Justin Masterson is all over the AL Central radar

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Over the last two weeks, it has been reported that the Indians and Twins were both interested in free agent pitcher Justin Masterson. The White Sox and Tigers are also in the mix, writes Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer, and the Royals could be as well if they aren’t able to bring back James Shields. Call it a clean sweep for the AL Central.

Masterson missed 26 games between the end of June and early August with a right knee injury. It was revealed recently that he had also been pitching with ribcage and shoulder injuries in the latter half of the season.

The 29-year-old right-hander posted a miserable 5.88 ERA with a 116/69 K/BB ratio in 128 2/3 innings combined between the Indians and Cardinals. With his injury woes behind him, however, he makes for a good bounce-back candidate in the 2015 season.

Padres will try to lock up Fernando Tatís Jr. to a long term deal

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The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will try to get Fernando Tatís Jr. locked up in a long-term deal before the start of the 2020 season.

It’d be a wise move from the team’s perspective, of course. Tatís showed in 2019 that he’s the future of the franchise, hitting .317/.379/.590 with 22 homers and 16 stolen bases through 84 games while playing spectacular defense at short. He was a serious contender for the Rookie of the Year Award before going down to injury and still finished third despite playing just a tad over half a season.

That talent and promise means that, in all likelihood, Tatís stands to make massive money in arbitration and free agency once he gets there. If he gets there, that is. Because as we’ve seen so often in recent years, teams have been aggressive in their efforts to lock up young stars like Tatís, buying out their arbitration and at least a couple of their free agency years. These deals tend to be team-friendly, with multiple team options aimed at getting maximal value out of such players before they hit the open market. Of course, the players get much more up front money than they would in the three seasons in which teams can and do set their salaries unilaterally, usually at less than $1 million per year. It’s a standard now vs. later tradeoff, even if the value of the “now” is far less than the value of “later” and even if it pays these guys far less than they’re worth overall.

But that’s the system. And it’s one which will force Tatís to make a tough choice: either take a deal at a time when the team has most of the leverage or else turn down millions in hand now in order take a shot at many more millions later. In his case, he’ll have a rookie season with multiple injuries to think about too. Does that portend future injury issues? Could he, like some players who have been in his shoes before, end up damaged goods by the time he expected to get paid?

We’ll see how both he and the Padres calculate all of that between now and February, it seems.