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Ubaldo and Masterson at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Ubaldo and Masterson at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
Ubaldo is gone, is Masterson next?
February 20, 2014
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There is a starting rotation buzz here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, and Ubaldo Jimenez leaving the building combined with Justin Masterson calling the building “home” for one more season is right smack-dab in the middle of it.

Being right or wrong really is a funny thing. I’ve watched baseball for most of my life, and judging the Cleveland Indians has been as easy as solving the mysteries of cold fusion. Seriously, try and explain Ubaldo Jimenez and his sudden uprising in 2013. Oh, you can point to metrics, but those very same metrics assuredeveryone that he was going to be utter trash for the rest of his career. What about Scott Kazmir? His metrics for 2011 and 2012…were non-existent. We can meander through his struggles that led to his disappearance, but trying to connect them to 2013 were near impossible. He was young and used to throw hard. Yan Gomes wasn’t supposed to be a breakout performer in 2013, and I’d love to think that the Indians front office believed that’s what they had, but I doubt that very much.

There’s a lot of guessing that goes on, and a lot of speculation.

That’s what makes baseball great.

We live in the era of new metrics, and I buy into them wholeheartedly. They aren’t perfect. The eye-test certainly isn’t perfect either.

Baseball isn’t perfect, which is why I watch it, and why I love it. There’s nothing more imperfect than this game, and it so mimics our very own lives. The Indians are more imperfect than most, and while there’s anger infused in everything they do, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ubaldo nearly embodied that for me. No player has made me more angry. No player has infuriated me more. No player have I written off more. No player did I want to find some sort of magic bean to fix his mechanics more than Ubaldo. Then somehow, after a half a season of decent pitching that was shrouded in 100-pitch innings, he found it. It truly was magical. Ubie was smiling again, and for good reason.

And thus, we found our conundrum. We were all asking, What Would Ubaldo Do in 2014? Would he be good. Would he be bad. Would he be both? Who knows, but we now know the Indians were sick of asking that question, and the Orioles were ready to start asking it.

Did the Indians let him go because he was erratic? Was it because they have Justin Masterson’s looming free agency? Was it because they don’t sign pitchers long-term closing in on 30, as moneyball promotes?

Domino one is gone, and Masterson has become domino 2. We…shall…see. Let’s take a closer look at all this mess this week, as we close in on March, and the start of spring games.

Ubaldo Jimenez has signed with the Baltimore Orioles, and his leaving ends one of the most controversial tenures by an Indians memory. The moves primary participants, Jimenez, Drew Pomeranz and Alex White have all officially moved on to new teams, and while Joe Gardner and Matt McBride are still toiling for the Rockies in the minors, neither figure to have much impact going further. The fact that Ubaldo’s final two months have cemented this deal as an Indian’s win should certainly spell out how bad the deal was all around for most of the 2 ½ seasons since, but in the end, Ubie led the Tribe to the playoffs, and Pomeranz is going to be a reliever in Oakland, and Alex White is struggling with health in Houston.

The dichotomy of Ubaldo’s performance has been well documented, as the Indians’ former mercurial starter was excessively bad for 1 ½ season before his slow climb to brilliance in 2013. His final two months with the Indians were so stark a contrast to his previous time that it was truly hard to figure out his financial windfall heading into the 2014 season, and whether or not the Indians were even interested.

I’m a firm believer in watching how players are handled to get underneath the mysteries of the Indians’ front office muffle, and what’s being leaked to the media. Mark Shapiro confirmed that they didn’t talk to Ubaldo at all after he turned down the $14 million qualifying offer. While that can mean a bunch of different things, I can only speculate that the Indians history of avoiding long-term contracts with pitchers exiting arbitration was firmly at play here, combined with Ubie’s struggles prior to August of 2013.

The Indians have long held to the moneyball principals that you don’t sign starting pitchers post arbitration to high-dollar, long term contracts. While they’ve gone three-years or longer in the past on players in arbitration such as CC Sabathia, the only pitcher that they signed a multi-year deal to was the very consistent (at the time) Jake WestbrookI’ve talked about this extensively in the past, and while there’s been discussion about how the Indians may handle pitchers on a year-to-year basis, there’s been no consistent change in their mentality, nor should there be. Cleveland is a small market team with poor attendance, so expecting the Tribe to push payroll to $90-100 million without thought is ludicrous. The fact that they are at $80-$85 million is a luxury, and one that can only continue if the revenue begins to turn a dark shade of black.

Westbrook’s signing was a moderate surprise back in 2007. Yes, the Indians were working on a long-term deal for the righty, but with big money deals getting thrown around, it was unknown if Westbrook would sign now, or bank on perhaps a team overspending for him after his free agent year.

Shapiro was a firm believer in utilizing metrics, but Westbrook was perhaps exactly the kind of pitcher you do sign to a long-term deal because of his reliability. As I mentioned in that piece I linked above,

“At the time of the deal, the 29-year-old Westbrook was entering his seventh season and had won 44 games between 2004 through 2006. The only pitchers ahead of his win total were  Johan Santana Kenny Rogers and Jon Garland over that same stretch. If you add Lee to that list and take off Garland, they were the only four pitchers to have won 14 games each season over that same stretch. He pitched in 210 innings or more over that stretch, had a 3.3 WAR or better, and had a FIP between 3.88 and 4.04, and an xFIP between 3.62 and 4.00. In other words, you knew EXACTLY what you were going to get.”

In other words, he was the perfect pitcher for the conservative Shapiro to sign, which is exactly what he did. “You have to put analysis and statistics aside and ask yourself if it’s a guy you want and bet on him.”

We all know how that turned out.

So ask yourself this: Is Ubaldo Jimenez truly a guy that you want to bet on for a four-year contract? It’s certainly something that you can debate, but knowing the Indians’ front office, I doubt very much that Ubaldo is a player that they want to “bet on” for three seasons, let alone four. My best guess scenario here is that even three years would have been too many for the Tribe, which is likely why he wasn’t a part of the discussion throughout the offseason. Ubaldo’s upside is enticing. Ubaldo’s upside in special. But, Ubaldo’s upside is mysterious. It’s quizzical. It’s an enigma.

You also have to watch how Terry Francona handled him. While Ubaldo was outstanding for two months, he was essentially benched at the beginning of August for Danny Salazar. While Ubaldo didn’t pitch badly in July, his inconsistency was mind-numbing, and Francona clearly needed to do something about it. The minute Kluber went down, Francona took it as an opportunity. Sure, it seemed to wake up Jimenez, but you have to wonder if those two months didn’t succeed in making Francona want to overlook the ups-and-downs that Ubaldo presented to the organization during his tenure previous.

My bet is he didn’t.

I don’t, for one second, believe that Ubaldo was a whiner. Did he look like someone killed his dog when he pitched badly? Sure. Does that mean he was a problem in the clubhouse? There hasn’t been one report from a true insider that states anything differently.

What I can tell you is that I’ve never heard anything from people that are directly involved with the front office, field management or fellow players that resembles Ubaldo doing anything but working hard, and many did say it was to a fault. As Paul Hoynes reported yesterday, “The Indians never had a problem with Jimenez’s effort and personality. He worked tirelessly to correct his flaws on the mound and caused none of the clubhouse tension that swirled around him in Colorado.” You can say what you want about Hoynes, but he has access and no reason to support Jimenez in any way now that he’s gone.

Ubaldo was a good guy, a hard worker, and while he looked miserable on the mound when he pitched at times, don’t let this confuse you with work ethic.

Unfortunately for the Indians and Ubaldo going forward, he couldn’t overcome his body of work with the Indians. While a case can absolutely be made that his miseries are far less severe than his positives from the start of his career, his time with the Indians was ripe with excruciating performances. Sometimes they were bad, and sometimes they turned out alright, but I think 30-pitch innings ultimately were too much for the Indians to take for four years, and likely three.

A quick story about Ubaldo, the human being. My family went to the Carolina Mudcats first game at Five County Stadium against the Indians two seasons ago, and Ubaldo had just finished hitting Troy Tulowitzki in a preseason game. My kids were hanging out in the right field stands getting autographs, and Ubaldo, who had been running wind sprints, walked over to my kids to sign. Immediately, they were swarmed by the fantastic 50-year-olds who were their collecting memorabilia, and my daughter was knocked over. I reached down to pick her up, with a plan to grab the old-man and throw him over the rail when I made sure she was alright, when Ubaldo stepped in. He immediately started pointing at the guy, got Travis Hafner’s attention, and they both waved down a security guard. The man was escorted out of the stadium.

Ubaldo then walked right over and signed my daughter’s baseball, and then my son’s, thanked them for coming, then turnd and started jogging again. Talk about making a little boy and girl feel special.

It’s easy to bash Ubaldo for demeanor and pitch-count, and always easy to forget the human being. I am no Ubaldo Jimenez fan on the baseball fan, but boy, it’s hard to hate a guy that does the right thing.

The Cincinnati Reds have reached a reported six-year, $105 million deal with starting pitcher Homer Bailey.Bailey, who is 13 months younger than Justin Masterson, has similar characteristics as Justin Masterson both in pitch selection and results, and while he is barely more than a year younger, we can reasonably expect Masterson to be in the same ballpark in expectations when discussing contract. Bailey’s deal also includes a seventh-year mutual option worth $25 million, with a sizable $5 million buyout.

The six-year deal eats up his final year of arbitration, and extends his contract five more seasons.

Is he worth that kind of money? Are you kidding me? That’s insane, but it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day.

What does this ultimately mean for Masterson?

There has been a lot of speculation with regards to what Masterson is worth utilizing other contracts, metrics and market, but all of that is now fairly inconsequential in that his agent now has a number to work with in Homer Bailey. Unless Masterson is planning on giving some sort of hometown discount to the Indians (he won’t), the standard has been set.

My point here is that Masterson may not get what he wants at the end of the day, but he should absolutely expect itat this point in his contract negotiations. It means he won’t sign something lower than market value until it’s the only option left. Think Ubaldo Jimenez, who took less money than he likely wanted, but certainly got more years than most everyone expected. If the Indians don’t ante up for Masterson, then he’s not signing a three-year deal, even if it’s looked at as a four-year contract counting his recently signed one-year, $9.8 million deal.

Let’s look at the realities.

I don’t believe Masterson will get the seven-year deal (including his one-year deal) based on the simple fact that he’s a year older than Bailey, so the expected contract will no doubt be a year shorter. What does this mean? Masterson will expect to get a five-year, $85ish million dollar deal (including his current year), and will likely look for an option on top of that. He would likely be fine with front-loaded or back-loading the contract, but there’s no doubt that he’s not going to lose more than a year off Bailey’s deal right out of the gate. In other words, it’s a similar toAnibal Sanchez’s five-year, $88 million deal that I mentioned last July right here at the Corner.

Is he worth that sort of money? That’s certainly debatable. Is that relevant? No, because the market currently dictates that he is worth it, and the Bailey deal certainly is the main cause.

I just don’t see the Indians being a player in that sort of deal.

What should the Indians do?

They shouldn’t break from their current plan. I’m not always a soldier for the metrics, Friedman-Rays rules, but watching the Indians absolutely shut out discussion for Ubaldo leads me to believe that they have an in-house constitution that they stick to with regards to starting pitchers. Is Masterson worth a five-year deal (in total) worth $85 million to the Indians?

No.

It’s really that simple.

They need a starter that can anchor this staff, but I just can’t sell myself to believe that Masterson, a phenomenal starter in many ways, is worth the risk associated with signing him to a five-year deal that will take him past his prime as a starter. As Mark Shapiro will tell you, long-term deals are restricted to special players, and those players aren’t for small markets. Westbrook wasn’t special, and they signed him to a cusp deal. It was near the money of the free agents surrounding him that year, but it was less in years.

In other words, it was a perfect scenario for the Indians in that it was a relative short-term risk in comparison to other deals. Of course, they bought the farm on that deal, which likely cemented Shapiro’s belief that you just don’t make this kind of signing.

If the Indians offer him anything more than a three-year extension to his current one-year deal, they will have overspent in years, and not learned their lesson.

Masterson should be, and most likely will be…gone.

The Indians should immediately be taking offers for their ace if they can acquire a young starter. Why anyone would, in their right mind, deal a young, potential stud starter for a one-year rental for Masterson is beyond me, but you never know. Perhaps they can find a team that’s enticed by Masterson’s demeanor off the field and in the clubhouse, as well as his stabilizing on-the-field performance. He could take a really good rotation over the edge right now, and the right team could then afford to bring him back past this season.

If the Indians don’t find that deal now, never take him off the table. The worst-case scenario is either dealing him at the deadline if an option becomes available, or giving him a qualifying offer at the end of the season, and acquiring another pick. It’s not perfect, but there’s no sense in at least giving it a shot.

If the Indians are winning, you just suck it up and let him pitch out the season.

The Indians should be all in on the Rays model. Right now, the Indians should be focused 100% on sinking money into both their scouting department for the 2014 First Year draft and their developmental program with regards to starting pitchers. For the Indians to fully implement a strategy in which they allow their top-tier starters to leave, they have to either acquire starters to take over, or develop them in house. Think of the Rays in 2007, who drafted David Price in the first round (first pick no brainer), but also took Matt Moore in the seventh round.

The Rays HAVE struggled with picks recently, but have countered that by acquiring good young starters in trades for their top, unsignable players. They aren’t perfect, but certainly better at this than most teams.

While the draft looks drastically different with slot money in 2014 than it did in 2007, the Indians should be able to utilize their extra picks and slot money to pick and sign some potentially good young pitchers. The Indians have three picks in the top 40 of next season’s draft, and they have to reload.

It’s time to hold the front office accountable for this in totality. It’s a crap-shoot in MLB, but you have to hit some of the time on your starters. If the Indians aren’t going to sign their post-arbitration guys to extensions or new contracts, then they have to have home-grown talent to fill in.

At the end of the day, the finicky fans of Cleveland just don’t support the team to likely sustain a $80+ million payroll for long, and even if it could, adding fans to the gate could up the ante going forward. The Rays have been better than the Indians for years, and that’s utilizing less payroll than even the Tribe. Certainly, you can say that their early round picks have helped, but they’ve also nailed picks in the third through the tenth rounds and beyond, which are picks that the Indians could have made with the right plan and information.

Not only that, but the Indians should also utilize Andrew Friedman’s approach to his young starters. The Rays have become adept at understanding how to find, develop, maintain and deal their young, quality pitchers as well as any other team in baseball.

The Rays develop arm strength for their pitchers first and foremost. They take their good, young starters and develop them slowly from whichever level they start at. The Indians do model this for the most part, although the ID part is certainly suspect.

The Rays rarely utilze 30-plus pitchers, unless they acquire a one-year free agent, as they did with Eric Bedard this season.

The Rays develop the change, focus on an effective delivery and avoid pitches that ruin arms.

They also sign their young starters to long-term, arbitration-eating contracts that usually end with three one-year club options that escalate into their free-agent years. This is a strategy that Friedman borrowed from John Hart’s approach starting in the early 90’s. This is the type of contract that they signed with regards to Matt Moore andJames Shields. They don’t always pan out, but when they do, they are excessively cost-effective, and they allow the Rays to keep them long-term and give them solid trade value as they close in towards the final two years of the contract.

The Indians should be talking to Danny Salazar right now, and perhaps Corey Kluber as well. Lock these guys down while they don’t have much money in their bank accounts, which in turn, would likely lean them towards signing. Sure, it’s a long-term gamble, but not as big a gamble as signing a 30-year old to a five-year deal when you take into account health and sustained excellence.

Now, Salazar has had arm issues, but the Indians have spent three years rebuilding his arm strength, and have done it right.

This is certainly a minimalistic look at how the Rays develop starting pitching, but they truly are the best at picking and developing a depth of major league starters, signing the ones that seem to have high upside, then dealing them or at least dangling them when they begin to close in on their final year for a sizable re-stocking fee.

The key is absolutely with regards to developing good, young starters, which the Indians have been abysmal at over the long haul. They will likely need a trade or two to reacquire good young starters to help sustain them until others develop, such as Cody Anderson.

The point here is that the Indians will never be able to sign big-time, free agent options for many years and mucho money as long as they aren’t a big draw. Let’s face facts: they may never be a big draw.

The Indians season is all about starting pitching this year, but I’m going to save my overview for next week’s discussion. What I will say is that there are many, many questions to yet be answered, and I’m not just talking about the #5 slot. At the end of the day, this 2014 rotation could look very different at the end, as opposed to the beginning of the season. So much hinges on unknowns. Can Salazar be that ace? Can Kluber be special? Can any of these guys pitch a full season in the bigs for the first time in their career?

Can the Indians have two “surprising” seasons form their rotation in a row?

We won’t know how the answers to that until the season gets rolling.

What we do know is that Ubaldo Jimenez won’t be part of the equation.

Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as  the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at jpete@indiansprospectinsider.com.

User Comments

Jim
February 22, 2014 - 8:55 AM EST
The Braves and Rays are coming from two different places though. The Braves are counting on a new stadium revenue and years and years of winning...and had to lock up all these young guys now because they were all going to be free agents together. It probably also didn't hurt that John Hart is a part of their organization now.

The Rays do it because it's what they have to do keep some of these guys into their free agent years.

Both ultimately do the same thing...but clearly from different places.

The Indians have more revenue than Tampa, but are small market for sure...so they are coming from both places really. The Braves have never been a massive draw...but I really like what they did this year.

Would love the Indians to start wrapping up Kipnis and Gomes and ultimately Lindor and JRam once they make this team full-time.

Anderson to follow.

Of course...agents..situations...ugh...such a freakin' money game...
Jim
February 22, 2014 - 8:49 AM EST
Financially, the Indians are just in a position where they likely HAVE to bank on these guys. I know when they made that deal for Trevor Bauer last year, their thinking was similar to the Bourn deal. Bauer was a guy that likely wouldn't come crashing out of the gate, but he might be a guy that panned out by July. It was another pre-emptive trade. It didn't pan out, but Salazar did.

I'm sure we're right back there. Now, as far as his mechanics go, we'll see. There's a lot of spin out of the Indians camp. We'll see what happens once his intellectual side gets placed in front of hitters. If he reverts or overthinks...

As far as Carrasco goes, I don't see it. But, sometimes when you put a guy's back up against the wall, something happens.

I still think Cody Anderson is a guy, that if he excels in Akron and Columbus as Salazar did last year...he could be a factor. Salazar had some bumps. He had a two-start stretch in Akron where he struggled, and a three or four-game stretch in Columbus...but when he was on in both leagues, he was fantastic. Hoping Anderson can mimic that...
pathofkindness
February 21, 2014 - 11:39 AM EST
I think you're right Roger about them betting on Carrasco and Bauer. And that's something I can support.

I don't know if I share your opinion on the Tribe's farm system though. I think that this is a very important year for a whole bunch of guys, and if they don't take big steps forward, we don't have a very good system. That is, we don't have a system that is producing ML starter talent. We'll see, but right now my sense is that it's not very good.
pathofkindness
February 21, 2014 - 11:32 AM EST
The philosophy that is in play here for some teams, certainly the Rays, and now the Braves is to bet proactively on what you already have in order to keep it. It's always about managing upside vs. risk, and this philosophy requires getting a player locked down earlier than you might like, certainly ahead of knowing that the player will achieve a contract's value (see TBR's Moore).

Now, we could still sign Justin. I suppose it's possible, although given Homer's contract, highly unlikely. Looking back, the Tribe front office (as a small-market team not able to compete on the FA market for established stars) should have been proactive about signing Justin earlier, after his 2011 season. That was when they had a chance of getting an extra year or two. Clearly, they waited too long on Justin.

There's some risk to these kinds of signings, but these are the risks that a team like the Indians have to take, they have no other choice. If you have something good, you have to try to keep it when you have the chance, i.e. leverage.

That, and drafting well and developing players through the minor league system, which is another problem altogether. Therefore, I agree that sometime later this year, if Kluber, Salazar and McAlister are looking good, they should all be offered multi-year contracts that extend into their free-agent years, no doubt about it.
Roger
February 21, 2014 - 11:12 AM EST
To follow up on yesterdays blog after reading other bloggers comments. I think two things were made clear regarding ubaldo and masty. Ubaldo was too much of a risk due to the fact that mechanically he can get messed up and doesnt seem to be super effective when things dont go well he tries to be a thrower versus a pitcher. As for extending masty, Tito and CA are both in love with carrasco's stuff, and in addition i think they are confident that the mad scientist (bauer) has harnessed his unreal potential and is TOR type pitcher to go with salazar. Remember Scherzer came from arizona too so they do misjudge pitching talent as well. Ubaldo and Masty signing forces the indians to move two of the kids that they like and with salazar, Zac Mac, Kluber, bauer and carrasco, you have to hope you dont move the wrong two pitchers and again i am not certain that they think they are ready to be an annual contender, sometimes you have to realistic self evaluations and they may think that 2013 was an aberition versus the harbinger of things to come. They have pretty good farm system (better than middle of road evaluation the MLB gives it) and I suspect they think the out years 2015 going forward is TRIBE TIME. i may be wrong i am not a chess player nor am i a poker player so i may not anticipate thought patterns like skilled cress players and poker players can
Hermie13
February 21, 2014 - 10:52 AM EST
"Yes, it's amazing that the Reds signed Bailey to such a massive contract when they are no larger a market (smaller, in fact,) than Cleveland and the fact that Bailey is still largely unproven.

I'm not convinced Bailey is even at Masterson or Jimenez's level"


Depends what you look at. Career wise sure Masterson and Jimenez have been better...but over the past two years Bailey has been the better pitcher. Maybe he wasn't FOR good this year...but again better than Masterson (who had his 2nd best year ever) or Ubaldo (who had his best year in 3 seasons). Bailey is also younger than either and could argue has the best stuff (does have not one but two no-hitters to his credit already).

Still on the fence about this deal though....
Nick S
February 21, 2014 - 10:36 AM EST
Wacha , at Texas am was conisdered a two pitcher by scouts around the nation. Keith Lee of Espn had Wacha as a setup man. Law said the same thing about sonny gray. In two different years Law had the Indians taking Wacha , and Gray.
Nick S
February 21, 2014 - 10:28 AM EST
To Tony, and anybody else that follows the Indians. The FO has always stated It,s not the money, it,s the years. In 2008 spring Training CC was offered 72 million for 4years, he turned it down. The FO thought about 40 million for two years. I see the Indians offering 4 years and a 5 year opition for 75- 80 million. The Indians don,t like to offer more then 4 years. I think FO goes to Paul Dolan, and he approves to go the extra mile to get Masterson signed.
Hot Dog and a slice of Yella' Ham
February 21, 2014 - 7:27 AM EST
Yes, let's take what Hoynes says with a grain of salt, and trust the true insider. Grain of salt--INDEED.
Joe Chengery
February 21, 2014 - 12:53 AM EST
Jim,

Great article- wholeheartedly agree.

1. Glad to hear about Ubaldo's personality- didn't think he was a problem in that regard. Certainly a nice story in how he made sure that rude guy didn't get to stay around (also happy to hear your daughter got an autograph and was okay though probably a bit shaken).

2. As I mentioned before, the $12.5M is about what I thought Ubaldo would get- that wouldn't have bothered me; it was the four years that would have made me passed. I said three and an option, mostly because I figured two and an option wouldn't keep Jimenez, but it seems, three and an option wouldn't have either.

3. Likewise, I WOULD NOT resign Masterson to a four-year deal of any type, including the numbers Hermie13 mentioned; as you astutely pointed out, that money should be focused on extending Salazar and Kluber long-term. If McAllister can get back to the level he was showing last year before his injury, I would sign him next. All three can match or outdo Masterson long-term, with all three being younger and having the potential to get a little to considerably better, all at cheaper costs than Masterson.

4. As I said before, and agree with here, you definitely keep Masterson on the table and see what offers are proposed. This goes back to the fact that the Indians don't have many impactful starting pitching prospects close to Cleveland (Anderson is the only one, and he still must adjust to Akron and Columbus first before seeing Cleveland). Thus, if you can get a FOR starter, or at least a very good 3 starter at worst, I would seriously consider trading Masterson, as the current window of contention would be extended more by such a prospect than by a draft pick who won't be ready until late this decade or 2020, not doing much for this window of contention. If no such deal comes about, then, yes, hold onto Masterson, extend the QO, and take the pick, but I wouldn't take Masterson off the table.

5. I, too, have wondered why the Indians haven't adopted the Rays' drafting and signing strategies more. Their drafting (along with the Cardinals') are what the Indians must start doing with theirs- they can't keep missing and keep getting next-to-nothing out of most drafts. There needs to be more than 4/5 starters, a few bullpen prospects, and some bench players/fill-in starters, especially if the Indians can't sign premium free agents (they can't even if the ballpark was filled every nigh as it was from 1995-2001, especially with how salaries have skyrocketed). This is how the Indians will contend long-term, and will, hopefully, help to gain more loyal support from the Cleveland fanbase.

6. Yes, it's amazing that the Reds signed Bailey to such a massive contract when they are no larger a market (smaller, in fact,) than Cleveland and the fact that Bailey is still largely unproven.

I'm not convinced Bailey is even at Masterson or Jimenez's level; last season was his strongest year, though debatable it was at a FOR level; the year before was weaker in both H and K rates. Thus, he's far from a given, and that contract could backfire if Bailey regresses, which he has had a history of doing. Never mind the fact that he lost one or two critical games down the stretch, one for sure against Pittsburgh (last day of the season?) that would have given the Reds homefield advantage in the Divisional Series over the Pirates. Granted, he wasn't the only Reds' starter to falter, but he had an opportunity to shut down a playoff-contending team (in Cincy, I believe), but didn't rise up to the occasion, as I believe he got hit pretty hard, if I remember correctly.

Therefore, I am definitely not convinced about Bailey's ability, especially after he was hyped so much, and having only recently showed the past two seasons of even being a mid-rotation starter. That deal really has a chance to blow up in Cincy's face and could really handcuff them long term.
Tony
February 21, 2014 - 12:11 AM EST
It will be interesting to see how Jimenez performs in Baltimore. Whether anyone wanted him signed or wanted no part of him, they will definitely be tracking his progress this season. I've heard in more than one conversation with people who worked directly with him that there were some coaching issues and worth ethic concerns, so I take what Hoynes said with a large grain of salt. He wasn't a cancer or distraction, but he wasn't a model "good work ethic" guy either. Probably somewhere in the middle, which is not where you want a high dollar guy to be.

As for Masterson, I am curious to see how this plays out. The Indians have never given a starting pitcher more than $33 million in guaranteed money via an extension or as a free agent. They have only ONCE gone four years on an extension (to avoid FA) or bringing in a free agent, and that was Nagy back in 1998. I think everyone agrees that it will take at least a 4-year extension on top of this year, so a 5 year deal overall, to even have any thoughts of a deal being done. And it will probably have to total at least $80M. Sorry, $33M vs. $80M and 3 years vs. 5 years. That is the disparity between their high water marks in the past and the floor to sign Masterson now....it is almost inconceivable unless they have a seismic shift in their organizational philosophy with signing starting pitchers.
Devin
February 20, 2014 - 6:52 PM EST
Is there any way you can get on the phone with Antonetti/Shapiro and detail this out for them? I mean honestly, I read articles like this and I agree so wholeheartedly (if nothing else, to the idea of taking after the Rays' business model)... and wonder why the Indians aren't (or IF they are) looking at their success and trying to figure out how to make the same strategies work for themselves. You'd have to think so, but in the case of locking up Salazar / Kluber, I agree we should be exploring extensions already. For every lights out performance we see from Salazar this season, his price tag goes up a tick. There is certainly risk to locking down a guy who has pitched just over 50 major league innings, but there is also a lot less gambled. We rarely see those types of risks taken by the Indians FO, and I totally understand why... but when you have special talent and wait too long, they're gone before you get to know em. Seeing the Braves locking up Freeman, Kimbrel, Teheran and now Simmons, I am jealous of their FO's aggressiveness early in those players careers.

Also, to your point about drafting... we've missed plenty of opportunities, but I don't know if I'll ever get over the Naquin pick over Wacha. And I felt that way before he broke out this past year. I just checked their signing bonuses the other day, and Naquin got $1.75M to Wacha's $1.9M, so it wasn't even that much of a savings, if that was the intent. Guh. I'm not a naysayer. I'm a diehard who cares. That one just kills me.
Roger
February 20, 2014 - 5:59 PM EST
i certainly hope you are right hermie, however i am beginning to think that we have huge dilemma on one hand we have a lot of young controllable pitchers and young talent that most scouts like. we need to contend and need to play some significant post season games such as getting to the ALCS or even world series for the fans to buy into it and once every half decade of contention is not gonna be sufficient to effectively draw the fans to the game. i know it is like finding lightning in a bottle but maybe just maybe we can overachieve and suddenly players want to to stay here versus finding the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence.We cannot fix the economy of the great lakes overnight if at all. Detroit seems to have the fan base to draw sufficient people and has owner willing to spend but a lot will come out in the next two offseason when max and porcello are free agent with the contracts of verlander and sanchez factored in to the budget. Sometimes market size is just one determining factor. Miami and Houston are both major major markets and certainly neither is what a team would aspire for. it is ominous when a cincinnati gives that kind of money to bailey and that many years to votto. with no bigger market than they are. VERY FRUSTRATING
Hermie13
February 20, 2014 - 5:11 PM EST
I agree with the idea that Masterson's market value at this point is probably in the 5yr/$85-90M range (on top of his 2014 salary)....also agree the Tribe can't/shouldn't do it. Even if they could afford it...I don't believe they should.


I've said this before and only half kiddingly...but I think between the Indians brass and Masterson....Masterson is the one that should want the extension now more than the Tribe.

Consider this offseason....Tim Lincecum signed for 2yr/$35M at the very beginning of the offseason. Signed before the Giants had to give him a QO or not even. That's $17.5M AAV the next two years. Ubaldo obviously got a lot more total money but only a $12.5M AAV. After the years would Lincecum really have gotten anything close to the money per year he got from the Giants? I really can't see it...but maybe I'm in the minority. Over the last 4 seasons you can easily make the case Ubaldo was better (both had terrible 2012s). Age wise they are the same (Lincecum is less than 5 months younger). Both had great peaks a couple years ago...and struggled of late, though rebounded in 2013.

Anibal Sanchez was able to get 5yr/$85M last winter (another comp for Masterson)....but he was traded midseason prior and had no draft pick tied to him. Maybe Masterson will end up dealt if the Tribe falters...but if you're Masterson do you want to take that chance? If the Tribe can get him to a 4yr/$55-60M extension I'd do it...honestly think that's what he's looking at next winter if he gets a QO (barring just an insane breakout for him).


I also agree completely that they should be considering extensions for other pitchers. I'm not sure on Salazar yet (his risk of injury and lack of success in the uppers minors gives me pause)...but Kluber is a guy the Tribe really needs to think long and hard about extending.

Look at Kluber's big league numbers vs Julio Teahran's big league numbers....other than ERA, they are very, very similar with Kluber actually besting him in a lot of categories. Kluber is obviously older so maybe has less room to grow but may be able to get him for less money as well.

And while some will say his 2013 came out of nowhere....did it?

His ERA in the bigs in 2012 was a terrible 5.14..but his FIP was a more respectable 4.29 and his xFIP was 3.99. Sure was only 63 inning though but a sign of things to come? In AAA he put up nice numbers in 2012 as well (3.59 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 9.19 K/9 rate).

In 2013 he simply built on that. The ERA was closer to his FIP though still above (3.85 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 3.10 xFIP). His very high BABIP came down (though still was a bit on the high side). Continued to improve his control as well. Thing is nothing really improved a ton from 2012 to 2013, at least statically speaking. K-rate went up but nothing drastic (and nothing compared to his numbers in the minors). Walk rate went down decent amount but nothing so drastic is seems out of place. Groundball rate went up but only marginally. HR/FB went down slightly though still bit on the high side (so no luck there). BABIP dropped but still at .329. LOB% did jump good amount but not to a level that would appear unsustainable.

I know I threw a lot of stats out there...call me a stat geek, but the Indians are a team is pretty analytically. They hinted at it with Masterson when so many in the media were screaming for him to be moved back to the bullpen after the 2010 season. Yeah he had a high 4.70 ERA and struggled a lot at times...but a 3.93 FIP and 3.87 xFIP suggested he was much better than his ERA indicated...and what we got was his breakout 2011 season.

Kluber has his red-flags too...don't get me wrong. Injured last year so don't have a full-season to go on and his ERA in September was well over 5 (though it was 4.05 in the first 4 starts before blowing up his last start of the year). But honestly think the risk with Kluber is worth taking at this point.

My bold prediction for this season: Corey Kluber finishes the year as the best starter on the Indians (highest fWAR) and not because Masterson is dealt or Salazar gets hurt.
brent
February 20, 2014 - 4:55 PM EST
is there an auto select button in the MLB draft so the Tribe front office does not screw up another draft? this is a crucial year and I have zero confidence they know what they are doing.
Hermie13
February 20, 2014 - 4:30 PM EST
Also...can you really say the Indians have done a bad job at trading for pitching, at least young pitching?

Sure the Cliff Lee trade was bad (unless Carrasco really breaks out)...but other than htat...

CC deal was about LaPorta and Brantley. Sure we got Jackson but that was a throw-in, other player was a reliever. Can say a bad trade but it simply wasn't about pitching.

Other trades for young starting pitching in recent years include:
Austin Kearns for Zach McAllister
Jake Westbrook for Corey Kluber
Victor Martinez for Justin Masterson


Tribe has been bad at drafting and developing talent...but when they trade for young, inexperienced pitching talent it actually has paid off a lot. Definitely a few misses when you go back (Billy Traber) but also more hits (Cliff Lee).
Hermie13
February 20, 2014 - 4:27 PM EST
" I will never understand the Naquin pick, just plain dumb in my eyes. I wouldn't draft anything other than pitchers in the first 2 rounds unless you had a Griffey Jr or J Hamilton."

Your second sentence here totally contradicts the first. Fair enough if you think the Naquin pick was dumb...can't say I disagree. But how can you follow that up by saying you would only draft pitchers in the 1st round? Draft the best player available. Draft hitters 100 drafts in a row if when you come up to pick the best player is a hitter.

Doesn't matter if you have pitching in your system or hitting...teams want talent in trades. The top pitcher in a system rated lower than a top hitter doesn't have more value simply because he's a pitcher.
Chip
February 20, 2014 - 3:33 PM EST
I think that they have done a deplorable job at drafting, trading, and developing starting pitching. When it's in abundance in your system, everything else is easily aquired. It's frustrating because the Indians don't have the payroll to buy free agent pitchers, and at the same time don't have many pitching prospects to promote. It's a double edged sword. I will never understand the Naquin pick, just plain dumb in my eyes. I wouldn't draft anything other than pitchers in the first 2 rounds unless you had a Griffey Jr or J Hamilton.
Pathofkindness
February 20, 2014 - 3:12 PM EST
Nice article Jim! It seems that CA is playing this all very close to the vest. But man do I wonder what he's thinking about his situation (and, if anything, doing about it).

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