Strong chance Masterson, Tribe go to hearing
Club discussing extension with righty, but source says there's been little progress
CLEVELAND -- It has been a bit of trivia for the past several offseasons for the Indians: Can you name the last Cleveland players to go to an arbitration hearing?
Jerry Browne and Greg Swindell had their salaries with the Indians determined in a hearing back in 1991, marking the longest such streak among Major League teams. It has been an impressive run for the Indians, though it could come to an end this winter.
"I will refrain from commenting on any particular negotiation at this point," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said via email. "But I will say that it's very likely that we will end up with at least one hearing this year."
The case in question likely involves All-Star starter Justin Masterson.
According to a source, there has been little progress in discussions about a long-term contract extension for Masterson, who will be eligible for free agency next offseason. It is also a realistic possibility that the $3.75 million gap in salary proposals for the upcoming season will lead to an arbitration hearing for the right-hander.
Masterson's camp submitted a salary request of $11.8 million, while Cleveland countered with an offer of $8.05 million for 2014. The difference in the proposals represents the largest gap among the Majors' unsigned arbitration players. Either salary also marks a significant raise from the $5,687,500 that Masterson earned last season.
The Indians also have unsettled cases involving left fielder Michael Brantley ($3.8 million requested against $2.7 million offered), reliever Vinnie Pestano ($1.145 million requested against $975,000 offered) and starter Josh Tomlin ($975,000 requested against $800,000 offered).
The two sides can settle on a contract at any point leading up to the hearings, which are slated to take place from Feb. 1-21.
The Indians have engaged in some long-term talks with Masterson, but the pitcher's agent, Randy Rowley, has maintained all winter that he is willing to let the process play out in order to get a deal deemed fair in comparison to the current market. Even if the sides decide to settle on a one-year contract for now, extension talks could continue throughout Spring Training.
Masterson, who will turn 29 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA last season, piling up 195 strikeouts in 193 innings to help the Indians capture the American League's top Wild Card spot. The righty was on pace for a third consecutive season with at least 200 innings logged until an oblique injury sidelined him for most of September.
Over the final week of the season, Masterson served as a late-inning pitcher for the Tribe, which acquired him via trade from the Red Sox on July 31, 2009. Masterson is 44-55 with a 4.08 ERA in parts of five seasons with the Indians, but he has gone 37-35 with a 3.86 ERA and an average of 171 strikeouts and 205 innings across the past three years.