After winning 92 games and a Wild Card berth in 2013, the last thing the Cleveland Indians would want to do is trade away staff ace Justin Masterson, who is currently the lone projected starter with at least one full big league season under his belt. If anything, they need to add another reliable starter to the mix.
But with the 28-year-old entering his last season before he can become a free agent and contract extension talks on hold, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a trade is something they should at least consider.
The wide $3.75 million gap in the salary proposals for the arbitration hearing to determine Masterson's 2014 salary—Masterson is asking for $11.8 million; the Indians are offering for $8.05 million—is also likely an indication of why talks didn't go very far.
If it has become clear that the All-Star right-hander doesn't fit into the team's long-term plans because his perceived value isn't anywhere near the organization's line of thinking, dealing him prior to Opening Day could be the best "big picture" move the team could make.
The Indians could deal him prior to the trade deadline, but only if the team was well out of playoff contention. With Masterson in the mix, this team is probably too good to fall into that scenario.
Of course, it would be unfathomable to think that the Tribe would deal Masterson now unless they could replace his production prior to the start of the season. In fact, manager Terry Francona tried to squash trade rumors earlier in the offseason by calling Masterson and telling him he wouldn't be traded, according to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.
But if a scenario presented itself that would allow the Indians to remain competitive in 2014 and beyond, Francona might have to go back on his word. That's why you never say "never." Signing Ervin Santana or re-signing Ubaldo Jimenez would qualify as one of these scenarios, as would a trade that involves a major league pitcher returning to Cleveland to go along with the signing of Bronson Arroyo.
Without either of those two combinations happening, the team would have an extremely difficult time holding up for a 162-game season.
Here are four teams that would likely be interested in Masterson and the potential trade packages that could land him.