As we wait for updates and rumors and other assorted news from this week's Winter Meetings, I'd like to make some comments on a few morsels of information:
Last night Ken Rosenthal reported that the Indians were listening to trade offers on Justin Masterson. Jason explored the ramifications of a potential Masterson trade, and I agree completely with them. With Kazmir gone and Jimenez very likely gone, trading Masterson would likely mean the Indians punt on competing in 2014. A lot of work (and some luck) went into making the Indians relevant again in the minds of Cleveland fans, and the last thing the Indians should be doing now is to take a step back.
That being said, I think (and hope) that this exercise is merely Antonetti doing his due diligence. Jordan Bastian is thinking along these lines:
Makes sense for CLE to gauge Masterson's value, given status as potential FA next winter. Would be shocked if he were dealt this offseason.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) December 10, 2013
For every trade that actually happens, there are at least ten trades that don't. And this probably isn't the first time that Antonetti has talked about Masterson in trade talks since Justin was acquired four years ago. I'm sure just about everyone in the organization is at one point included in a potential trade.
But let's assume that this is more than due diligence, and that Masterson is being shopped by Antonetti. The only way I think you can justify trading Masterson now is if you either get two young starting pitchers back in the deal, or if you are acquiring pieces to be used in another trade for another pitcher. As Jason mentioned yesterday, it's unlikely an organization would deal two MLB-ready pitchers for one year of Masterson, and a three-team deal involving Masterson and another pitcher (David Price?) would be very difficult to pull off.
The basis for all these arguments is that the Indians right now have a hole in the rotation that they need to fill, and they don't have anyone that you'd be comfortable in filling that role. The three candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation if Spring Training started today would be Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer. Tomlin is coming back from Tommy John surgery and wasn't exactly dominant before the elbow injury, and both Carrasco and Bauer have been unmitigated disasters when they've started games for the Indians.
Speaking of Carrasco, I thought this was interesting:
Indians PC Mickey Callaway is meeting with Carrasco here in Fla today. As things stand now, Carrasco (no options) has 1st crack at 5th spot.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) December 10, 2013
Callaway of course worked with Ubaldo Jimenez at his home in the Dominican Republic last winter, and although that one trip didn't magically turn Ubaldo into a good pitcher again, it did seem to set the stage for last year's turnaround. Carrasco has the stuff to be at the very least a good MLB starting pitcher, but to this point he's been awful when tried in the rotation. He fared much better in relief appearances, perhaps because he didn't have four days to think about his next time on the mound.
If you forced me to choose between Carrasco, Tomlin, and Bauer, I'd probably choose Carrasco because of the upside potential, but I'd rather not have to make that choice. That's why trading Masterson now (if the rumors are true) doesn't make a lot of sense unless either the Indians are bringing back two pitchers or are using the proceeds from the trade to acquire another pitcher who is either better than Masterson, under control for a longer period of time, or both.