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cleveland indians logoDespite highly visible and vocal protests to the contrary earlier in the offseason, I have resigned myself to the idea that next year’s free agent class for starting pitchers will be considerably weaker than it appeared just a couple months ago. No, I don’t think it’ll be as bad as some are projecting, and yes, I still maintain that guys pop up every year to improve the class (are you really going to argue that Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana looked like decent free agent targets at this time last year? If so, go back and check the numbers).

But, yeah. Most of the best arms have been, or very likely will be, extended before reaching free agency. From where I sit, that particularly sucks as it relates to the Cubs, who could be experiencing a positional renaissance as soon as next year, but who will need a quality arm or two to help take advantage of that offensive boost.

Further adding to my free agency ennui, there is a report out of Cleveland that not only is Justin Masterson willing to consider a shorter-term (three or four years) extension with the Indians, but also that his demands are unbelievably reasonable. Paul Hoynes reports that Masterson and his agent have made a proposal for a three or four-year deal in the $40 to $60 million range. As in, that’s not what the Indians are lowballing Masterson with in terms of an offer … that’s what Masterson reportedly wants. If true, the Indians should be doing backflips for about an hour, and then quickly proceeding to accept. No, Masterson isn’t Homer Bailey, but four years at $15 million per year for Masterson is an absolute steal in this market.

If there’s any legitimacy to the report at all, an extension will happen. No question about it.

We’ve discussed Masterson before as an attractive starting pitching option for the Cubs going into 2015, and there was a time when he seemed as likely as any upcoming free agent to actually reach free agency. Perhaps the only upside to which you could point if Masterson took a deal like the one reported above is that it would put a dent in Jeff Samardzija’s reasonable asking price. Of course, that might not matter if Samardzija sees himself more like Bailey, who essentially got about $19 million per year for the free agent years he gave up.

  • Edwin

    Maybe Masterson just really loves The Cleve.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Aka Gene Barry

  • itzscott

    Maybe Masterson has premonitions of an arm injury and he wants to get this done asap to salvage whatever leverage he has while he has it.

  • Kyle

    Yeah, but nobody’s going to want to give up a 2nd-round pick (or god-forbid, a first) for a pop-up guy.

    The free agent class may or may not be completely empty of decent pitchers, but I don’t think we’re going to want to pay the price to get the few not-terrible ones that will be there.

    • King Jeff

      I get the feeling that this is just going to be how it is with free agency moving forward. Limiting amateur and international spending has poured more money to the MLB level, so every team aside from the Marlins are going to try and lock up their own players before they get to the shark tank that is free agency. It’s extremely likely that only the older and/or less talented players are even going to be available, and even then, the best are going to come with the draft pick handicap.

    • JacqueJones

      I’d be surprised if the QO was given to as many players as it was this year. Players that are decent but not great now realize they are better off just taking the QO so management isnt gonna give em out so liberally.

  • Blackhawks1963

    So it’s going to be a multiple team feeding frenzy over free agent Shields next winter. Cubs cannot bank on free agency being the salvation for building a pitching staff…it’s going to have to come from within. That and trades.

    • itzscott

      +1

    • Funn Dave

      And there’s very little within the system, so, yeah…we’ll be trading some of those positional prospects we all love so much.

      • itzscott

        Funn Dave…

        I don’t necessarily agree.

        Shark may not bring a true ace prospect in return, but he could bring back at least couple of projected #2′s…. which isn’t a bad thing if the lineup becomes a murderer’s row.

        Also, with the #4 or #5 draft selection, you never know what pitching prospect will be available and their projected timeline.

        I don’t think it’s as dire as many here seem to believe.

        • Funn Dave

          Well, that’s true…but we also have to remember that most of the strong positional prospects in the system have been there for at least a year or two. Besides the few promising pitchers already in the system, anyone we drafted would likely need at least a couple of years to develop. So, the positional superstars would be reaching the majors a couple of years before the pitchers do–assuming we do draft pitchers & said pitchers don’t flame out. It’s just hard for me to imagine us having a good rotation next year, or even the following year, without a major trade or two.

          • Edwin

            It’s seems the Cubs are turning into the Brewers from a few years ago.

  • rabbit

    This was the one guy I wanted next offseason…I don’t think Shields age works well with out plan as he will be 33 next year and in the tail end of his prime when are youngsters will be making their adjustments to the big leagues. I don’t see Lester playing for anyone but the Red Sox and Scherzer is going to command some disgusting money with Boras as his agent. I could see another quite offseason next year.

  • Norm

    Even if there is just ONE FA #2 or better, I’d bet on the Cubs overspending to get him, if they have to.
    And I think they’ll also add one more via trade.

    Both of those pitchers will be better than anyone they currently have.

    • rabbit

      true but I doubt those free agents will be willing to accept Theo’s stance on no trade. If they can get no trade elsewhere they’ll probably go there unless the Cubs vastly overspend which I really hope they don’t.

  • Steve

    Huge FA pitching signings are fraught with peril.
    Its like buying a big fat bag of weed…it might be good stuff, but it might also end up sucking. So, grow your own and you know what you have.

    Terrible example of peril, I guess, but I’m on medication from a tooth extraction.

    • Funn Dave

      I mean, they might have a better idea of what the pitchers in their system possess, but it’s not like they’ve never seen the free agent pitchers pitch before. I’d say they at least know whether they’re getting mids or dro.

  • CubChymyst

    I’d suggest the Indians sign him first, then do the back flips. An hour might give him enough time to change his mind, and I imagine after an hour of back flips it would be hard to sign anything.

    • Funn Dave

      I laughed.

  • josh ruiter

    three interesting arms cut from Dodger camp…Yimi Garcia, Jarret Martin & Stephen Fife. Any chance the Cubs take a flyer on any of three. Garcia is young and impressive in the minors…Fife has some experience with 3ish ERA in the MLB and Martin has been solid out of the pen as a young lefty.

    • King Jeff

      They were cut from camp, but that doesn’t mean that they are free agents. They are probably just going to minor league camp to wait until their season starts.

  • Edwin

    If Masterson gets extended, does that make more or less likely that the Cubs extend Samardzija? At some point, they just need pitching. They already need 1, possibly 2 quality arms added to their roation. Trading or losing Samardzija in some way pushes it to three. And with the way the FA market is playing out and based on the current talent in the Cubs farm system as far as SP goes, it seems it would be tough to add 3 quality SP by 2015, or even 2016.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      It will all depend on what offers they get on Samardzija, if Samardzija’s peripherals continue, what talent they get in the draft, how prospects develop, what 2nd-tier SPs do this year as they head to the open market.

      And, Samardzija’s extension demands..

      • David

        I would think that this would help the Cubs negotiations with Shark.

  • candyland07

    Not only is pitching so important for a team to be successful . I think its one of the Cubs front office better accomplishments in recent years. The Cubs have had decent pitching . They do go to the wishing well and have sign some players that have given the Cubs quality starts and been able to flip those pitchers for younger players . But the Cubs do not keep these players and these players do not sign with the Cubs with intentions to be a Cub if, they do well they are gone. The only weakness has been the bullpen and it seems like the Cubs have done a conscious effort to improve this part of the roster . Just imagine how bad the Cubs would have been without its above average pitching for the past two years , yet since the Cubs bring new pitchers every year those accomplishment is not to be trusted since the turnover rate is high.

    I think this front office will always find durable and capable pitching in the upcoming years. Every years it seems there are a handful of pitchers that will sign to showcase their goods so they can be traded or flipped . The Cubs have done well in this area and i think will continue to so in the future.

  • Brocktoon

    The cubs apparently didn’t find Jimenez and Santana to be decent free agent options

    • King Jeff

      Santana is still a free agent, so it must be that nobody thinks he’s a decent free agent option, right?

      • Funn Dave

        I thought he signed a minor league contract with the Orioles….

        • King Jeff

          Johan Santana signed with O’s, Ervin still trying to get paid.

          • Funn Dave

            Oh yeah, I’m dumb.

            • C. Steadman

              nah youre not dumb, when I hear “Santana” i immediately always think Johan first also

              • Edwin

                Funny story, Ervin Santana was actually named Johan Ramon Santana, but changed his name due to the other Johan already being so good.

                At least, that’s what Wikipedia tells me.

                • C. Steadman

                  no way! that’s hilarious

                  • Funn Dave

                    Yeah that’s too funny.

        • C. Steadman

          thats Johan, they’re referring to Ervin i’m guessing

  • candyland07

    I am Cub fan because I was brought up as a Cub fan. I have instilled my children and children’s children to be Cub fans . I am not a Cub fan because Soriano was a Cub nor am I Cub fan Because Team Epstein is The President of blah blah . I either enjoy or not enjoy what the Cubs bring to the table, and when its all said and done I will continue to be fan of the Cubs. I will Criticize the front office when they perform poorly and I will compliment when they do well. One thing is certain the Cubs have played poorly for two season and it seems the Cubs will be playing poorly this season as the next . This type of actions should be discussed among fans. Team Epstein has done some good moves ,but the team that reflects the Cubs have been bottom feeders. And that accomplishment should not be ignored and when that is compounded by a bleak immediate future – then the only thing to root for Team Epstein is ……. a strong farm? Thought the goal was to do both.

    • C. Steadman

      +1…i’ll be a Cubs fan whether Theo’s rebuild works or flops, I’ll be here long after the Big 4 retire

      • brainiac

        hear hear!

  • okiecubhawk

    As hard as it seems impact FA talent is becoming to get doesn’t it add more credibility to “The Plan”? Isn’t it even more important in this environment to have quality pitching in the minors and be able to supplement it with the Feldmans, Maholms and Hammels of the world? It seems to me that the way free agency is going it is more important now than it ever was before to stock the farm system.

  • Mike Moody

    The minor league system is deep enough that trading for starters is a viable option, too. In fact, we’re rapidly approaching the point where we can trump any offer if we really want someone bad enough.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Very good point. Of course, teams have to start shopping their quality starters again …

    • King Jeff

      I think that this is the most overlooked benefit of what the Cubs have been doing with the rebuild. Not all of the prospects will make it, but not all of them have to. There are a bunch of solid trade chips that could help the Cubs acquire immediate help at the MLB level. Hopefully we can start to see some trades that move in that direction soon.

      • Edwin

        Agreed. Although you can’t buy what teams aren’t selling.

      • Mike Moody

        My favorite example of such is one of the worst trades in Cubs history. They traded top pitching prospect Todd Noel to the Marlins for Felix Heredia. That may not seem that bad since Noel had arm troubles and never came close to his ceiling. However, before he flamed out completely, the Marlins traded him as the centerpiece in a deal with the Yankees for a young third baseman named Mike Lowell.

        • Jon

          Ricky Nolsco for Juan Pierre was worse. But we got them back on both trades with Hee Sop CHoi for Derrek Lee.

          • Mike Moody

            That was a great scouting by Hendry, but that was a case of the Marlins being financially forced to move him. (I’m not a huge Hendry supporter, but you cannot deny that the man’s ability to scout major league talent was among the best in the entire game.) The Cubs godawful trades with the Marlins were of their own free will.

        • Kyle

          That was the same year we traded Jon Garland for Matt Karchner.

          It wasn’t just that we were trading our top pitching prospects for rental relievers. We were trading them for *awful* rental relievers. It was horrifying.

          • Mike Moody

            This is getting me going. A few weeks later, the Astros traded Halama, Freddy Garcia, and Carlos Guillen for Randy Johnson. You obviously can’t know for sure, but it seems pretty likely a Noel and Garland offer would have beat that.

            But that moron Ed Lynch babbling on about how he wanted bullpen help. It seems to be lost on him that if he’d acquired Johnson (a) he’d have a lot less need for the bullpen and (b) Geremi Gonzalez could have slotted into the bullpen where he would have been much more effective than either arm Lynch picked up.

            That man makes a very good case for Worst Cubs GM in my lifetime, which is an accomplishment.

            • SenorGato

              Urge to kill…rising…rising…

  • SenorGato

    Masterson’s stuff is pretty dirtyy and hes the FA pitcher I like the most. I hope he hits FA. Best sinker in baseball.

  • Blackhawks1963

    The late manager Dick Williams had two great truisms that he stated…

    1. There is no such thing as a team having too much good pitching.
    2. Pitching is king in baseball.

    This is a guy who managed the Oakland dynasty teams of the early 70′s and the those great Montreal teams of the late 70′s and early 80′s. I agree 100% with his viewpoint.

  • BlameHendry

    Never had any interest in Masterson anyway. I hope he signs that extension so that the Cubs CANT waste their money on him.

  • Fastball

    There will be pitchers like Hammels on the FA market next off season. He isn’t a superstar but he stayed at Holiday Inns all of last ST cause he was the opening day starter for the O’s.

    I believe that we just need to get by with a few older guys until we have developed pitching from within. We could easily draft a top notch College Starter who could pitch the 2nd half of this season in the minors and then bring him up to start next season. Having been a pitcher and coaching pitchers I don’t buy into the cookie cutter approach to pitcher development. They are all different. So if you get one who is pretty well polished you just bring him up. You can control his use quite easily. If we can get Hammels and Arietta to pitch well this year I think we are in a better spot for next year. If Hammels pitches well for us I do not trade him! We need to stop that practice this season. I don’t care if we flip all the Bonifacios of the world for some lower level pitching prospects or even package a few prospects like our excess 3B or a Watkins, Valbuena and that whole lot. We can make deals without losing our top players. If we can sign Shark for $15MM a year I guess we should. I don’t really think he is that great a pitcher but it might make sense to keep him. But if we could get 2 AA No.2 projected pitchers for him I make the trade as soon as it presents itself.

  • DrReiCow

    This just reminds me how badly I would like for us to trade for Price.

    Moo.

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