Justin Masterson is still discussing an extension with the Indians

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Justin Masterson avoided arbitration with the Indians last week by agreeing to a one-year, $9.7625 million contract, but today he told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the two sides remain in touch about a possible contract extension.

Masterson has the ability to become a free agent after this season, but he expressed optimism about sticking around for the long-term by saying, “I figure somehow, someway I end up still being here for a few more years.” It’s believed that the Indians have made an offer in the range of three or four years while Masterson’s agent, Randy Rowley, has submitted a counteroffer. Masterson is hoping for some sort of resolution before the start of the regular season.

“There’s nothing monumental,” said Masterson, “but we have talked a little bit. I would imagine if something gets done it would be before the season begins. That’s probably where we’re at.”

Masterson turns 29 in March and owns a 4.08 ERA over 135 starts and 10 relief appearances since coming over from Boston in the Victor Martinez trade in 2009. He posted a 3.45 ERA and 195/76 K/BB ratio in 193 innings last year. His 24.3 percent strikeout rate was the best of his career and 13th-highest among qualified starters. It will be interesting to see what he commands in an extension, as Hoynes makes an argument that he is comparable to Homer Bailey, who recently inked a six-year, $105 million extension with the Reds.

The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.

Marlins trade David Phelps to the Mariners for four prospects

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The Miami Marlins have sent reliever David Phelps to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for four prospects. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand and Ken Rosenthal had rumors of the deal first, Jon Morosi, Jeff Passan and Jon Heyman (among others) all reported the trade at virtually the same time.

Phelps, 30, had a fantastic 2016 season, posting a 2.28 ERA in 64 games while striking out 11.8 batters per nine innings. He’s not been as strong this year, but he’s still been a solid setup man, posting a 3.45 ERA in 44 games while striking out 51 batters and walking 21 in 47 innings. He throws in the mid-90s and induces grounders. The Mariners could probably use rotation help more than bullpen help, but solid innings are solid innings at one point and improving your pen takes some of the pressure off of your rotation. Phelps will help Seattle with that. He’s under team control for next year too, so this is more than a rental.

The top prospect in the deal is Brayan Hernandez, a 19 year-old outfielder from Venezuela, currently playing in low-A ball. Also in the deal: righty Brandon Miller, righty Pablo Lopez and righty Lucas Schiraldi who, yes, is the son of ex-big leaguer Calvin Schiraldi. None of these guys are blue chippers, but you never know what’ll happen. It’s a volume return for the Fish.

We’ve already seen some big bullpen names move, including David Robertson, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Among others who could be moved:  A.J. Ramos (Marlins); Justin Wilson (Tigers); Addison Reed (Mets); Jerry Blevins (Mets); Brad Hand (Padres); Tony Watson (Pirates); Juan Nicasio (Pirates); Brad Brach (Orioles); Drew Storen (Reds); and Raisel Iglesias (Reds).