Pitching Notes

February 15, 2014

Rejoice everyone – today is the day that the full squad is due to report in Goodyear!  Full team workouts will begin, with the first game scheduled for Wednesday, February 26 against the Reds in Goodyear.

There are a couple of items to note today, and both involve pitching.  Josh Tomlin’s arbitration hearing was yesterday, the second this month for the Indians after Vinnie Pestano lost his claim last week.  As I mentioned last weekend, Tomlin asked for $975,000 while the Indians countered with $800,000.  The Indians won the hearing, meaning that Tomlin will earn the lower amount in 2014.  The Indians are now 2-0 in arbitration hearings, after they won their claim to pay Pestano $975,000 this season, rather than his requested $1.45 million.

One of the other things I mentioned last week was one of the reasons the Indians tried to avoid arbitration with their players over the past 23 years – that the process led to bad feelings with players.  The hearing with Pestano seemed to confirm those fears, since Pestano was agitated with some of the statements the Indians made during the process.  Primarily, the fact that they used some of his own statements against him.  While Pestano called his trip to Triple-A the Indians’ “silver bullet” in their argument for a lower salary, he mentioned that he will now think twice about the statements he makes in public.  I can see where the process causes bad feelings, because a team is basically telling an arbitrator why they feel the player isn’t worth enough money right in front of them.

So out of the four arbitration cases the Indians had to deal with (Pestano, Tomlin, Michael Brantley, and Justin Masterson) they are 2-0 with one hearing remaining (Masterson).  The Indians already settled with Michael Brantley on an extension, while Masterson is due for a hearing on February 20.  I’m always looking for some kind of hidden meaning in a team’s decisions, even if I happen to be reading too much into a particular situation.  By settling with Michael Brantley on a long-term deal, yet taking Pestano and Tomlin to arbitration, perhaps they don’t see the two pitchers as a major influence on the team’s fortunes going forward?  Perhaps they’re uncertain of Tomlin’s ability to contribute following his Tommy John surgery, and just don’t want to overvalue/overpay a relief pitcher, even if that pitcher has a record of success prior to last season?  Unless evidence of this just didn’t reach the public, it sounds like the Indians didn’t make a huge effort to ink Pestano or Tomlin, while they negotiated with Brantley and reportedly negotiated with Masterson before tabling talks.

In other news:

The Indians inked Aaron Harang to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.  Harang spent 2013 with the Seattle Mariners and the New York Mets.  He was traded to Seattle from the Colorado Rockies at the start of the 2013 season; the Mariners designated him for assignment at the end of August.  The Mets picked him up for the rest of the year.  Harang, who spent most of his career in the National League, did much better in September after he returned to the senior circuit.  He had a roller coaster season in Seattle, but the wheels really fell off in August, when he allowed seven earned runs in three of his six starts.  Harang pitched two shutouts earlier in the season though, and allowed just one run five different times.  He’s a candidate for a fifth starter’s role, although I would have fears of him pulling a Derek Lowe –  strong start to the season followed by a disaster every time he stepped on the mound.  He’ll join the list of pitchers that will be competing for a spot in the rotation this spring.


  • Gvl Steve says:

    Tomlin should never have gone to a hearing. He has a career 4.90 ERA (ok in 1995, not so good now) and missed the last year and half with injury. I like the guy, especially the 5+ inning streak, but he’s lucky he didn’t get non-tendered.

    Masterson will win his hearing. $8MM is way too low for a No. 1 starter 3rd time eligible coming off a good year. The team needs to settle, even at $10M or 10.5M. The case is a loser for the team and will only bring ill will and bad PR.

    Harang is an NL guy. If he makes the staff we are in trouble. We need Ubaldo.

  • Stephanie Liscio says:

    Yeah, I’m wondering if a deal with Masterson may be on the horizon, since his hearing isn’t until the 27th. I was kind of surprised that Tomlin wasn’t interested in making a deal…especially since he wasn’t *that* much above their offer in the first place.

    • Steve T. says:

      I’ve always wondered how much of this was the player and how much was the player’s agent. A young guy with dollar signs in his eyes might be tempted to reach a bit too far if a “sage financial pro” is whispering in his ear that he should go for it.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    I’d love to see a multiyear deal with Masterson, but fear the lure of free agency will be irresistible. Maybe the slow market for starters with draft pick compensation this offseason will chill his desire for free agency. The Indians will certainly tag him with a qualifying offer.

  • Sean Porter says:

    I just read an article by Paul Hoynes that Homer Bailey – who is roughly the same age with similar stats as Masterson – is possibly going to avoid arbitration with the Reds by signing a multi-year deal with Cincinnati.

    What’s the rumored extension being offered to Bailey, you ask? 6 years, nearly $100 million.

    If that happens, I’d consider it a long shot that the Tribe retains Masterson past this season.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    Bailey is a year younger, has gotten better every year whereas Masterson has been up and down, and has better BB and K rates. However, the differences are minor and the players are very similar otherwise. I agree that this probably raises the market for Masterson beyond the Indians’ ability to pay. He gone. As I’ve said many times, the time to sign Justin to a multiyear deal was two years ago, but the team wanted to see more. Well, they’ve seen it, and so has everyone else. If you can’t pay top buck, then you can’t wait for the guy to become a star before you try to lock him up, because by then it is too late. The same goes for Kipnis.