Justin Masterson is reportedly willing to sign a shorter deal than previously believed in order to stay with the Indians beyond 2014.
Masterson is set to become a free agent at the end of this season, but he and the team have been in regular contact on a possible extension. Masterson's agent (Randy Rowley) suggested a particular figure to the team on Sunday and Jon Heyman hears that Masterson would sign an extension for as little as 3 years, if the per-season money is right. Heyman writes, "While that number isn't known, and there's work to do, there is said to be a decent feeling among Indians people that they may be able to work something out."
When the Reds extended Homer Bailey (a pitcher similar in many ways to Masterson) for 6 years, $105 million two weeks ago, my sense was that the price was now too high for the Indians to keep Masterson. I wouldn't want them locked into him for that many years, but I wouldn't expect a player to settle for less than the market is willing to give him.
Masterson has a great relationship with Terry Francona, and he's close to his teammates as well. He's said to like his family's situation in Cleveland.
Bailey's extension basically included the $10 million he'd have made through arbitration this season, making it something like a 5-year, $95-million extension at the end of that, which works out to $19 million a year. That sounds like a lot of money (that is a lot of money), but I wouldn't mind the Indians locking him up for something a little less than that on a 3-year year extension (which would make it something like 4 years, $64 million for 2014-2017).
Even if you view Masterson as a #2-type pitcher (as I do), and not an ace, that's the going rate. A discount on the per-season salary is nice, but with pitchers, avoiding extra years is more significant.
Extensions during the season are more rare, so if something isn't worked out in the next three weeks, don't hold your breath. This report at least opens the door for an extension the front office could stomach (because they aren't going to give him the contract Bailey got).
Don't expect much more in the way concessions from Masterson's side though, as they know they're in a strong position. "We're nine months away... The burden's on them," Rowley says. "We don't have to do anything."