Let’s flash back to spring training.
The word was that Justin Masterson was asking for a three-year deal valued at less than the $17.5 million Homer Bailey received. What’s more, that he was willing to take a 2-3 year contract too. Which, for a front-line starter, was insanely reasonable. But the Indians weren’t willing to go that high and broke off negotiations with Masterson.
It was believed the Indians made Masterson a two-year offer of about $25 million which was turned down. He was making nearly $10 million this year alone on an arbitration-avoiding deal. He was coming off a 3.45 ERA and 195/76 K/BB ratio over 193 innings last season and had pitched 180 or more innings for each of the past four years.
Of course, hindsight is the only perfect science. However, it was a blessing in disguise that Masterson decided not to accept the two-year deal.
The 29-year-old Masterson, an All-Star last season, was the most established pitcher in the rotation, but was slammed for a 5.51 ERA through 19 starts, just seven of which were quality. While his strikeout (8.5) and home run rates (0.6) were strong, he walked a career-worst 5.1 per nine while being raked for a .355 batting average on balls in play, the third-highest mark in the American League among pitchers with at least 90 innings. Meanwhile, his 58.5 percent groundball rate ranks second among the same set.
At the time of the trade, Masterson was eight innings short of qualifying for the official AL lead in those categories because he’s been on the disabled list since July 8 due to inflammation in his right knee, and it’s fair to wonder the extent to which the injury has been the cause of his declining velocity and subpar results.
According to sources, the Indians front office were not happy with Masterson and his lack of offseason conditioning. It is well publicized that Masterson always does missionary work in the offseason. This past offseason, he spent almost the entire one abroad. The Indians were concerned that Masterson did not keep his arm in the proper shape; as was evident when his fastball was no longer consistently in the 90’s.
With a lot of money already tied up in players that have hardly contributed (Swisher, Bourn), it is a good thing that Masterson walked away.