Cleveland Indians: Masterson Needs to Be Next in Line for Contract Extension

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Cleveland Indians: Masterson Needs to Be Next in Line for Contract Extension
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Masterson would look great in Tribe red for years to come.

One week into the 2012 MLB season, the Cleveland Indians' front office has made two financially sound decisions in re-negotiating the contracts of Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana.

Locking both players up long-term will at least maintain the pulse of the Tribe’s lackluster offense, which has appeared on life-support four games into the season.

It’s evident that the Indians’ anemic offense will have trouble scoring runs in the AL Central. They’re in a lower echelon than that of the front-running Tigers, can’t hang in the same strata as the upstart Royals, and don't merit a seat at the same table as the aging White Sox.

Only the injury-ravaged Twins could have a tougher time scoring runs in the division this season.

If the Indians have any hope of hanging tough with Detroit this season, they’re going to have to do it with pitching.

While their bullpen has been one of the best in the majors the past two seasons, winning begins with solid starting pitching. After their first turn through the rotation, the Tribe appears to have some real promise in Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe.

As they look to solidify their core of young talent, GM Chris Antonetti must realize that Masterson is next in line to receive a well-earned contract extension.

The big sinker-baller produced a breakout season in 2011. While he finished just 12-10 for the year, he endured a span of 11 winless starts in which he received just 22 runs of support.

Masterson kept his ERA under 3.00 for the majority of the season, despite it ballooning to 3.21 by season’s end.

Furthermore, his ability to keep the ball in the yard will pay dividends for a rotation that, while promising, has a tendency to cough up a lot of gopher-balls. Justin gave up just 11 HR in 216 innings pitched last season.

 

How can you NOT love this guy?

I first wrote of the Tribe’s need to extend Masterson back in December, and a rough showing in spring training did nothing to alter my opinion.

A truly dominating Opening Day start against a dangerous Toronto lineup only reiterated the urgency of ensuring that the right-hander remains the ace of Cleveland’s staff for years to come.

Nevermind that Chris Perez had to rear his ugly head to spoil Masterson’s gem in front of a record-setting crowd at Jacobs Field. We will be seeing plenty more dominance from “Nasty Masty” in 2012.

Contrary to public opinion, the Cleveland Indians have been well-served by their front office during the Mark Shapiro/Chris Antonetti era.

Shapiro made a slew of good trades and wise contract extensions during his tenure as Tribe GM.

Overshadowed by the dubious $57 million contract given to DH Travis Hafner in 2007 (which has hampered the Tribe’s financial flexibility ever since) were the more economical extensions given to Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Jhonny Peralta the year prior.

Six years later, the Tribe is two-thirds of the way to locking up three pieces of their young core once again.

Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana will be Cleveland Indians through 2014. If Antonetti wants to ensure the Tribe’s ability to compete and convert some of his detractors still bitter about the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, he’ll move quickly to secure Justin Masterson long-term.
  

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