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Indians rumor: Tribe exploring a Justin Masterson trade

Justin Masterson is the best pitcher on a team that just won 92 games. Trading him seems like a poor idea.

Hannah Foslien

The Indians are listening to offers on Justin Masterson, potentially trading him before he can become a free agent 11 months from now. (This according to Ken Rosenthal, one of the most plugged-in writers in baseball)

Masterson was the Tribe's best pitcher in 2011, which was the best season of his career. He was the team's best pitcher again in 2012, despite it being a down year for him (my god was the starting rotation ever terrible in 2012), and he was the best pitcher on the Indians for a third year in a row in 2013, bouncing back nicely with the strongest strikeout rate of his career. Masterson will like cost ~$10 million in 2014 (in his final season of arbitration eligibility).

I understand the idea of not wanting to let him walk for nothing, but I don't see how it makes any sense to make a trade that hurts the team in 2014. The Indians are coming off 92 wins, and while I think they're unlikely to repeat that, I think they have to view next season as a contending year, in which case trading your best pitcher for a package of prospects (which is what Rosenthal seems to imply when he says "longer-term options"). Not that moves should be made with fan response in mind, but trading Masterson for minor leaguers would basically be announcing to casual fans "Just go ahead and ignore us this season, we're not going anywhere."

The other possibility would be to trade Masterson for someone who'd help the team in 2014, but when you give that option any though, it falls apart. What the Indians need most right now is another starting pitcher, so it makes no sense to deal him for another bat, but you can't expect to trade him for another pitcher, certainly not one who's not more expensive and/or worse.

It feels a little odd to be arguing so strongly for keeping Masterson, given that earlier today I made clear I view him as a good pitcher, but not a great one, but I don't see any way to improve the team for 2014 by trading him, and I stand firmly against punting 2014 by trading present talent for future potential. Teams should always be willing to listen to offers on any of their players, but I hope there isn't anything more to this than that.

If the choice is between adding and subtracting right now, I vote to add.