Despite 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.