By Gary Schatz | Associated Press
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are going down a familiar path with a star pitcher.
Cleveland has suspended talks on a contract extension with ace Justin Masterson, agreeing that it's time to focus on the upcoming season.
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said Friday that the club made a "very competitive" offer to Masterson, but the sides couldn't find common ground. Negotiations broke down with agent Randy Rowley on Thursday.
"I met with Justin this morning," Antonetti said. "At this point we both agreed to table discussions on a multiyear contract and potentially revisit it down the road. But right now the focus will be on preparing for the season."
Masterson, who avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year, $9.726 million salary for 2014, can become a free agent after the season. The right-hander is scheduled to pitch on opening day against Oakland on March 31.
Antonetti said the sides may discuss a new deal at a later unspecified time.
"We made an earnest effort to find common ground and get something done. In the end we weren't able to align," Antonetti said. "We have a profound belief in Justin. He embodies everything we want our players to be. He's a great teammate, a great person and an exceptional performer.
"There remains a desire from our side that he remains here long term. I believe he'd like to be here long term."
Masterson reportedly gave the Indians proposals on two- and three-year contracts at roughly $17 million per season. The Indians are believed to have offered packages at $14 million per year.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Masterson is scheduled to pitch on Friday against Colorado.
The situation isn't a new one for the Indians, who were unable to reach long-term deals in the past with CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee and were forced to trade the former Cy Young Award winners.
Masterson emerged as the staff's No. 1 starter last season, when he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA. He made the All-Star team for the first time.
It's the Indians preference not to negotiate any player contracts during the season, the team is aware of fan reaction concerning the team's long-term goals.
"We are fortunate that Justin is here for this season," Antonetti said. "There will be other junctures where we can explore an extension with him -- it's just not right now. We don't want any distractions but if there is a right time to talk about it, we're open to it."
The Indians signed outfielder Michael Brantley to a four-year, $25 million contract last month. They've had preliminary talks with All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis about an extension, and they could be facing a decision with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who is in the final year of his contract.
Antonetti said the six-year, $105 million contract pitcher Homer Bailey signed with Cincinnati has an influence on the team's talks with Masterson. Bailey is 24-22 the last two seasons while Masterson is 25-25.
"That's one of the contract extensions that's in the marketplace," Antonetti said. "We are very cognizant of that contract but there are others. We made an earnest effort to offer Justin a contract that was fair relative to the marketplace, but we didn't attach it, nor do we ever, attach it to any one contract specifically."
Antonetti would not discuss the possibility of a new deal for Kipnis.
Manager Terry Francona does not expect the breakdown of negotiations to negatively affect Masterson -- or his teammates.
"It won't affect his performance," Francona said. "I don't know how it doesn't affect you. It's a big part of your life, but I think Masty's got his act together. I've never seen someone who had his priorities together as much as Masty."
Francona believes there will be discussion in the clubhouse, but believes his team will stay focused.
"I bet the guys will be bummed out a little. I think they all like him and Chris (Antonetti) wanted to get it done or he wouldn't have tried but it doesn't carry over," he said. "That's the way the game is. That's why they set the deadline, let's not let this go into the season.
"Realistically, you can't sign everybody you want to or everybody would be signed. For the Indians to be talking to him about that type of money, shows how much they like him," he added. "Just because you don't get a deal done doesn't mean you don't respect or care about that player. It has to fit into the parameter of the team."