Scouting the Trade Market: Justin Masterson

Cashman confirms Yankees planning to retire Joe Torre's number ... eventually
Prospect Profile: Eric Jagielo
My elbow hurts just looking at this. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
My elbow hurts just looking at this. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

When pitching becomes available, the Yankees will undoubtedly show interest. So when we learned yesterday that the Indians are willing to listen on Justin Masterson, it was only a matter of time before some reporter noted that the Yankees are in on him. Sure enough, this morning Bob Nightengale mentioned that the Yankees “would love to grab [Indians] Masterson in a 3-team trade involving CF Gardner.” Plenty of other teams will be interested, of course, and we know the Yankees have limited resources to use in a trade.

Buster Olney might have thrown cold water on the idea, but trades with no legs can sprout legs pretty quickly, especially when every team is in the same place with nothing else really to do except talk trade. Then again, this situation appeared to be a long shot even when we first heard about it. For that reason, we’ll start with the cons of the deal.


  • The Yankees and the Indians don’t match up directly. With Michael Bourn and Michael Brantley, the Indians have no need for Brett Gardner. That would necessitate a third team, as Nightengale noted. While we saw a three-team trade yesterday, they’re notoriously complex.
  • The Indians, who made the playoffs in 2013 for the first time since 2007, are still contenders in 2014. They already lost Scott Kazmir, and their best 2013 starter, Ubaldo Jimenez, is currently a free agent. Without Masterson they’d have Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer in the rotation. That’s young, sure, but they’d need more to become a playoff rotation.
  • In fact, they might need more now in order to be a playoff rotation, further confounding the situation.
  • Masterson is a free agent after this year, leaving the Yankees again in a position where they need rotation upgrades. That could be a pro, as Mike wrote yesterday, but how many of those six pitchers will actually make it to free agency?


  • Masterson improved his game in 2013, increasing his strikeout rate and improving his performance against left-handed hitters. At the same time, he still generates a huge number of ground balls.
  • At age 29 in 2014, Masterson is in position for a monster year. At various points in the past he has shown a decent walk rate (2011), a high strikeout rate (2013), and the ability to pitch over 200 innings (2011 and 2012). If he puts them all together in his walk year, he’ll provide insane value.
  • Since coming up in 2008, and throug his 1013 career IP, Masterson has never hit the DL. That’s only slightly misleading; a ribcage injury last September would have put him on the DL if it weren’t for expanded rosters. True, Masterson did undergo shoulder labrum surgery — but on his non-throwing shoulder. Perhaps that threw him off in his career-worst 2012.
  • After earning just over $5.5 million last season, Masterson appears in line for a $10 million salary this season, according to Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors. That’s easily affordable for the Yankees.

Unfortunately, in a situation like this, the pros also lend themselves to cons. The Indians will likely get more value out of Masterson, especially considering their current state of pitching, than they would in a trade. The necessity of adding a third team pretty much puts the nail in the coffin on this one. Maybe there’s one nail left to be hammered down, leaving just enough breathing room to keep our hopes alive.

Cashman confirms Yankees planning to retire Joe Torre's number ... eventually
Prospect Profile: Eric Jagielo
  • Jorge Steinbrenner (the rarely spoken-of sibling)

    You forgot to add “According to Buster Olney, he has no legs” to the “Cons” section.

    “Justin Masterson Has No Legs” is an unused screen name just waiting to be taken, folks.

    • Justin Masterson’s Non-Throwing Shoulder

      I resent that.

    • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

      Frogga with a no legsa issa deafa.

  • Pseudyanks

    In that picture, when you look at the position of his arm, you have to ask how do ANY pitchers stay healthy?

    • TWTR

      And that should be figured into both their contracts and their price in trades.

      • Pseudoyanks

        Supply and Demand weighs far heavier unfortunately. A pitcher’s risky contract likely has a far more direct correlation with insurance premiums.

        • TWTR

          I understand, but I think a pitcher’s fragility should impact demand, especially in trades.

  • Justin Masterson Has No Legs

    I would welcome Masterson, can we give up Ichiro instead though lol. I’m not sure if giving up Gardner is worth it. I’m on the fence about trading him. Depth is always important, but there are holes to fill. Masterson seems like some fair value, I’m just not sure though…

    • qwerty

      Are you saying that because you think Gardner is worth more than Masterson or because you think you can trade Gardner for some top prospects?

      • Gerald Williams

        This is my normal handle…

        I guess I’m just not sure how good Masterson is. He’s been up and down the last few years right? I haven’t seen him pitch that much, I’m just asking if you all think he is worth Gardner. I want the Yankees to be in WIN NOW mode, but our farm is looking pretty rough right now. Maybe a year of Gardner is worth getting some high quality prospects to bolster the farm?

        • qwerty

          I consider Masterson to be a front end starter. If the yankees are in win now mode and if the Indians are willing to take Gardner then it’s a no brainer. Gardner is mostly worthless to us, and Masterson potentially fills two holes: as ace and a missing spot in the rotation. The only problem with this entire scenario is that Antonetti would have pull a Dombrowski in order for it to happen. There is NO WAY that any GM would dump their young ace for ONE season of Brett Gardner. That simply isn’t happening.

  • nycsportzfan

    Yanks get Kyle Haynes as player to be named in the Chris Stewart deal. Haynes was a former 20th rder outta VCU, and is right handed and pitched to a 2.38ERA in high A ball this past season.

  • mcgatman

    Seriously this post is like a treasure trove of old 80’s action/horror movies:
    “but trades with no legs can sprout legs pretty quickly”…I guess those trades are infected with the virus from “The Thing”

    “puts the nail in the coffin on this one. Maybe there’s one nail left to be hammered down, leaving just enough breathing room to keep our hopes alive.”…Brian Cashman in the remake of “Serpent and the Rainbow”

  • Mike

    What is the modern day package equivalent to Hughes and Melky?

    • Kosmo

      I dunno. I give up. What is the modern day package equivalent to Hughes and Melky ?

      • Kvothe

        Manny and Gardy?

        • Mike

          That might get it done.

      • TheEvilUmpire

        It’s still Hughes and Melky, it’ll just take a 4 team trade involving the Blue Jays and Twins to make it happen.

      • pablos ham sammich

        I dunno. I give up. What is the modern balogna package equivalent to Hughes and Melky ?

    • Stuckey

      It’s “your trade proposal sucks” in any era.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    Losing Gardner for one year of Masterson seems an awfully high price to pay…

    • Kvothe

      Hole in the rotation + relative depth in outfield.

      And it’s not like the Yanks have Gardner under control beyond this next year either.

    • TWTR

      It’s not that it’s necessarily a high price, it’s that it isn’t a good use of scarce assets. It makes little sense to trade your only really good chip for any rental.

    • qwerty

      That’s more than what Gardner is worth at this point if you want quality major league talent in return. If you’re trading Gardner for prospects or perhaps a rookie then you’ll probably get more in return.

  • nycsportzfan

    I’m a fan of Samardzjia, but this is the one guy, that i’d personally be most excited for us to attain, including Tanaka. Justin Masterson is awesome and i have a feeling before said and done, he’ll have a few seasons where his W/L will be looking more ace like then a few games over 500 like it usually is. Masterson has one of the best sinkers in the game.

  • nycsportzfan

    I’d come at the indians with a Phelps, Austin, Montgomery deal, and see if they bite. Thats not a bad haul that has a chance for all 3to be in bigs by the time 2015 gets here.

    • Stuckey

      Trade proposal 101.

      Always include at LEAST 1 guy you truly wouldn’t want to lose.

      Make it hurt.

      • TWTR

        “Make it hurt.”

        For a rental? No way.

        For a cornerstone player, yeah, sure.

        • Stuckey

          Then the exercise is pointless.

          IF you’re going to make a proposal, make it hurt, even for a rental.

          If you don’t want to give anything of value up, don’t bother with the proposal.

          The idea to give up nothing of value to try to obtain player of value with little team control left is circular futility.

          • TWTR

            That’s not true. Ideally, you want to trade from an area that you have positional redundancy. So that doesn’t have to hurt.

      • qwerty


        Yeah, if we don’t want our garbage what makes you think someone else will.

      • nycsportzfan

        Austin is the guy that hurts. He was unhealthy last yr, but i believe hes closer to the 322BA 17HR 80RBI that we seen combined in 2012. But if they turn that down, i’d be willing to go with something like Heathcott, Austin, Montgomery, and Avelino if thats what it takes. Just get Masterson in pinstripes, please!!

        • Mike

          Yea, I really like the idea of trading our productive but unlucky prospect for a legit top of the rotation pitcher. Good trade.

        • Stuckey

          Ah, I was thinking Romine.

        • qwerty

          All garbage prospects that no one wants.

  • nycsportzfan

    It seems the yanks do have quite a few players that have promise to be in the bigs within the next 1-2yrs. I mean, Nik Turley is a 6ft 4in 200lb lefty who just went 11-8 with a 3.88 in Double AA last yr, and has a sick curveball and good heater. Sure, he needs to command the zone a bit better, but hopefully over the next yr, thats what he focus’s on. Then you got Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez, Mark Montgomery, Dellin Beatances..etc Another words, theres a bunch of guys that can fill out a trade. I don’t get why people always say we don’t have nothing to trade. That dosen’t include the upside guys like Mason Williams, Jose Ramirez..etc Then we got a bunch of guys who showed promise that are in the bigs all ready like David Phelps, Nuno, and Warren. It seems the yanks have enough prospects in every category(ML ready, Upside, on the verge) in my opinion to make a couple deals. I do not get it.

    • Mike

      Don’t forget the Killer B’s. They still have promise I think.

      • JAG

        Well, not Brackman.