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Indians ace Justin Masterson avoids arbitration, signs one-year deal for $9.76 million; open to long-term contract


CLEVELAND — Justin Masterson won’t be taking that trip to Florida after all.

The Indians’ ace right-hander was scheduled for an arbitration hearing Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla., but instead agreed to a one-year contract Tuesday at the team’s spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz.

Masterson, 28, will earn $9.7625 million in 2014 after going 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA in 32 games (29 starts) last year — his first all-star season. He asked for $11.8 million at arbitration, while the Indians offered $8.05 million.

Masterson, who transitioned into a full-time starter after being acquired in a trade with the Red Sox during the 2009 season, has logged at least 180 innings in each of the past four seasons for Cleveland.

He suffered an oblique injury at the end of last year, finishing the season in the bullpen. He saw action as a reliever in the Indians’ one-game wild-card loss to Tampa Bay.

Masterson told reporters Tuesday in Goodyear that he is still open to a long-term contract with the team and was willing to negotiate into the season, but traditionally the club does not discuss contracts during the season.

General manager Chris Antonetti said the Indians and Masterson would continue to negotiate during spring training.

Masterson told reporters Tuesday afternoon in Goodyear that he and the Indians were close to avoiding arbitration on a one-year deal.

Hours later, the club made it official.

Masterson was the final arbitration-eligible player for Cleveland, which had cases heard (pitchers Vinnie Pestano and Josh Tomlin) for the first time since 1991.

The Indians won both cases and avoided arbitration with left fielder Michael Brantley, who agreed to a four-year contract worth $25 million.

If the Indians and Masterson can’t agree on a multiyear deal, he would become a free agent at the end of 2014.

Cleveland already lost two starters from its rotation this offseason — left-hander Scott Kazmir and right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez — both of whom signed long-term contracts elsewhere.

Kazmir inked a two-year, $22 million deal with the Angels, while Jimenez agreed to a four-year, $48 million contract with Baltimore on Monday.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or Fan him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.

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