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The Spin Cycle: What to do with Jimenez, Kazmir and Masterson?

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The season is over.

It’s still hard for me to decompress from that statement and the 2013 season, but it’s time to close the doors on a fantastic run to the playoffs. I’ll focus my next Corner of Carnegie and Ontario on this 2013 team, but it’s time to move the power poll forward, and start taking a look at the 2014 season and beyond.

Last week’s question was ‘What should Terry Francona do with Chris Perez?’ This question got a clear majority from IBI’s faithful readers.

The poll received 215 total votes, and 128 of those voters, or 59.53% of the entire vote wanted Chris Perez to be “booted off the playoff roster.” This isn’t surprising considering his final performance with the Cleveland Indians almost cost them their shot at the playoffs. 68 of the voters, or 31.63% of the voters wanted to see Perez left in the bullpen, but not as the closer. Only 19 voters, or 8.84% of the vote thought that he should be allowed to earn his way back as the Indians’ primary closer.

The results of what actually happened, or would have happened with Perez, are now a bit murky. The Indians and Terry Francona placed Perez on the 25-man roster for the one-game playoff, but he didn’t make an appearance in the Indians’ loss. It’s not known whether or not Perez would have been an addition to the actual ALDS playoff roster or not, so really all camps can go home satisfied, for now.

This week’s question focuses on the future of the Cleveland Indians’ starting rotation.

The 2013 rotation ultimately consists of six current pitcher: Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber, Scott Kazmir and Zach McAllister. Four of those starters, Masterson, Salazar, Kluber and McAllister will be back for the 2014 season. Salazar, Kluber and McAllister are the only three starters that are locked for 2015 and beyond, not taking into account any of the minor league pitchers, such as Cody Anderson, Trevor Bauer or even Carlos Carrasco.

The three players in which the Power Poll will focus on this week are Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson and Scott Kazmir. Jimenez and Kazmir will likely be free agents come the end of the World Series, and Masterson will be in a similar position next year. Assuming that none of the players will accept or be tendered an offer, who will the Indians sign, and how will the Indians handle the starting pitching rotation going forward?

It’s impossible to configure a poll with all the possibilities, so I’m just going to focus on these three, excluding the possibility that the Indians may go an entirely different route altogether, but let’s take a look at the three potential free agents, and what they could be offered.

Justin Masterson: Masterson is the wildcard contract of the bunch, considering the fact that he isn’t a free agent until the end of the 2014 season. So, why consider him in this power poll? It’s easy. Whatever the Indians should decide to do with Kazmir and Jimenez in 2013 will directly influence what they do with Masterson next year.

What is Masterson worth? Fangraphs has his 2013 value at nearly $17 million per year, and as the Indians ONLY consistent starter over the past three seasons, you can bet that his agent knows this number.  His value over the past three seasons is $44 million dollars, and he is still in his prime.

You have to believe that Masterson’s ceiling is going to be in the five-year, $100 million area, and that a worst case scenario will have him in the Anibal Sanchez area of five-years, and $80 million. Sanchez signed that deal prior to turning 29 years old. If Masterson were to sign a deal this year, it would be prior to his 29th birthday. The mirror there is obvious.

Masterson’s upside is simple. He’s consistently good, and he goes deep into ballgames consistently.

Masterson’s downside is simple. He can give up runs in droves when he’s not hitting his marks, and he’s reached his upside.

What will Masterson inevitably get if he waits until after 2014?

What will the Indians offer him? Will the Indians offer to extend his contract prior to 2014, and will he accept it if they do?

Will the Indians let Masterson’s contract status influence what they do in 2014 with regards to Kazmir and Jimenez?

You have to believe that Masterson is at the top of the list, right?

Ubaldo Jimenez: Jimenez was phenomenal in 2013, and while he was the best starter for the Indians during the second half of the season in 2013, we all know his baggage. Jimenez has a mutual option for the 2014 season at eight million. Cleveland will certainly want that deal. Jimenez will turn it down. Cleveland will certainly tender Jimenez a one-year deal at around $14 million. Jimenez will likely turn that down.

Fangraphs has his 2013 value at slightly above $16 million dollars, but below Masterson’s nearly $17 million dollar value.  You do have to keep in mind that while Masterson was much more consistent over the long haul of 2013, but that Jimenez had a second half that Masterson hasn’t really ever matched. Of course, prior to that, Jimenez had 1 ½ years in which he was arguably the worst pitcher in baseball. Jimenez also has a three-year value of just over $20 million dollars…and like Masterson, he is in his prime.

What is the true value of Ubaldo Jimenez? While his agent will try and say that those 1 ½ years were a fluke, most teams will ponder whether or not 2013 was a launching off point for Jimenez, or whether or not it was an amalgam.

You have to believe that Ubaldo, being not even arguably one of the top two or three free agent starters during this offseason, has a ceiling in that five-year, $100 million dollar area. His floor is going to be somewhere in that realm of five-years and $80 million as well. The unknown with Jimenez is really how much teams value him based on his prior two seasons, and whether or not they want to offer him a five-year deal, or something less with options. Jimenez is about to turn 30.

Jimenez has to be looking at Mickey Callaway and Terry Francona’s influence, and weighing that with his dramatic 2013 improvement. Might that be in play here?

Will the Indians offer Jimenez a long-term deal after Jimenez turns down both $8 million and $14 million?

Will Jimenez turn down the $14 million, or is it possible he takes that deal? The big question here is do you take a risk on a guy that seemed to have a horrible psyche prior to 2013 before recovering, and whether or not he’s an ace or a mistake-prone-pitcher-ready-to-happen.

If he’s the guy at the end of 2013 though, his upside is higher than Masterson. He’s an ace in that scenario, and a dominant one at that.

Scott Kazmir: There may not have been a better story in baseball than Scott Kazmir. He wasn’t as dominant over any stretch of baseball than both Masterson and Kazmir, but he certainly had games in which he was every bit as good as he was in his prime. When you combine that with the fact that he hadn’t played meaningful professional baseball in two full seasons, it really brings this all into perspective.

Fangraphs has Kazmir’s value in 2013 at $12.7 million, which is rightfully below both Jimenez and Masterson. The argument for Kazmir really isn’t on par with the other two guys, but really, as a supplemental player. Of course, some may say that Kazmir’s value could end up in that $13-15 dollar range based on the fact that he is a lefty, and that he may be climbing the ladder to the pitcher he was prior to 2009.

If he is climbing that ladder, than he’s clearly an ace. The problem is that his future is hazy because there is nothing to fall back on with regards to recent body of work.

What do you offer Kazmir though? Clearly he isn’t going to be offered a four or five year deal (if he is, he’ll take it for sure), so what should the Indians offer him? You have to believe that the wheel house is going to be a two or three year deal in the $12-$15 million range right now. It could be slightly below that based on the fact that his three-year value is that $12.7 million number. There’s just so much unknown.

Kazmir is 29 as well (his birthday is two days after Jimenez), but there are durability concerns.

Will he build on his 2013 season in 2014, or will he begin to falter after throwing a full season for the first time in two years?

Will the Indians be willing to offer him a two or three-year deal on top of potentially signing Ubaldo and/or Justin Masterson?

Will Kazmir be willing to take perhaps a two-year deal with the Indians, with an option at the end, or even with incentives?

Will Kazmir be a casualty of the fact that Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson will be the focus of the cash delivery?

Before we attack this poll, keep this in mind. The money that’s ultimately offered will be fluid, so I’m going to assume that the money they’ll be offered are the numbers that I mentioned in this column. I realize that ultimately, those numbers and years could be flawed, but If I start diving into the different levels of money that each pitcher could get, it could get complicated.

Taking that into account, what will the Indians do in 2014 and beyond with these three pitchers?

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