Justin Masterson trade rumors: Yankees want Indians' SP in 3-way deal

Jared Wickerham

The Yankees would trade Brett Gardner to a third team, who would in turn help the Yankees land the Indians' top starting pitcher.

The New York Yankees are hoping to acquire Indians pitcher Justin Masterson in a three-way deal that would also include Yanks outfielder Brett Gardner, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

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The two sides would need a third team to be involved in the deal because the Indians have no need for another outfielder at this time and, thus, would be unwilling to trade their top starting pitcher for a center fielder. Michael Bourn is locked into center for Cleveland with Michael Brantley in left. David Murphy was signed earlier in the offseason to help in right field.

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It appears there is no third team ready to enter a deal right now, however. So, well the Yankees would like to pull off this deal, they are still looking for another team that could make all the pieces match up.

The as-of-yet non-existent third team would have to be willing to give up a significant piece or two to the Indians in the deal while receiving Gardner. Cleveland fell just one game short of the Tigers for the AL Central crown and are hoping to compete for a division title again in 2014. However, they have already lost Scott Kazmir to the Athletics in free agency with Ubaldo Jimenez also free to sign with any team this offseason. If Jimenez does not return, trading Masterson would mean the Indians are heading into 2014 with just 2/5 of their starting rotation from last season still in place. For a team hoping to compete, they would either need a valuable player at another position of need or someone to replace Masterson.

Gardner, 30, no longer has a guaranteed spot starting in the Yankees outfield following the signings of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Those two will start in center field and right field respectively, with Alfonso Soriano likely remaining in left. New York also has Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells in the outfield as well. Gardner is an outstanding defensive outfielder with a lot of speed on the basepaths. He hit .273/.344/.416 over 145 games in 2013 and has a career 759 OPS.

Masterson, 28, has had his ups and downs over a six-year career. He posted a 3.21 ERA with Cleveland in 2011, then fell back the next year to a 4.93 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. Last season was arguably the best of his career as he earned a 3.45 ERA over 29 starts and three relief appearances along with a 1.20 WHIP and what was by far a career-high 195 strikeouts.

Both Masterson and Gardner have one year of team control remaining, making them free agents after the 2015 season.

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