Despite being only 3½ games out of a wild-card spot, the Indians are "very willing" to trade Opening Day starter Justin Masterson before Thursday's non-waiver trade deadline, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. Cleveland is looking for young, controllable starting pitching in return.
There is a wrinkle to trading Masterson: He is currently on the disabled list with a knee injury. He is due to return Friday, however, and players can be traded while injured. Jesse Crain went from the White Sox to the Rays while hurt last year, and a few years ago Jake Peavy went from the Padres to the White Sox while on the DL. It's not a deal-breaker, just an obstacle.
Masterson, 29, is due to become a free agent this winter, so he would be a pure rental. The Indians would likely make him a qualifying offer after the season to ensure they receive draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere, but another team would not be able to make a qualifying offer if he's traded. Simply put, the Indians need to receive something more valuable than a supplemental first-round pick to come out ahead.
In 19 games and 98 innings this season, Masterson is 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA. His walk rate (5.1 BB/9) is way up and his sinker velocity (90.5 mph) is down noticeably from last year (93.1 mph). Despite that, Masterson is missing bats (8.5 K/9) and getting ground balls (58.5 percent). He has also been a workhorse, throwing at least 180 innings every year from 2010-13.
Plenty of teams are looking for starting pitching, so, if nothing else, the Indians should receive lots of phone calls about Masterson. Teams like the Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, Angels, Dodgers and Cardinals could all use some rotation help.