Red Sox must cut ties with Justin Masterson


It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why, but it’s safe to say that the Justin Masterson experiment has failed in Boston. Perhaps it’s the fact that his average fastball velocity has dipped to the mid 80’s, or maybe his utter lack of command, but whatever it is, it’s no longer a small enough sample size to be dismissed.

In a rotation filled with disappointments, Masterson has emerged as the clear candidate to be the first man out. Through Masterson’s first seven starts of the season, he has averaged just over 5 innings per starts en route to a 6.37 ERA. That ERA is backed by similarly unsightly peripherals, with his FIP (5.31) and xFIP (5.06) failing to suggest that Masterson has been significantly unlucky. In addition, Masterson’s 4.8 BB/9 ties last season’s career high, but though Masterson was still punching out 8.1 per nine innings last season, that mark has fallen to only 6.1 this time around.

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With the 15-18 Red Sox desperately searching for a boost in the rotation, it’s time for Masterson to go.

The Red Sox have been lauded for their pitching depth in the upper minors and it’s relatively easy to assume that either Brian Johnson or Eduardo Rodriguez would be a significant improvement over Masterson. Signed to a 1 year/$9.5M contract this offseason, the Red Sox are not locked into any longterm commitment with Masterson and it would not be unheard of for the team to simply designate him for assignment and take the loss on the contract.

In fact, for the Red Sox to contend this season, it’s almost a must that they do just that. Peripherally speaking, the rest of the Red Sox rotation has not been nearly as bad as Masterson. Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello are likely to iron out the kinks in their rough starts and both have looked better lately. Wade Miley has also improved in his recent starts and his 4.31 FIP suggests that his ugly 6.91 ERA is a mirage and, though Joe Kelly is likely destined for the bullpen, he is more a part of the team’s future than Masterson.

Last night’s horrendous outing against the A’s, in which Masterson allowed 6 earned runs in just 2.1 innings pitched, might be the catalyst which leads to the Red Sox removing Masterson from the rotation. Manager John Farrell spoke on Masterson’s recent performance, indicating that some rotation changes could be in line.

"Yeah, the last two times out for Justin have not been anything close to what he’s even shown this year. Clearly, he’s not right. Whether that’s physical, whether that’s delivery-wise, the ball not coming out of his hand as he’s shown for the better part of this year. We’ve got to gather some information overnight. We’ve got to check on him when he comes in in the morning, go through a full workup and just kind of get a better assessment of where things are."

But with Masterson struggling mightily with both his command and even reaching the high 80’s with his fastball, it’s difficult to be optimistic about his future performance. Whether the Red Sox designate Masterson for assignment or simply send him on a phantom trip to the disabled list to glean whether Rodriguez or Johnson is major league ready, don’t expect Masterson to stick around much longer. It’s a shame that the experiment failed, but there comes a point when it’s time to simply cut the team’s losses and that time is now.