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Winter Meetings Recap: Indians listening on Masterson, Cabrera

Winter Meetings Recap: Indians listening on Masterson, Cabrera
December 10, 2013
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Day two of the 2013 Winter Meetings is wrapping up. The news and rumors will surely continue into the night, and if anything of substance regarding the Indians has legs I will provide the update on Twitter @TonyIBI and in the newswire to the right. If anything more significant gains legs I will surely post it to the front page as well.

Masterson is going nowhere

Things in Indians land got worked up into a frenzy on Monday evening when it was reported that the Indians were “listening” to other teams about trade offers for right-handed pitcher Justin Masterson. From there, fans have taken to social media to display their disgust over such rumors.

But the Indians are just doing what they should be doing with regard to Masterson or any other player on their roster when a team comes calling. They are doing their due diligence and listening to what teams have to say. I’m sure the Indians have at some point this offseason fielded called from teams asking about Jason KipnisDanny SalazarCarlos SantanaCody Allen and others, and I am sure they have listened to what has been offered for them as well. There is no harm in that as teams do this all of the time with almost every player on their roster at some point.

General managers are always considering deals and gathering information, and they are able to do both by listening and shopping – though the difference between the two is very clear. Listening means teams are actively calling you about the availability of your player; shopping means you are calling other teams to gauge interest in your player.

While Masterson likely won’t be traded this offseason, he is a year away from free agency so they need to be open minded about a future without him beyond the 2014 season.  That includes exploring a contract extension with him later this offseason, something which may begin to gain steam once the Indians offseason settles down a little more and they feel comfortable with their roster going into the season.

We will probably begin to hear such talk about contract negotiations in late January in advance of his arbitration deadline, and if nothing is reached then he simply signs a one year deal and talks continue through spring training. Momentum toward an extension would probably cease by mid-April if no deal is reached, and it would greatly increase the possibility he reaches free agency and tests the market next offseason.

Past history suggests any extension with Masterson would not be reached and announced until April. This is what happened with most recent extensions announced for Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana, and in the past for others like Jake WestbrookC.C. SabathiaVictor Martinez.

As to what it takes to resign him? My guess is a four or five year deal at around $15 million per ($60-75M) would be fair, but I am not sure the Indians would offer that or that Masterson would accept it.  One thing is certain, is if he goes out and has a year on par with his average season over the past three years, he will command a lot more in free agency and might get a deal for more than $100 million.

Masterson is a perfect fit for the organization for so many reasons. He is not only a good pitcher and durable, but he is also a great teammate, a good leader, great in the community, the fans like him and he seems to like it in Cleveland. If they don’t extend him then I don’t see how they ever extend a starting pitcher. But then again, they have been gun shy to give starting pitchers more than three years in deals since they gave Charlie Nagy a four-year extension in 1998 and his arm went caput shortly into it and the same thing happened with Westbrook’s three year deal just five years ago.

For an extension to work it will take some give and take from both sides as the Indians will need to assume some risk and step outside of their comfort zone, and Masterson will need to sacrifice some money to get a fair deal and stay in a place that he (hopefully) likes. The wildcard in all of this is Francona. He has instilled a new belief to be aggressive and not be afraid to take risks, and we may see the Francona Effect come into play here and be what ultimately gets an extension done.

Bottom line, Masterson is going nowhere now, but there is no doubt his future beyond the 2014 season is very uncertain.

Rumors and Notes

- In addition to “listening” to offers for Justin Masterson, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of Fox Sports the Indians are also “listening” to offers for shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Now, this is a little bit of a different scenario than Masterson as I believe this is a case where the Indians are more than just listening as they are probably also more active and interested in trading him if a good deal presents itself. Unlike Masterson, the Indians really have no plans to retain Cabrera beyond the 2014 season and will just let him go when he reaches free agency next offseason, so they may be proactive and try and trade him now to get something for him. Everyone recalls how they were very active on the trade front with him last offseason, so they probably will be this offseason as well. They have internal solutions at the position they could turn to if they trade him, though they would be a step down from Cabrera, even after a poor 2013 season. But the future at the position is Francisco Lindor and his arrival could occur sometime later in the 2014 season if all goes as hoped, so the Indians may only need a short term solution at shortstop with Mike Aviles or Jose Ramirez, or maybe pickup another utility player in free agency and sort of share the shortstop position and utility role with Aviles (Jamey Carroll?).

- I still believe that if the Indians are motivated to deal Cabrera they can get a solid return for him. The Indians got a solid return for Shin-Soo Choo last year when they dealt him in the final year of his contract, and although Cabrera is a step down from Choo, he might be able to fetch a major league pen arm similar to what the Indians got in the Choo trade with Bryan Shaw and also get an upper level starting pitching prospect maybe a step down in pedigree from Trevor Bauer. They probably would prefer to trade Cabrera for a major league starter, but if they could get a good major league pen arm with multiple years of control and a good starting pitching prospect in return for Cabrera, they should strongly consider it. As to what team matches up with the Indians, I still think the Mets are a possible fit; however, according to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, he says the Mets are not in on Cabrera. Jon Morosi of Fox Sports threw out a wild suggestion that Cabrera might be an option at third base for the Dodgers.

- Former Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore is at the Winter Meetings making it known that he intends to play in 2014. After taking the 2013 season off to recharge the batteries and try and get his body completely healthy, he is actively pursuing opportunities to sign with a team with a chance at a major league job in 2014. He last played in 2011 so he will probably need to sign a minor league deal with an invite to major league spring training with an April opt out, and it is in spring training where he will need to show clubs whether he can play or not. According to the Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes, he says that Sizemore is not a match for the Indians, so it appears they have moved on from him.

- Free agent right-handed closer John Axford is getting some interest from the Indians. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian says the Indians have been in contact with him and have interest in signing him. Yesterday the Indians were tied toGrant Balfour and today Axford, and I expect before it is all said and done that they will be noted as having contacted just about every potential backend bullpen arm available in free agency. I’m not much of a fan of Axford as he reminds me a lot of Chris Perez, but he might be a nice fit if the price is right. It really looks like they are contacting everyone to show interest at the moment, and as all of these guys sign and the market leaves a select few scrambling for jobs, that is when they will jump in and strike and try to sign one to a very team friendly deal.

- According to ESPN’s Buster Olney he says free agent corner infielder Kevin Youkilis is gaining interest as a low cost corner infield solution for teams. While he did not specifically name the Indians as a suitor, I still think Youkilis could be an option later this offseason because of the Indians interest in him last offseason and the Francona connection. The Indians are committed to Lonnie Chisenhall at third base, but they may look for a suitable right-handed hitting third base option to complement him so they can sit him against lefties. Youkilis could also play some first base and designated hitter. He had a very bad season last year with the Yankees, so he might be available on a minor league deal, or a very low one year deal for $1 to $2 million, something which may be worth exploring.

- Hoynes also made mention of right-handed reliever Matt Guerrier as someone to keep an eye on. Now, of all the people to name, I don’t think Hoynes would just throw Guerrier’s name out unless he heard something about him. Guerrier would be someone who fills a middle relief role and potentially a more inexpensive alternative to resigningMatt Albers. If the Indians are in fact considering Guerrier or a pitcher of his ilk, I am not sure why as to me it would be an inappropriate use of money, even if just for $1 or $2 million for one year. The Indians have lots of right-handed relief depth that I think they should trust and use the spring and first month of the season to sort out. I’d rather throw that $1 or $2 million on a bat at a position they don’t have much help; not for the seventh or eighth guy in the pen where they have an abundance of options.

- There is talk that the Indians are in the market for a third catcher, but I think they are looking more for a guy on a minor league deal rather than someone to sign to a guaranteed major league deal and have to carry on the 25-man roster during the season. I think they want to have someone they can stash at Triple-A Columbus and be an option to fill in if Carlos Santana or Yan Gomes go down to injury. They have expressed a desire to resign recently non-tendered catcher Lou Marson to a minor league deal, but he is probably exploring his options and they are as well by looking at other alternatives.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

Tony
December 11, 2013 - 10:32 AM EST
Yeah, I think we first would need to see how the entire offseason picture is painted. Right now things are too hazy. It is definitely a tough offseason for the Indians because their payroll was close to maxed out and they lost their #2 and #3 starter and their setup man and closer. Those are 4 big holes to fill, although two of them have been filled internally. But still....tough spot to be in. Much different than the offseason going into 2008 when the entire team came back and they lost no one to free agency. Curious to see how this plays out.
Canadian Joe
December 11, 2013 - 10:28 AM EST
I totally agree with your thinking Tony, but all this talk about dealing Masterson makes me nervous. Everything the Indians accomplished last year would be wiped out, in my opinion. These deals with Ubaldo and Garza would have to be done before the trade is made. Otherwise, massive overpays to get them. I agree, 2015 could see an influx of good starters, but that's putting the cart before the horse. We should be looking at 2014 with optimism, and I don't see where this thinking fits that. Even Tito can't throw in the 90's anymore, if he ever could.
Tony
December 11, 2013 - 10:15 AM EST
Joe, the reality is that Masterson is needed to compete in 2014....but that beyond 2014 there is no certainty he is here. If, and I mean IF the Indians deal him, they would need to have one hell of a backup plan to sign a starter (or two) to replace him. They would almost HAVE to sign one of Garza or Jimenez (won't sign Santana because of draft pick compensation). And then probably still have to go out and sign or trade for another starter.....unless they got one back in the Masterson deal. I just think they need to keep Masterson and do what they can to extend him. They have Kluber, McAllister, Salazar, Bauer, Carrasco and Tomlin all under control for at least three more years. Locking up Masterson gives them a lot of rotation depth and you have that workhorse at the top and lots of good options after.....just need a 1-2 year stop gap guy for this year and next to allow for those other arms to sort out.
Canadian Joe
December 11, 2013 - 10:08 AM EST
Boy, I don't see what dealing Masterson will do for the Tribe in '14.Prospects won't keep them in contention. The only thing I can think of is the Indians are still in on Ubaldo. Tony, is this a possibility ? Otherwise, the hole in the rotation is enormous. Given Ubaldo's history, I would sooner see Masterson extended.
Tony
December 11, 2013 - 9:34 AM EST
Important to note that the Masterson talk is all coming out of the DBacks and Yankees camp. Don't see any way such a trade is done unless the Indians are blown away. Would have to get someone like Archie plus more in return. Don't see it, but you never know.

The Carroll thing to me would have to be secondary to a Cabrera or Aviles trade. Right now there is no spot on the roster to add Carroll. I know Jose Ramirez is hurt, but Carroll would not be looked at as a replacement for Ramirez as Ramirez was not even on the opening day roster to begin with. A Carroll signing - assuming it is a major league deal - would have to be in response to a Cabrera or Aviles trade. If it is Cabrera dealt, then Aviles/Carroll share shortstop and utility until Lindor is ready hopefully midseason. If it is Aviles that is dealt, then obviously Carroll slips into his spot.
Willie
December 11, 2013 - 9:17 AM EST
Things could be heating up qkly on the Justin Masteson front. Joel Sherman says the Dbax want to leave the mtgs with Masterson in tow. Bob Nightengale says the Yanks would like to trade Brett Gardner for Masterson, obviously,the Indians don't need Gardner so another team would have to be involved. FWIW, there were rumors the Giants and Reds had interest Gardner.

The price for Shark and Price is extremely high. I'd imagine CA and company have set their mark pretty high as well, but Masterson is working on a one yr deal, the others are not. Thus, motivating the Indians to listen to offers. I'm starting to believe something could get done, in the next week or so.

In other news, the Indians are rumored to be in Jamey Carroll as a UTL.

Just throwing this name out there, but Justin Turner formerly of the Mets has experience at all the IF spots and LF, hit .280 last yr and hits RH. Turner was non-tendered a week or so ago.
Seth
December 10, 2013 - 9:54 PM EST
So Brett Anderson is off the table. Will be interesting to see if Pomeranz can do anything in Oakland. Always thought he and White were the big losers in that deal, for getting shipped off to Colorado. That team has done some crazy things with its pitching staff.
Willie
December 10, 2013 - 8:36 PM EST
I mentioned Chamberlain a few days ago. His mkt has been quiet, had a tough yr after returning from injury.

I think he gets less than $3M, but there reports the Dbax offered 1 yr / $3M. For comparisons sake Chad Qualls got 2 yrs / $6 M.

Another name to consider on a short / cheap deal could be Chad Gaudin. Probably, not worth the time, but he was effective last yr.
Tony
December 10, 2013 - 8:28 PM EST
Indians reportedly showing interest in Joba Chamberlain. Also, old friend Grady Sizemore has interest from the Astros and probably at 1B/DH. Interesting.
Willie
December 10, 2013 - 8:07 PM EST
Pirates reportedly listening on 26 yo hard throwing LHRP Justin Wilson. He would come with 5 more yrs of control. Had a very good 2013 70+ IP, 2.08 era, 28 BB, 59 K.

Pirates could use a SS, but the Tribe might have to kick in some cash or take on some money to get a deal done.

As for Buster Olney's report the Dbax are pushing for a SP (Masterson). I'd trade them Masterson for Archie Bradley, Matt Davidson, and a cpl prospects. IF they are serious, I'd ask for Patrick Corbin, or Trevor Cahill, Matt Davidson and a prospect.

I could see a scenario where a deal comes together, but only IF the Tribe brings back a legit SP back and at least a bullpen arm. Otherwise, it's not worth it... Interesting the two clubs had a lot of discussions last yr, so there could be something there. At least they are familiar with one another.

The Tribe could push them to include one of Trevor Cahill or Patrick Corbin plus Chris Owings their highly touted SS and a prospect. The Tribe could then flip Owings for a young SP. Good chance nothing happens.
Hermie13
December 10, 2013 - 8:07 PM EST
Valid point Tony on Cabrera

Can count on one hand the number of people that probably said we could get a pick for Ubaldo prior to the 2013 season. Cabrera is more than capable of putting up a season at worst like his 2012 season I think. Really only 2 big things changed for Asdrubal this year from the previous 2. BABIP dropped a good 20 points and K-rate went up a good amount. Can he cut the K's down and get a few more balls to drop in play? That's the big question...

Very good arguments can be made for both keeping and getting rid of Cabrera. Personally would rather move Bourn but if we're stuck with him...that $10M Asdrubal is making would be nice to be able to use on a pitcher...
Joe Chengery
December 10, 2013 - 8:00 PM EST
IF Cabrera bounces back, but just looking at the brief timeline Tony gave in his last post, he had bounced back in 2009 and 2011- by that logic, he should have bounced back in 2013, but probably had his worst year- he wasn't even hot in the first half like he was in 2012. Therefore, I'm not convinced he bounces back like he did in 2009 and 2011. Perhaps he bounces back a bit, but maybe not enough to give him a qualifying offer where it makes sense for the Indians (I.e. it would be a no-brainer for Cabrera to take the QO). Therefore, if a solid to great offer comes up for Cabrera, the Indians might need to take it, as the risk of him not having a great year in '14 may be too likely not to do the trade. By all accounts, and by his own track record, he should have had a strong year in '13, but didn't, and had his worst season to date. I'm not sure if his walk year will be enough to reverse that trend, since a lot of things were working in his favor last year- more professional at-bats in the WBC, better physical shape, stayed healthy throughout most of the season, yet led to his worst season yet. If you can get good value for him now, I think that would be the safer route for the Indians.
Tony
December 10, 2013 - 6:03 PM EST
Another thing to consider on Cabrera that I did not note.....what if Cabrera comes back and has a year similar to 2009 or 2011? Not only does it help the Indians in 2014.....but I think you would have to give serious consideration to giving him a qualifying offer. Not saying you do it for sure, but you consider it. So if he bounces back it could help two fold in production on the field and in the win column in 2014 and in the draft in 2015.
BrianM
December 10, 2013 - 5:59 PM EST
If ACab could net a good reliever and a good prospect, I'd be all for it, but I'm a believer in that 'walk year' thing, and totally expect him to produce more like he did in 2011 than he did in 2012 and 2013. A resurgent year from him and Swisher could be all we need to push our offense over the top.

Surprised Bourn's name has not surfaced yet...
Willie
December 10, 2013 - 5:46 PM EST
Guerrier, is veteran arm, but kind of a waste of time, IMO. Maybe a minor league deal with incentives, he wasn't all that great last yr.

I'd agree, ACab could probably net a cpl arms. Maybe they'll get a reliable LH and a nice SP prospect out of him. One thing to remember is, the Tribe kicked in $3M to move Choo last yr. Might see a similar scenario this yr as well. IF it means a better SP in return.

As for Justin Masterson, Seattle and Arizona seem motivated to make moves, maybe one or the other blows the Tribes socks off with a healthy deal. AZ might be out of the mkt for big trades after acq. Trumbo, but maybe they'd include a cpl big leaguers to get a deal done. It would certainly take a healthy return to get the Indians to move him.

In two days we've heard, the Indians are listening on both Masterson and ACab. Tomorrow should bring news they are listening on Bourn or Brantley, just saying always a lot of traffic this time of yr.

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