According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Indians and right-hander Justin Masterson have put extension talks on hold and are now focusing on a one-year deal in advance of an arbitration hearing on February 20.
Masterson, who is due to hit free agency next offseason, requested $11.8 million and was offered $8.05 million by the Indians when arbitration figures were exchanged earlier this month. Both sides have said that they are open to a multi-year deal, but Hoynes hears that “little, if any” progress has been made. Putting aside the issue of an extension, the $3.75 million gap between Masterson and the Indians is the largest among any unsigned player who filed for arbitration, so they’ll have to make a lot of progress to even avoid a hearing.
Masterson posted a 3.45 ERA and 195/76 K/BB ratio over 193 innings last season. He turns 29 in March, so another solid year would put him in position for a lucrative contract next winter.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”