Cleveland (WOIO) - Justin Masterson is not an ace. Not yet, anyway, and certainly not on an upper-tier contender. But he's the best the Indians have at the moment, is a reliable major league starter, and as of tomorrow, is still only 29 years old. Oh, and one more thing. He wants to be here, a quality that has to come into consideration when weighing the value of Cleveland athletes.
That's why Twitter blew up last night, as word spread that the Indians have broken off talks with Masterson about a long-term deal. Masterson had proposed both a two-year and three-year deal, both at around $17 million per. He'd seen Homer Bailey sign for the same money, but double the years, with the Reds not that long ago. And Masterson, who went 14-10 in 2013 and whose career numbers and length of service are almost identical to Bailey's, knew the market price was set. And the Indians say they can't do it.
I didn't want to over-react when the news broke, because $17 mil/yr is a lot of money, especially for a guy who's never won more than 14 games in a season. Two years ago, Masterson went 11-15. Prior to that, the best he'd ever finished was two games over .500. We all know that baseball salaries are out of whack, but at some point you have to be sensible.
The problem for the Tribe, though, is obvious. It's perception. Inside and outside of their clubhouse. Outside, the reaction was immediate. "Here we go again." "Same old Dolans." "This is why I don't go to games!"
But the reaction inside the room will be just as interesting, and important, because what message does this send to a team that won 92 games and earned a Wild Card spot a year ago? A team that did shell out big bucks to free agents like Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn? And maybe most importantly, a team that admittedly thrives and succeeds on chemistry?
Masterson is outgoing, personable, and (again) on the mound, reliable. He's their top of the rotation guy. If the Indians aren't going to pay him, which pitcher are they going to pay? And how do they sell the promise of continued success to their fan base?
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