Time for Indians to move Justin Masterson to the bullpen

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Justin Masterson allowed seven runs in five innings last night for his league-leading 11th loss and is now 5-18 with a 5.19 ERA since going from Boston to Cleveland in the Victor Martinez trade last July.
Normally that type of performance would suggest someone simply isn’t a good pitcher, but in Masterson’s case it likely just means he’s not a good starting pitcher.
As a right-hander with a low arm angle and shaky control Masterson struggles against left-handed hitters and in a starting role opposing managers can stack the lineup with lefty bats against him. However, he’s always been dominant against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .226 batting average and .623 OPS compared to a .301 batting average and .852 OPS versus lefties.
Not surprisingly Masterson has a 3.28 ERA and 72/25 K/BB ratio in 74 career innings as a reliever. I’m all for giving young pitchers a chance to sink or swim as starters before moving them to the bullpen and Masterson is likely still capable of being a decent fourth or fifth starter, but his raw stuff and arm angle are seemingly built for late-inning relief work.
His struggles as a starter have probably soured many Indians fans on Masterson, but as an extreme ground-ball pitcher who’s death on righties he’s a role change away from potentially being a major asset.

The Nationals expect Bryce Harper to test free agency

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Earlier this week at the Winter Meetings, Scott Boras said that he and the Washington Nationals had had preliminary discussions about a contract extension for Bryce Harper. Harper, of course, can become a free agent following the 2018 season and is widely expected to command the largest contract in baseball history.

While that may have given some Nationals fans hope that no other team would get the chance to bid on him, the Nationals are of the view that they have no shot to sign Harper before he at least tests the free agent market. From USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:

A lot of this seems like mutual posturing, doesn’t it? Boras trying to make it appear as though the he and Harper are giving the Nats a fair hearing and the Nats trying to make it appear as though, no matter what they do, Harper is going to hit the market. I tend to believe, personally, that Boras and Harper are hellbent on testing the market, but it’s possible that there is some number that the Nats can offer to head that off, right? Maybe?

Either way: big year ahead for Harper.