UPDATE: Sure enough, the Indians have placed Masterson on the disabled list with right knee inflammation.
Maybe the Indians knew something when they balked at Justin Masterson’s seemingly reasonable contract extension demands.
Masterson, who recently admitted to pitching through knee problems for most of the season, failed to make it out of the third inning last night against the Yankees and his ERA now stands at 5.51 after making the All-Star team last season on the way to a 3.45 ERA.
Masterson’s last three starts have been 4.0 innings, 3.0 innings, and 2.0 innings. Dating back to mid-May he’s logged fewer than 5.0 innings in six of 10 starts, posting a 7.01 ERA and 41/33 K/BB ratio in 44 innings during that span.
After last night’s ugly performance Jordan Bastian of MLB.com asked Masterson what’s up and the 29-year-old right-hander didn’t have many answers:
I think I feel good. I don’t know. Who knows? It’s one of those where it’s a tick [off]. You’re so close and yet you’re so far away. I felt like tonight was going to be such a great one. We had a great bullpen session, got some good things in. Something so, so tiny can make such a big difference when you’re going 60 feet, six inches.
Given the revelation about his knee problems putting Masterson on the disabled list seems like the easiest solution, at least in the short term. He’s not helping himself or the Indians right now and there’s an actual physical problem at play. He’ll be a free agent in three months and suddenly Masterson’s odds of landing a huge contract on the open market aren’t looking so good.
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.”