May 3, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson (63) smiles during the game against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

AL Central Breakdown: What Justin Masterson trade means for the Detroit Tigers

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The Cleveland Indians recently completed a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, sending pitcher Justin Masterson to the Cards in exchange for prospect James Ramsey. This trade, though not a blockbuster by any means, could be a good sign for the Detroit Tigers. Not because Masterson was an overpowering force that the Tigers couldn’t handle, but because it signals the fact that the Indians are sellers this year rather than buyers, ultimately removing them from a chance at contention.

The Tigers (58-46) currently sit atop the AL Central with a 5 game lead over the Kansas City Royals (54-52) and a 6.5 game lead over the Indians (53-54). The Indians are also 5 games back of a Wild Card spot. And until Masterson was traded, it was unclear whether Cleveland was looking to buy or sell this trade deadline. Just last season the Indians captured a Wild Card spot only to loose a one-game playoff to the Tampa Bay Rays; but regardless, they still made the postseason. This current season, the Indians are having a tough time in just about every aspect- an underwhelming pitching staff, a lackluster offense, and a league leading 80 team errors. Add Willie Mays Hayes and it’s Major League 4 (maybe that’s over-exaggerating but you get it). But somehow, manager Terry Francona has kept his team afloat.

Jun 12, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Nick Swisher (33) blows a bubble after striking out during the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The Red Sox won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

When a team trades off some of their assets that can help them win right now, it usually means they are considering themselves out of contention. The team traded Masterson, signaling a subtle surrender. But perhaps what they got in return for the 2013 All Star further proves the claim that the team is giving up this season, the Cardinals sent James Ramsey, a 24 year old outfielder that the Cardinals drafted in the 1st round back in 2012. If the Indians thought they were in it, they would have acquired somebody that could start contributing as soon as he got off the plane. Ramsey is a highly touted prospect that will certainly help the Tribe in the future, just not right now. If the team was getting something in return that would help them win now, this situation would be completely different. But when the club is trading for pieces that will help them rebuild, they’re labeled sellers.

The Indians contending from this point on seems unlikely. Don’t completely rule it out but there’s a better chance of Bono showering without his sunglasses.

This has to be good news for the Tigers as it means that any moves the Indians before the trade deadline will most likely be ones where the Indians play the role of the seller. It’s also been strongly rumored that the club will trade SS Asdrubal Cabrera with super-prospect Francisco Lindor on the rise.

Now these moves could be looked at as dumping salaries (both Masterson and Cabrera are free agents following this season) but it seems to be much more than that as trade rumors have swirled around Masterson and Cabrera for three years now, but this year the Indians finally did something. So consider trading their ace of yesteryear a domino effect.

Look at the Indian’s move(s) this way- It’s one less team to worry about when the dog days of August and September roll around. Because when looking at the Tigers recent skid and past season finishes, the team likes to make it close. The Twins have been out of it since Opening Day, the Indians are now sellers and will most likely pose little to no threat to the Central teams.  that leaves the Royals and the Chicago White Sox. Neither have made any division-rattling moves this trade deadline but it seems the Royals have something up their sleeve, if not a few. A couple pieces could make the Royals a force to be reckoned with. As for the Chi-Sox, things seem quiet on the trade front, but they continue to play well against the Tigers and Jose Abreu has essentially put the team on his back, which always keeps them in the hunt.

The Masterson deal could also be bad for the Tigers as it means the Royals and White Sox could possibly gain some ground towards the top of the Central. Both teams already perform well against the Indians; Kansas City is 7-6 against the club this year while the White Sox are 8-5 when playing Cleveland this season. It’s a two way street for the Tigers but expect the team to ultimately benefit from the Justin Masterson trade.

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