What Is Justin Masterson Worth On The Open Market?

by Brendan Panikkar | Posted on Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
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The Cleveland Indians will have a big decision to make in the off-season. It is likely priority #1 for the Indians and it involves what to do with their Opening Day starter for the past three seasons, ace Justin Masterson.

Masterson and the Indians experienced some turmoil this past off-season and were unable to work out a long term deal. The two sides settled on a 1 year deal worth $9.8 million. There were many reports that Masterson wanted to stay in Cleveland and actually made an offer to the Indians. It was believed the offer was in between 40-60 million dollars over a three to four year term.

When you look at what free agent Ricky Nolasco signed with division rival, the Minnesota Twins on a four year deal, worth $49 million, one would think the Indians would be stupid to turn down such an offer from Masterson. After all, who really does want to stay in Cleveland, regardless of sport for an extended period of time? Masterson has grown into a reliable starter in Cleveland but the Indians did not budge.

Masterson took over as a starter full time in 2011. He started 29 games in 2010, but started in the bullpen. Let’s examine each of Masterson’s seasons as a full time starter.

2011: 12-10,  216.0 IP/  6.58 K/9 (17.4 K%)/  2.71 BB/9,  /55.1 GB%/3.21 ERA/3.28 FIP/3.64 xFIP/4.3 WAR

2012: 11-15, 206.1 IP/  6.94 K/9 (17.6 K%)/  3.84 BB/9, /55.7 GB%/4.93 ERA/4.16 FIP/4.15 xFIP/1.9 WAR

2013: 14-10, 193.0 IP/ 9.09 K/9 (24.3 K%)/  3.54 BB/9, / 58.0 GB%/ 3.45 ERA/ 3.35 FIP/ 3.33 xFIP/ 3.4 WAR

Currently, Masterson is on track to throw up a similar type season to that of 2013. He is striking out just under nine batters per nine innings and walking roughly the same amount, but the ground ball percentage is higher.

2013 saw Masterson fall short of 200 innings but was injured late in 2013 and ultimately was not able to contribute to the Indians playoff run.

As you can tell, 2012 seems to be a bit of an outlier for Masterson. He was hit hard in 2012 and the increase in walks combined with his LOB% of 66.4% compared to 72.9% in 2011, spelled doom.

In 2013, the spike in K’s was able to help off-set the walks and Masterson was able to adjust to his bad 2012 but refining his slider and sinker. For a sinkerballer, you’re usually hit hard when the sinker isn’t sinking. Masterson left a lot of pitches up in the zone leading to 212 hits in 206 innings and a career in homers allowed with 18. 2012 was the only season Masterson allowed more hits than innings thrown.

Masterson’s 2013 saw him only allow 156 hits in 193 innings. He really was able to locate his pitches and his slider was devastating running away to right handers and his sinker had a ton of bite.

Masterson is set to hit the open market this coming season. He will be 30 years old when he becomes a free agent and there should be a host of teams lining up to make a run at him. The crop of free agent starters is better than last season. Contracts coming off the books or those that have options which could take them off the market or keep them on the market include:

Johnny Cueto, Yovani Gallardo, James Shields, Ervin Santana, Hisashi IwakumaJon Lester and Max Scherzer.

There are some good names set to be free agents and Cueto, Scherzer, Lester and Shields would likely draw the most attention. Masterson likely falls in the same category as Gallardo, Santana, and Iwakuma of good arms, but not the cream of the crop. Of course, not all of these arms will hit the open market but they may find their way there.

Based on Masterson’s seasons with Cleveland, he is a lock for 200 innings when healthy. His WHIP is usually high due to the walks but the groundballs help him strand base runners and the development of his sharp slider has helped contribute to the hike in strike outs.

His ERA is usually around 3.50 and that is a solid 3.50, as evidenced by his FIP and xFIP being near the same level as his ERA. A guy who can be a front of the rotation starter, who eats innings and sports a solid ERA, will get some attention.

Based on Masterson’s numbers and personal observations of him, I would say he is likely heading for a contract of around four years, $60 million. That is an annually average of $15 million. He currently makes just under $10, so $15 million I believe is a perfect number for Masterson.

It will be interesting to see if Masterson and the Indians work out a deal, but should they not, expect Masterson to receive some attention on the market.

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Brendan Panikkar
About the Author

Brendan Panikkar is a graduate of Brock University's Sport Management program. Currently, he is the Vice-President, Customer Service at North Aware. He loves all sports but baseball and football take precedent over hockey and basketball. Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Argonauts, San Francisco 49ers, Toronto Raptors







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