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Large divide exists between ace Masterson and Tribe on salary proposal for 2014

By Stephanie Storm Published: January 18, 2014

Numerous reports, including one from the Associated Press Saturday, paint a big divide between the Indians and All-Star pitcher Justin Masterson on a suitable salary for the 2014 season that could snap the team’s long-standing tradition of avoiding arbitration.

The AP reported the team’s ace asked for $11.8 million salary, with the club offering $8.05. The resulting $3.75 million difference serves as the largest gap among MLB’s pending arbitration cases, according to Yahoo! Sports baseball columnist Jeff Passan.

The Indians, who haven’t gone to arbitration since 1991 when left-handed pitcher Greg Swindell won his case and infielder Jerry Browne lost, could be headed back to this year’s hearings scheduled to begin Feb. 1 in Florida if a compromise isn't reached soon.  

That’s because Masterson, 28, appears to have a good deal of leverage to support the raise he seeks. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound right-hander was the Tribe’s most dependable starter last season while making $5.69 million. He won a career-best 14 games en route to a 14-10 record with a 3.45 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 32 appearances (29 starts).

Masterson served as the team’s No. 1 starter until he was sidelined with a left oblique injury in September. He came back early and pitched out of the bullpen to help the Indians (who had just demoted closer Chris Perez) clinch a wild-card spot that put the team back in the postseason for the first time since 2007.

Further, both parties had previously stated an interest in discussing a long-term, multi-year deal. That’s an important big-picture subject that an arbitration hearing (which ends with one side winning, not a compromise somewhere in between) could greatly hinder.

Other Tribe Arbitration notes:

· The Indians avoided salary arbitration with reliever Marc Rzepczynski Friday, with the AP noting the left-hander was signed to a one-year contract for $1,375,000.

· Tuesday, the Tribe signed newly acquired left-handed reliever Josh Outman to a one-year deal, which the AP reported is worth $1.25 million.

· Other salary offers (according to AP) between the Indians and their other three arbitration-eligible players are as follows: left fielder Michael Brantley asked for $3.8 million, the Indians countered with $2.7 million and pitchers Vinnie Pestano ($1.45 million versus $975,000) and Josh Tomlin ($975,000 versus $800,000).

. According to Passan, Tomlin requested for the lowest salary among all Major league eligible players.

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