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lukewarm stoveClosing out the week with some pop-up rumors …

  • Huzzah, there will be at least one upper-tier starting pitchers on the free agent market next offseason after the Indians and Justin Masterson apparently failed to reach an extension agreement (despite Masterson’s eminently reasonable demands). Ken Rosenthal reported that extension talks are off after the Indians refused to accept Masterson’s proposal, and Paul Hoynes adds details to what Masterson wanted: three years and $51 million, or two years and $35 million. That’s it. Jon Heyman says the Indians drew the line at about two years, $28 million and an option year. Hoynes pegs it even a few million lower. It’s easy to see why Masterson is going to take his chances.
  • Masterson is going to get a whole lot more than that after the season, assuming health and relative effectiveness. Here’s hoping he, Max Scherzer, James Shields, and even Jon Lester (still not technically extended) all reach free agency after this season, and the Cubs at least have some options.
  • Speaking of pitching options, Bruce Levine reports that the Blue Jays sent three scouts to watch Jeff Samardzija yesterday (including their top personnel man), and they’re still considering making a deal for the big righty. There were at least 12 other scouts from other teams in attendance as well, though some of that was bound to be just normal Spring Training duty. With just 10 days left before the start of the season, it’s very hard to see a deal coming together right now.
  • Levine adds, by the way, that the difference in extension request/offer figures between the Cubs and Samardzija could be as much as $15 or $20 million right now. That jives with my own instincts on the numbers, which probably have the Cubs somewhere around the five-year, $55 million extension Matt Harrison got from the Rangers at a similar point in his career, and probably have Samardzija somewhere around five years and $70 million, which would be based on his 2014 salary, plus his 2015 arbitration projection, plus the $19 million per free agent year that Homer Bailey just got from the Reds.
  • We haven’t heard much about Cuban pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne recently, despite him showing off his stuff for teams in early Spring Training. At the time, his agent had mentioned signing soon. That obviously hasn’t happened, and MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes dug into why. And if the thoughts of one involved official are to be credited, the reason is the simplest and oldest in the book: Despaigne simply isn’t all that good. Although the review suggests that Despaigne could possibly contribute in a long relief role at the big league level, there are a lot of guys out there like that, and they don’t cost seven figures to sign. Maybe, in the end, Despaigne was more hype than substance. Sometimes you don’t find that kind of thing out about Cuban defectors until they sign (or don’t).
  • Jon Heyman lays out the Tigers’ options for a shortstop replacement, which now also includes erstwhile Mariners shortstop Nick Franklin, a young player without a place to play. Darwin Barney is not mentioned. (This week, a Barney/Schierholtz/Tigers rumor has made the rounds.)
  • Kyle

    The Masterson news must be very comforting to fans of teams willing to pay market rates for top players.

    • Norm

      Are you implying the Cubs won’t be one of those teams after this season?

      • Noah_I

        Especially considering the Cubs were willing to pay market on Anibal Sanchez, but Sanchez made it clear he wanted to go back to the Tigers and would always allow the Tigers a chance to match.

        The Cubs’ unwillingness to match another team’s willingness to go over market on Tanaka (remember, no one BUT the Yankees was reportedly willing to go beyond 6 years/$120 million), is not a sign that they aren’t willing to pay market rates.

      • Edwin

        They might not be, depending on how things go with the prospects, and what happens with players like Samardzija, Castro, and Rizzo. And if Masterson is one of the only top pitchers available on the market, I’m not sure I like the Cubs chances when they’re competing with other teams who are either higher up the win curve, and thus more likely to spend, or teams like the Yankees who just don’t care and are ready to spend whatever they need.

        • BT

          “Willing to pay market rates” and outbidding the Yankees are not identical concepts.

          • Kyle

            When the Yankees are setting the market, they are.

            • Norm

              So if we’re calling whatever the Yanks will pay = “market rate”….how many teams fit your original comment:
              “The Masterson news must be very comforting to fans of teams willing to pay market rates for top players.”

              1?

              • Kyle

                No more than a few. He’s going to be one of the top few pitchers on the market. Those aren’t for everyone to get.

          • Edwin

            Either way, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Cubs spend another offseason making minimal upgrades through FA to the MLB team.

      • Kyle

        I’m inferring it.

        • Funn Dave

          No, he inferred. You implied.

          • Kyle

            I inferred it from their actions, and implied it in my post.

  • Jason P

    Wow, what a cheap move by the Indians. I guess you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do when you average 19,000 fans per game.

    But seriously, 35 million is probably less than half of what Masterson would get on the open market, and the Indians still declined.

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

    Is Masterson *that* great of a pitcher? He had a fantastic year but he seems more of a Travis Wood type.

    • Norm

      I think he’s a bit better than Wood, but I pretty much agree. He’s not all that great.

      • snakdad

        He’s the right age and his biggest improvement came last year in all areas, especially his K rate. The Cubs have position players in the pipeline and they won’t cost much for a while, but at some point soon they’re going to have throw money at pitchers better than the Edwin Jacksons of the world. This wouldn’t be a bad place to start. Scherzer and Shields would be even better

    • Kyle

      He’s as great as it gets on the FA market anytime soon, unfortunately.

  • JB88

    Best case scenario, the Indians and Royals fall out of contention early and trade Shields and Masterson and neither Shields nor Masterson are willing to agree to an extension with the team with whom they sign.

    • Featherstone

      I would actually disagree with that being the best scenario.

      I think the best scenario would be the Indians and Royals both compete, but miss the playoffs and hang onto Masterson and Shields until the end of the season. They then make qualifying offers to each of those pitchers.

      We should theoretically be drafting in the top 10 of the 2015 draft thus our first round pick will be protected. We can then make offers to those pitchers knowing it only costs us a 2nd round pick while other teams need to weigh against the fact that it may cost them their first round pick. Thus we have an advantage over those teams.

      • Orval Overall

        Although I agree in principle and hope that’s right, there were some bargains to be had this year because of that same dynamic, and we didn’t even sniff around the pile. I hope that can be chalked up as just a case of betting that the next year’s crop will be better, or wanting to time the contract one year closer to when the minor leagues will be bearing fruit. But there’s at least some chance they are valuing those 2nd round picks more than you or I would.

        It’s probably not a coincidence that the only major free agent pitchers they’ve gone after so far have lacked a draft pick compensation – Anibal Sanchez had been traded mid-year; the Nationals didn’t make a QO to E-Jax; and both Ryu and Tanaka were imports from overseas. Again, it’s entirely possible the calculus is different in 2014/15, as it probably should be, but we won’t be certain until it happens.

        • Featherstone

          I’m not so sure the bargains this year were really all that great. I think Shields and Masterson alone are better than any of the available FA pitchers this year sans Tanaka.

          I think there is some merit to the idea that Cubs didnt really want to pay for a pitcher in a year they don’t plan to be that good, but if a great pitcher was available I think they would have made a reasonable attempt to get after him (i.e. Tanaka) simply because you have to sign them when they are available.

          You’re right that the Cubs do value the 2nd round pick a bit and not having a QO attached to E. Jax certainly did make him more appealing, but I think the Cubs would have been after A. Sanchez regardless if he had a QO on him or not. Same goes for Ryu (whom we undervalued) and Tanaka. Look at Garza who had no QO and we still weren’t even remotely interested in

          I think it comes back to us not really liking what was available this year.

      • JB88

        That’s true, we would have an advantage and I’m sure their deals would be artificially deflated, but money is much neater and easier with which to deal than losing a pick or more signing players. And it is equally true that the Cubs may be at a slight disadvantage to other contending teams in signing those pitchers, but that disadvantage would exist no matter whether they were signing a FA tied to draft pick compensation or not. (What I mean by that is let’s say that the Cubs pick in the top 10 of the second round and they are competing with a team picking in the late 20s, the difference in picks isn’t that severe a difference to give the Cubs that much of a financial incentive than already-contending teams. The Yankees are a prime example, they couldn’t care less that they lost draft picks this year in signing guys like McCann and Ellsbury).

        I know all the studies about the likelihood of a second or third round pick emerging, but I’d rather have those pitchers for cash and still ahve the picks.

        At the end of the day, the Cubs will hopefully have the financial resources after this year to pay a buttload for two FA starters without really triggering any of the issues that Brett outlined the other day and without having to give up draft picks. That’s the best of both worlds IMO.

        • Featherstone

          Money is neater and easier to evaluate than draft picks for sure, but what happens if for example a team that wants to sign him is drafting in the teens (11-19) like the Mets or Jays. A team that is on the cusp of contention and feels that a pitcher like Masterson would put them over the top. Giving up your first round pick and then being forced to pay top dollar too is pretty steep. That’s where the Cubs protected pick would have the greatest advantage.

    • Funn Dave

      Best case scenario: Cubbie World Series 2014!!!!

  • BenW

    The bigger problem is that I still don’t buy Scherzer and Lester hitting FA. Both teams are built to win now, and won’t have an issue spending the money to bring them back.

    If only Shields and Masterson hit FA, Cubs better prepared to pay big bucks to acquire one.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Me neither. I think there is 90% plus certainty that Lester stays in Boston. And 75% certainty that Scherzer does the same in Detroit.

      • dunston donuts

        My pessimistic side says if the 25% certainty comes true on Scherzer he will play the Cubs like Sanchez did to get the contract he wants from another team.

  • ssckelley

    Ok, so if I am Theo or Hoyer what would stop me from calling dialing up the Indians (along with Masterson’s agent) and asking them to sign Masterson to that 3 year deal and I will trade you this Samardzija guy? The Cubs have the extra money and would pick up a year of control while the Indians also pick up a year of control. Sounds like an easy win-win to me.

    • Featherstone

      Well the Cubs couldn’t talk to Masterson or his agent at all (that would be tampering as is against the rules). Also i would imagine if things went down that way the commissioner would block the trade and be very upset with both teams as sign-n-trades are also against the rules.

      • ssckelley

        Well the first call would be to the Indians, if there is interest then asking for permission to talk to Masterson agent. It is not really necessary to call the agent, to me I would rather be up front with a player to make sure he is interested in being a Cub. If anything the Indians could be the one to make the call.

        But I don’t get how this would be against the rules, perhaps the deal with Masterson does not get signed until he is officially a Cub then. Those types of deals have gotten done before.

        • Featherstone

          You know, I am not even sure its a matter of permission. I thought a team couldn’t talk to another team’s player while they are under contract period.

          Yeah I am sure there are ways to have it done to circumvent the rules, but I am sure the commissioner would not be pleased with the transaction

          • ssckelley

            But why would the commissioner not be happy? I do not see where anybody is breaking any rules, this is simply 2 teams trying to better themselves.

      • blublud

        Sign and trades happen, see RA Dickey, you just have to know how to mask it.

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

        The Cubs and Indians would work out a trade subject to Masterson being agreeable to an extension with the Cubs. Once the trade is worked out, the Indians would give permission to the Cubs to talk to Masterson’s agent to see if an extension would be worked out.

        If it can be, the trade is executed, and Masterson signs his extension.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s a pretty fascinating line of thinking. I suspect the hangup would be in the relative values of the players and the current control in place (Samardzija is “more valuable” than Masterson right now), but that’s a damn interesting way to think about it.

      • JB88

        I actually think the better way to approach this would be to approach Masterson and his agent in July when the Indians are out of contention and do a sign and trade for him at that time.

        Way better to flip Shark for more than Masterson IMO.

        • ssckelley

          But the farm system is stocked and is looking good. If I am the FO I am looking for pieces to be competitive in 2015 and 2016. The idea of a player signing an extension is to put some coin in your pocket now, if you wait until July the price has gone up and now you are competing with 28 other teams for his services.

          Bottom line is, if I am the Cubs FO a Samardzija like pitcher is more valuable in my starting rotation for the next 3 years than another haul of prospects.

      • josh ruiter

        Fascinating line of thinking yes. But hoping the Cubs have money to spend anyway, I think I would rather flip Shark for Stroman/Sanchez type trade (rumored Jays interest today again), and sign Masterson in the offseason. Or if its an issue of Masterson or Shark…what’s the dollar value difference against the perceived level of talent between the two. Would it make it more sensible to ink Shark to that extension if that is the case? My thought is that young TOR type plus Masterson is a win, but a Masterson for Shark swap is not that big of a win all things considered and I may prefer to keep Shark in those circumstances. Not sure if this is the right way to think on it, but a swap to me seems like 6 of 1 half dozen of another approach.

      • dunston donuts

        Or flip EJax and a couple positional prospects for Masterson. The remaining money on EJax’s contract is very affordable. Cleveland would like that. Then keep Shark and Masterson.

    • Patrick W.

      I think the main problem is that if Cleveland keeps Masterson and then offers him a qualifying offer after the season and he walks away from it (likely if he has a great season) then Cleveland can get a draft pick when Masterson signs. If they are trading him, they are trading him, plus an extra draft pick, and saving the Cubs (if they would have signed him after the season) a first (or second) round draft pick, giving Cleveland a lot of leverage in that situation. I don’t think Samardzija is nearly enough in that deal.

      • ssckelley

        Isn’t a year of Samardzija worth more than a compensation pick? The Indians are looking to compete right?

        • Patrick W.

          “Isn’t a year of Samardzija worth more than a compensation pick?” Yes when considered straight up, but they are also saving the Cubs a first round draft pick (more likely 2nd round). The question is, are they going to get more out of Samardzija than Masterson this year, and next year, will they get more out of Samardzija than they can get from a different free agent than Masterson, knowing that they have a compensation pick coming from Masterson leaving to make up for the (likely late first round) pick they would lose by signing James Shields for example?

      • Darth Ivy

        Why dont teams start requesting a 2nd round pick as part of trade returns to make up for losing the compensation pick? Are draft picks even allowed to be traded? I never hear about that in baseball (obviously baseball drafts are completely different than all other sports’ drafts)

        • Featherstone

          No draft picks cant be traded (with the exception of the recently introduced competitive balance picks), which is probably why you dont hear about it in baseball.

          • Darth Ivy

            Im surprised and disappointed that I didn’t know that.

            • Featherstone

              Yeah it isn’t discussed much and I would be in favor of that rule going away.

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

      Why would the Cubs do this? The peripheral numbers of the pitchers indicate that Samardzija will be more valuable over the next two years than Masterson.

      • Patrick W.

        Yeah but Theo and Jed drafted Masterson so …

      • ssckelley

        Samardzija is going to be traded anyway, right? The Cubs are not going to simply let him walk for nothing more than a compensation pick. Everybody seems willing to trade Samardzija for someone like Archie Bradley, why not get an established MLB pitcher who is a year younger, has given the Indians about 4 to 5 more WAR over the past 3 seasons, and you get an extra year of control?

    • Funn Dave

      Seems a bit dodgy to me. Imagine how pissed off you’d be if some other team colluded with the Indians to get a pitcher you wanted. Not to mention, Cleveland would need some kind of assurance that the Cubs would follow through on their end of the deal, or they’re stuck with a pitcher they didn’t want to pay for….

      • ssckelley

        The trade could get done first. As far as a 3rd team is concerned I would think that is the furthest thing from the Indians or the Cubs minds, I don’t care if another team is interested in my players. If they want him bad enough they can pick up the phone and make an offer themselves.

    • TulaneCubs

      Nothing is stopping you. But that’d be a terrible trade return for the Cubs in a Samardzija trade.

  • Darth Ivy

    2015- Scherzer, masterson/shields, samardzija, wood, Hendricks.

    Trade jackson. Hopefully samardzija has a great 2014 and the cubs become willing to pay him.

    • Edwin

      I think the Cubs sign one of Scherzer, Masterson, or Shields. Not two.

      • MightyBear

        No way they sign two of those guys especially because I don’t think one of those guys will be available. They may not be able to sign one.

  • MightyBear

    If the Shark gets off to a good start, I think the Cubs should re-think and sign him to a long term deal. The lack of free agent pitching is pretty glaring right now. I would like the Cubs to sign the Shark and still go after Shields or Masterson (I would like to see Scherzer and Lester on the market but I really don’t see that happening.). The trend is to groom your young pitchers and sign them through their most effective years (27-32, maybe a little more in some instances)

    • Edwin

      If Shark gets off to a good start, won’t he be more inclined to stick to his “high” extention demands?

      • MightyBear

        Yeah and were I Theo, I would be more inclined to move towards those high demands. That was my point. An effective Shark would be hard to replace right now, either through FA or from the minors.

  • Camiata2

    Brett and/or Luke, do you see a realistic possibility that the Cubs make a push to trade for Masterson this season in the hopes that it gives them an advantage in resigning him? If so, what kind of package would the Cubs have to put together?

    • MightyBear

      I think the only way the Cubs trade for Masterson is if:

      1. They surprise and are in the hunt (Something I’ve been advocating)

      2. The Indians are slow out of the gate and are sellers at the deadline

      3. The Cubs need a starter (Injury, ineffective minor leaguer, etc)

      It could happen but that’s a lot of factors. I don’t know what they would have to give up to get him.

      • Camiata2

        If the Cubs are trying to acquire long term assests, why wouldn’t they try to put together a package for him anyways? It’s not a stretch to project him being a contributing member of the rotation for a competitive Cubs team within the next 4 years. So why wouldn’t you try to deal from a position organizational strength and attempt to lock him up on a 4 year or 3 year deal plus an option?

        • Edwin

          The Cubs would basically be paying a premium (by trading prospects) for the chance to start negotiations slightly earlier than other teams.

          • Camiata2

            I realize that, but depending on what who it requires, wouldn’t you want to entertain that idea?

            • Edwin

              Not really. For starters, I don’t think Indians asking price would be low enough for it to make sense.

              And secondly, it would still mean (probably) paying more for Masterson in some combination of prospect value and $$ than just simply paying $$.

              • dunston donuts

                I think the depth of the positional players in the system could get a deal done. The Cubs have a number of really good players who are going to get blocked at getting to the big leagues… Alcantara, Villanueva, etc. They might as well trade from that depth to get what they need.

  • Ed

    Huzzah!– loving the inclusion of arrested development in the posts!

  • Blackhawks1963

    I can’t get worked up about prospective free agent pitchers next winter. Sure, it would be good development if Masterson, Shields and Scherzer all hit free agency, but lets face it. The Cubs will be one of MULTIPLE teams prospectively interested in their services. And as we painfully know, the “usual suspects” like the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Rangers, etc. always have the advantage in these things.

  • Diehardthefirst

    If Phillies ate most of salary would Rollins make sense as backup/ mentor to Castro?

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Rollins won’t waive his 5 & 10 rights to be a backup. Plus, he’s very much the “I’m an X” type: he’s a Phillie, and he wants to stay that way. (Fans call it loyalty when guys are 5 years younger than Rollins and eschewing free agency but selfishness when they are past their prime! So, you can take your pick….)

      • Diehardthefirst

        He rather play than pluck splinters

  • BlameHendry

    Masterson is by no means a “top-tier” pitcher. He’s solid, but far from an ace, but I’d definitely take him on a 3 year, $51 million deal. Fair price.

    Right now I’m just crossing my fingers that extension talks between Scherzer and the Tigers fall apart before opening day, because Scherzer has at least stated that he wont carry extension talks into the regular season. Downside is that he’s apparently seeking Felix Hernandez/Clayton Kershaw money…

    • Rebuilding

      I think Scherzer and Shields both make it to free agency. The Tigers started to pinch a few pennies for the first time this offseason and Scherzer is already a very wealthy man (he’s already made $30 mil in his career – so it’s not like a guy just entering arb). He can ask for the stars. Then it becomes a question of whether you are finally willing to overpay and outbid the Yankees

  • Diehardthefirst

    If Bat Masterson has a cane then sign him- his high hard ones will spark fisticuffs

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