Red Sox Sign Doug Mathis, Looking at Joe Saunders


Sticking to the plan that he laid out in his first weeks on the job, Ben Cherington signed another pitcher that would be deemed a low value, low risk investment.  Doug Mathis is the latest pitcher to join the Red Sox organization this winter, signing a minor-league deal that could see the righty start the season in AAA Pawtucket.

Mathis, 28, hasn’t had much of a chance to unpack his suitcase over the past couple of years, after never really settling in with one club for two long.

Last season saw Mathis make 17 minor league starts between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s organizations.  He went winless at 0-5 with a 4.27 ERA before being released by Oakland in July.  It was then that he caught on with the Samsung Lions of Korea and would win a league title, backed some decent numbers; 5-2 record with an ERA of 2.52.

Mathis does have three years of major league level experience, pitching for the Texas Rangers from 2008-10.  Over the three years he appeared in 45 games compiling an ERA of 4.84 with a WHIP of 1.62 in 87.1 innings of work, mainly in relief.  This is another typical little risk, with some good reward possibility type of signing.

In other news surrounding the Red Sox attempt to improve their pitching, the club has been rumored to be expressing interest in the Arizona Diamondbacks lefty, Joe Saunders.

When the D’backs traded for Trevor Cahill last week, it all but put the writing on the wall for Saunders and now the D’backs appear ready to move the lefty.

Saunders could be a nice addition to the Red Sox rotation.  Last year in Arizona he went 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA to go with a WHIP of 1.307.  He logged over 212 innings of work making it three consecutive years he’s gone over 200 innings.  The two previous seasons with the LA Angels he worked in 186 and 198 innings respectively.  So to say he’s a bit of a workhorse would be fitting.

With the loss of John Lackey and quite possibly Tim Wakefield, the Red Sox starting rotation is in need of an arm that can chew up the innings that both Lackey and Wake logged last season.

Saunder’s ERA last season was a career best for him and an average ERA north of 4.00 is somewhat concerning.  But when you consider that John Lackey had an ERA over 6.00 last year and still won 12 games, Saunders could win 14 to 15 games despite an ERA typically around 4.00.  With the potent Red Sox offense, as long as Saunders can keep the ball in the yard for the most part, he would make a great fifth starter.

He doesn’t strikeout a lot of batters, averaging 5.0 strikeouts per 9 innings.  He’s pitched well at Fenway throughout his career, albeit a small sample size.  He’s gone 3-1 with a 4.60 ERA while fanning 20 batters and walking 15.

One real concerning statistic on Saunders is his drop in velocity on his fastball.  According to, Saunders saw his fastball drop to an average of 89.1 mph, the lowest in his career.  As Alex Speier of WEEI notes, it could be a coincidence that his strikeout ratio fell to an all career low of 4.6 per nine innings.  Something that could hurt him against the powerful AL East teams.

From a contract standpoint, Saunders made $5.5 million last season and is arbitration eligible this winter.  As Speir writes, Saunders is considered by many to be a non-tendered candidate, making him a free agent.  If the Red Sox are serious about trading for Saunders it would likely mean giving up a couple of prospects, albeit nothing of considerable notion.

This is a tough one to call.  While Saunders would be relatively cheap and could log a lot of innings, something the Sox are in need of, his lack of power with the fastball to make batters swing and miss is a potential disaster.

I still think there are some free-agents available that would be a greater option than trading for Saunders, but should Cherington make the move on the lefty, I won’t necessarily dismiss the idea either.  I guess I’m getting to the point where I’d like to see some moves that have some major league ready talent coming to Boston.  Patience only last for so long.

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