Justin Masterson: ace potential with minimal risk


It took me a while to come around to the Justin Masterson signing. At first I thought that, while $9.5M isn’t a particularly expensive deal, that money could be better allocated toward the ace-caliber pitcher that the Red Sox really need, rather than one who posted a 5.88 ERA in 2014. However, as I’ve thought more about the deal, I’ve realized that there’s a legitimate chance that Masterson could be the top flight starter that the Red Sox so badly need and, at the cost of just $9.5M, it represents a very worthwhile bargain for the Red Sox.

Masterson hasn’t always been the most consistent pitcher, but he has certainly shown flashes of belonging at the front of a team’s rotation. In 2011, at the age of 26, Masterson broke out with a 3.21 ERA while tossing 216 innings for the Indians. Then, after a miserable 2012 season in which his ERA ballooned to 4.93, Masterson did it again in 2013, lowering his ERA to 3.45 to go along with a career-high 9.1 K/9.

Plus, while Masterson’s 2014 season was objectively terrible, there are numerous reasons to expect him to turn it around in 2015.

First and foremost among those reasons is Masterson’s health. Masterson spent some time on the disabled list with a knee injury last season, an ailment which likely also impacted his performance when he was on the mound. Masterson’s ailing knee also limited his flexibility, which negatively affected his mechanics and his performance. After an offseason of rest, his knee should be back to full force, which should correct any remaining mistakes in his mechanics.

Even if health doesn’t immediately iron out his mechanics, however, there’s a solid chance that the dynamic duo of John Farrell and Juan Nieves will be able to help him out. Those are the same two coaches that helped Jon Lester, coming off the 2012 season in which he posted a 4.82 ERA, regain his composure to the point of earning a 6 year/$155M contract with the Cubs after finished fourth in Cy Young voting last season. While Masterson may not come close to a Cy Young next year, those two could certainly help him regain his form as a strong #2, or maybe even low-end #1 starter.

The chance that Masterson could serve as an ace for the Red Sox is well worth the $9.5M contract and, even if he flops completely, that contract won’t be an albatross for Boston. The Red Sox could simply stick Masterson in the bullpen and promote some of their young talent for a shot at the majors. All things considered, the reward far outweighs the risk in the Justin Masterson signing.