Cleveland Indians pitching ace Justin Masterson is having the best spring of his career. It could be his last with the club based on reports that the team and he have broken off talks about a contract extension. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal was the first to break the story about Masterson, who is coming off his best season with the Indians in which he went 14-10 and was selected to his first All-Star game for the American League.
The move is baffling based on the fact there’s been reports that Masterson would be more than willing to stay with the Indians in a club friendly deal. Many have speculated that the Indians would have trouble keeping Masterson after Cincinnati Reds pitcher Homer Bailey inked a deal recently that would pay him $105 million over six years, or $17.5 million a year.
Masterson isn’t looking for type of money Bailey got, despite the fact that Baily has less wins (53 for Masterson, 45 for Bailey) and Masterson boasts a better career ERA (4.03 to 4.25). Last season the Indians were buyers on the free agent market, grabbing players like Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and finding solid discounts with players like Jason Giambi and Ryan Raburn.
Their bullpen will look a lot different in 2014 with Chris Perez gone, setup man Vinnie Pestano‘s future in question and Joe Smith with the Los Angeles Angels through free agency. That will put more pressure on starters such as Masterson to get the team deep into games with quality outings.
The question now is why in fact did the talks break off, and can the two sides go back to the table to work to try to get something done? The Indians are in a bind. They need to build a team that can compete with the likes of the Detroit Tigers, and having major question marks about what pitcher is going to lead their staff into the future is not a way to do that.
The two sides need to find middle ground on a deal that is beneficial to both sides. Not talking at all is not a good sign and not a good indication of what the outcome may be for the Indians if Masterson makes it to free agency next offseason. Masterson is already slated as the Indians’ opening night starter when they take on the Oakland A’s in Oakland on Mar. 31. With this troubling news, it could be his last opening day with the team.