What are the Indians thinking with Justin Masterson?

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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, is insanely reasonable. But, as reported last night, the Indians weren’t willing to go that high and broke off negotiations with Masterson. He’ll likely hit free agency at the end of the season.

A few moments ago Indians GM Chris Antonetti spoke. He said the door is open to restart negotiations, but given that it’s believed the Indians made Masterson a two-year offer of only about $25 million, there’s not much of a reason for him to listen to them now. He’s making nearly $10 million this year alone on an arbitration-avoiding deal. Masterson is coming off a 3.45 ERA and 195/76 K/BB ratio over 193 innings last season. He has pitched 180 or more innings for each of the past four years. Homer Bailey is a year younger and has had similar numbers to Masterson. He just got a six-year deal at the average annual salary Masterson was seeking from the Indians on a two or three year deal. How is that too rich?

If Masterson has even an average season, he’s going to make far, far more than a $12-13 million average annual salary. And there is no way the Indians will be able to replace his production at anywhere close to the price they just rejected.

The Nationals sign Kevin Jepsen

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Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports the Nationals have agreed to terms with free agent reliever Kevin Jepsen.

Think of this as the latest in what will likely be a series of no-risk bullpen additions. The Nats, basically, collecting as many almost free arms they can find in an effort to fix their bullpen woes without having to give up anything valuable at the trade deadline. Just like the K-Rod signing earlier this week or the Edwin Jackson signing two weeks ago.

Jepsen pitched for Tampa Bay and Minnesota last year, posting a 5.68 ERA with the Rays and a 6.16 ERA with the Twins, appearing in 58 games in all. He went unsigned this past offseason.

Eh, it might work. It probably won’t, but it might.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.