Thursday, December 11, 2014

Masterson Returns to Red Sox

Masterson, who began his big league career with the Red Sox, will be back next year
The Boston Red Sox persuaded one of their former pitchers to come back, but unfortunately it wasn't Jon Lester. Justin Masterson, who came up with the Sox, was traded to Cleveland in 2009 with two others for Victor Martinez. He briefly blossomed into a star with the Indians, representing them at the 2013 All-Star Game, only to come crashing back to earth last year (7-9 with a 5.88 ERA). The Red Sox are hoping for a bounce back from the 6'6 righthander, who just signed a one-year, $9.5 million pact with his old team.

Masterson's 2014 was plagued by bad luck, meaning there's a big chance he enjoys positive regression in 2015. His BABiP last year, for instance, was .339, easily the worst of his career. Cleveland's poor defense almost certainly had something to do with that. His strand rate was also abnormally low at 64.8 percent (league average is around 72), the lowest of his career. It was also unfortunate that his home run /fly ball rate spiked to 14.6 percent, the second-highest of his career and well above his career rate of 10.5. With an xFIP of 4.03, he didn't pitch nearly as bad as his final numbers suggest, making him a good buy-low.

Still, I'm not sure how wise that is, given that Masterson's largely been a thoroughly mediocre hurler throughout his career (4.24 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) and is going to be 30 next year. Boston's probably banking on him returning to form under old pitching coach John Farrell, who helped get Lester, Clay Buchholz, and John Lackey back on track. If healthy, he could supply around 200 league average innings, which would be quite valuable. Worst case, Masterson winds up in the bullpen (Boston has a full rotation now and is still in the market for an ace) and reverts to his old role as a swingman.

Masterson joins Wade Miley and Rick Porcello as the newest members of Boston's revamped rotation. Masterson's role probably isn't guaranteed given last year's performance, but he'll have every opportunity to crack the starting five. I expect him to bounce back some, but not all the way, leaving Boston with another league average pitcher at best.

The Red Sox added three intriguing, quality arms today. But dammit, they still need an ace.

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