Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds is rumored to be on the verge of a long-term extension with the Reds for something like 6 years, $100 million (in the last hour, Bailey has confirmed that a deal is close). What has this got to do with the Indians? Bailey and his contract status are the best comparison for Tribe ace Justin Masterson.
Here are the two pitchers' numbers from 2013:
You'd be hard-pressed to find two pitchers who were more similar than Masterson and Bailey in 2013. In addition to that, the two of them are at the some point in baseball's salary structure, each entering entering his final year of arbitration eligibility, set to become a free agent at the end of 2014.
Bailey was set for an arbitration hearing this week, he filed for $11.6M, while Cincinnati countered with $8.7M, these figures are very close to the $11.8M and 8.05M Masterson and the Indians filed for. If each case was settled by compromising on the midpoint of the figures, Bailey would get $10.15M, Masterson would get $9.925M. I think it's fair to say the two pitchers have roughly equal value.
I like Masterson, and I think he'll continue to be a solid pitcher, but if the price tag is 6 years, $100 million, I'd let him go. The annual cost of the contract doesn't bother me, but 6 years is too long a commitment for any pitcher who's not among the game's elite. I thought the extension Seattle gave Felix Hernandez a year ago made some sense for them, but Masterson is no Felix.
Because Masterson is a year older than Bailey, it's possible he'd settle for a five-year extension instead of six, but 5 years, $82-85 million doesn't appeal to me either. I had some hope that Matt Garza's 4-year, $50-million deal on the market had given me some hope that, still a year away from free agency, Masterson might agree to 4 years, $60-64 million, terms I'd be content with. Bailey's rumored extension makes that very unlikely, and Bailey's price tag is not one the Indians should be willing to match for Masterson.