoo!

danny salazar

Finally. Baseball is here. I know, I know, its not Opening Day, but today is the day that the Cleveland Indians’ pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Arizona to begin their work. Unlike last February, there are expectations attached to this particular Indians team. They are no longer going to be sneaking up on anybody. Once Terry Francona took over, the culture change took immediate effect. We are no longer “hoping” for a winning team, we “expect” one here in Cleveland. And that’s the way it should be.

Francona and his staff are back and will begin building up and evaluating the pitching staff this morning under the bright Arizona sun. It certainly beats being in Cleveland right now. With camp opening up, let us set the scene with the most important part of any baseball team—the pitching staff. [Read more...]

Indians win arbitration case with reliever Vinnie Pestano

20130118-121651.jpgThe Cleveland Indians have won their arbitration case with relief pitcher Vinnie Pestano, reports CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.

The Indians’ filing of $975,000 won out over Pestano’s offer of $1.45 million for the 2014 season. The two sides met in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Friday morning.

The setup man, who turns 29 in a couple weeks, is in his first season of arbitration eligibility. He’s eligible to be a free agent after the 2017 season. He owns a career 2.82 ERA with 205 strikeouts in 172.1 innings over 179 MLB relief appearances.

Most memorably, Pestano was demoted to Triple-A Columbus on July 31 this past season. He had a 3.29 ERA in 14 games for the Clippers last year, his first stint back in the minors since 2010. He pitched in three September games for the Tribe. He’s one of the favorites for the final bullpen roles this season.

MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian shared some insights on the case on Thursday. It was the Indians’ first arbitration hearing since 1991 with Greg Swindell and Jerry Browne. The team also is likely headed to arbitration in the next two weeks with Josh Tomlin, Michael Brantley and Justin Masterson.

Masterson, who turns 29 in March, had the largest arbitration filing gap in baseball this offseason. The team filed for $8.05 million and the player’s camp filed for $11.8 million. This is his final season of arbitration eligibility and the team’s ace is scheduled to be a free agent after this year. Recently, extension talks were put on hold in order to focus on a one-year deal.

Why are so many arbitration cases happening for the Indians? Why would they even both going to a hearing over such relatively small gaps for Pestano and Tomlin?

Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter had a very detailed article on Friday about the “file-to-go” or “file and trial” strategy that many more teams are adopting. The team strategy declares that “once they have officially exchanged arbitration figures with a player, they will no longer negotiate with him. His salary will be decided in a hearing.”

The specifics of why such a strategy can be beneficial to teams are a bit complex. Essentially, it is designed to avoid going to hearings and force agents to file actually realistic numbers for their players. Certainly, rightfully or not, Cleveland’s arbitration cases this season – their first in over 20 years – won’t help the fan narrative about the team’s willingness to spend competitively.

[Related: Could Ubaldo have a Cleveland Homecoming?]

Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY

Indians, Justin Masterson pause extension talks, focus on one-year deal

mastersonstWith their scheduled arbitration hearing approaching, the Indians and ace Justin Masterson have shelved discussions of a long-term deal and are focusing on a one-year solution.

The Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes reported the update on Monday evening. Discussions are continuing between the team and Masterson’s agent Randy Rowley.

The filing difference between the two parties — $11.8 million from Masterson, $8.05 million from the Indians — was the largest in baseball this offseason. That’s what has led the Indians to say it’s “very likely” their 23-year run of avoiding arbitration will soon end. Masterson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for Feb. 20 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

MLB Trade Rumors expected Masterson to receive $9.7 million for 2014. There had been previous speculation of a five-year $75 million extension, including his final arbitration-eligible season of 2014. That would then equate to a four-year deal of about $65 million.

Surprisingly, the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto also shared the Indians may be headed to arbitration with starter/reliever Josh Tomlin. He filed for $975,000, but the team filed for $800,000. It seems peculiar, considering the team’s long-time aversion to hearings. This one is scheduled for Feb. 14.

Eventually, Cleveland’s front office is expected to reach one-year deals with outfielder Michael Brantley and reliever Vinnie Pestano. Both are a couple years away from free agency and the filing differences — Brantley: $3.8 million v. $2.7 million; Pestano: $1.145 million v. $975,000 — weren’t that significant.

[Related: The Diff: What’s up with Justin Masterson’s Indians future?]

Photo: Chuck Crow/Plain Dealer

Kluber and Masterson listed among breakout players to watch by ESPN

Justin MastersonClayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Masahiro Tanaka may be making all of the headlines, but two (considerably more cost-friendly) members of the Cleveland Indians are receiving prase as potential breakout players by certain scribes at ESPN.com: starting pitchers Corey Kluber and Justin Masterson

David Schoenfield of the dot com’s SweetSpot baseball blog praised Kluber for his solid 2013 season which included the sixth-best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the American League (4.1-1). To those who believe that Kluber may have merely been a flash in the pan, Schoenfield says au contraire.

He’s not just a finesse guy who lucked into a good year, as he owns a solid fastball (93.1 mph average velocity) and terrific curve. Batters hit .196 off it with just two home runs, 50 strikeouts and no walks.

While Kluber should provide more-than-adequate quality in the middle of the Indians’ rotation, Dan Szymboroski (who has also done spectacular work for FanGraphs) thinks Justin Masterson could have his name in the mix for the 2014 AL Cy Young.

By ERA, Masterson’s 2013 was not as strong as his career-best 2011, but there is one key difference: strikeout rate. From 2010 to 2012, his rate hovered at about 17 percent, but in 2013 it jumped up to 24.3 percent. Strikeout rates for pitchers tend to stabilize very quickly, much less prone to the lucky/unlucky runs that can sometimes plague other pitcher statistics, like BABIP and homers allowed.

 A 30 percent boost in strikeout rate is nothing to laugh at — it was Scherzer’s jump from 8.0 K/9 to 11.1 K/9 in 2012 that set off my alarm — and all that’s missing for the grounder-heavy Masterson is a top-notch infield defense.

Somewhere on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, a front office is doing their best to ensure that this report doesn’t make its way to the all-but-impending arbitration hearing between them and Masterson. Reports are circulating that a multi-year contract with the Indians’ ace have not gone well. A free agent after this season (who happens to be asking for over $11 million for any one-year deal), if Masteron can play up to the expectations of Szymboroski, retaining him will prove to be an even higher hurdle.

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Thursday Tribe Notes

Its cold. Its winter. The Cavs are awful. The Browns Head Coaching search is comical at this point. Lets talk about the best team in town, shall we?

Carlos Santana - Dejak AP1. This Carlos Santana to third base thing took on a life of its own over the past few days. Speaking to ESPN Deportes baseball insider Enrique Rojas, the Tribe slugger said that he is expecting to play Third Base in 2014 and that is all he has been working on this winter. In so many words, Carlos intimated to Rojas that he will be the starter at the hot corner. The quotes seemed a little strange, considering the idea was essentially hatched as an experiment during winter ball.

Then yesterday, Tribe manager Terry Francona met with the media and put some water on the flames. Everyone needs to pump the brakes. [Read more...]