Masterson: Blockbuster trades good for the game
Tigers may not have Prince, but Tribe starter knows they're still a force
CLEVELAND -- Forget about the implications for the American League Central landscape for a moment. When the Tigers traded slugger Prince Fielder to the Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler on Wednesday night, it was proof that blockbuster trades live on in baseball.
Indians starter Justin Masterson believes that is good for the game.
"I didn't expect that," Masterson said on Thursday. "Just in general, I kind of enjoy seeing some big trades, just because it's fun, it's exciting. I'm a fan of the game, too. It was kind of neat to see that. Who knows? Maybe that's just a taste of what may be coming for this offseason."
The blockbuster swap may have had Masterson's inner fan excited, but the reality is he will be tasked with facing the new-look Tigers on the mound. This past season, Cleveland made the postseason as the top American League Wild Card team, but finished one game behind Detroit in the division, which has been locked down by the Motor City ballclub for three straight years.
For the past two years, Fielder served as a slugging cleanup hitter behind Miguel Cabrera, who captured the AL Most Valuable Player Award in both seasons. The powerful duo had its way at times with the Indians, who won just four of their 19 meetings with the Tigers in 2013.
As far as the Indians are concerned, Masterson did not mind seeing Fielder leave the division.
"Obviously, it affects the Central," Masterson said. "Now, a big left-handed hitter is out, and you bring in Ian Kinsler. That's always nice for a right-handed pitcher."
Kinsler has hit just .154 (2-for-13) in his career against Masterson, so it is easy to understand the pitcher's take on the situation.
As for Fielder -- owed $168 million over the final seven years of the nine-year, $214 million pact he penned with the Tigers three winters ago -- he boasts a .316 (6-for-19) career average against Masterson. The man who hit in front of him, Cabrera, has hit .368 (14-for-38) with two home runs, six walks and 11 RBIs in his career against the sinkerballer.
With Fielder no longer in the fourth slot for the Tigers, the cleanup duties could fall to switch-hitter Victor Martinez.
Masterson -- Cleveland's No. 1 starter and an AL All-Star last season -- believes Martinez is more than capable of protecting Cabrera in the lineup.
"I don't think it changes a whole lot," said Masterson, referring to pitching to Cabrera without Fielder behind him in the lineup. "It depends on what Victor you're going to get. Last year, at the beginning of the year, Victor started off slow and struggled a little bit. But then he came on hot in the second half and was great. I imagine he'll be that protection. If he does what he can do, I don't think you're losing too much."
Martinez, who hit .301 with a .785 OPS overall in 2013, posted a .258/.314/.380 slash line in the first half before erupting with a .361/.413/.500 showing after the All-Star break.
"Maybe you're losing a touch of that power that Prince brings," Masterson said. "But it won't be much different. Miguel, he's done his thing so well and almost had nobody behind him at certain points in time. That's still going to be one of those where you've got to be leery of who's behind him in Victor Martinez.
"They've lost a bat in Prince, but there's still some fire. They just maybe lost a little bit of that firepower that was there."
Masterson was certainly caught off guard by the trade.
"You definitely wouldn't have seen that one coming," he said. "It's that business aspect. There's people talking about how Omar Infante is going to be a free agent, or maybe [the Tigers] are clearing up some money so they can pursue Max Scherzer and try to lock him down. There's countless other things. Maybe they see a higher value in that than they do in having a big left-handed first baseman."