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Indians rumors: Team very open to trading Justin Masterson

Has Justin Masterson already made his final start in an Indians uniform?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Indians are very open to trading away Justin Masterson before Thursday's trade, sources have told Yahoo's Jeff Passan, who adds that the Indians are looking for young pitching with years of team control still ahead of them. That's exactly the sort of I return I would expect the front office to be looking for, and is what I think they'd be aiming for if they move Asdrubal Cabrera too.

Masterson is still on the disabled list right now, but will be activated in time to start Friday's game against Texas. His performance this season has been very disappointing; he's averaged barely more than 5 innings a start, and has an ERA of 5.51, easily the worst of his career. He's walking a huge number of batters, and his velocity is also down 2-3 MPH on each of his pitches. For those reasons, I'm not entirely sure how much value contending teams will place upon him.

On the other hand, Masterson has a very good strikeout rate, and has allowed few home runs, and his FIP (more predictive than ERA) is 4.08, which isn't good, but is only a touch worse than the American League average for starting pitches (3.96). This is the first DL stint of his career, he's been a valuable pitcher in recent years, and most teams can always use another starting pitcher. For those reasons, maybe there are teams that would give up some legitimate talent for Masterson.

Masterson will be a free agent at the end of the season. At that point (if they haven't traded him) Indians will have to decide whether or not to extend him a qualifying offer for 2015, likely for ~$14.5. If he accepts that offer, they'll have him back for a year. If he turns it down and signs with another team, the Indians will receive a compensation draft pick at the end of the 1st round.

I'm in favor of the team giving him a QO, because despite his struggles this season (and in the absence of any further evidence of a more serious health issue), I'm willing to roll the dice on him for a year. Pitching contracts are scary, but when they're only for one year, they're not as scary. I tend to think he'd accept the QO. If the Indians are going to trade him now, I think the return has to be something more valuable than the possible compensation pick.

The other potential issue is whether trading Masterson would signify giving up on this season, despite being within 3.5 games of the second Wild Card spot right now. I think the Indians' best chance for making the playoffs is getting Masterson back and having him return to his 2013 form, and so moving him now would eliminate that possibility. I think the team still could make the playoffs without him, but it lowers their chances.

In the absence of an actual offer to opine upon, it's hard to say too much about this possibility, except that it's something for us to keep an eye on during the next three days.