Red Sox likely to move Justin Masterson to bullpen


When the Red Sox signed Justin Masterson to a 1 year/$9.5M contract, the expectation was that he was a high-upside arm poised for a rebound year. Masterson had struggled with injuries in 2014 and, after an offseason to recover, most anticipated him locking down the back end of the rotation. However, things have not exactly gone as planned with regards to Masterson.

After seven miserable starts, in which he posted a 6.37 ERA and saw his average fastball velocity dip to a career-low 87.6 mph, it’s not looking like he’ll be starting again anytime soon. Since Masterson went to the “phantom DL” in May, the Red Sox rotation has added a member and secured another. The emergence of Eduardo Rodriguez, who has been as dominant as one could reasonably expect through five starts, and Wade Miley, who has a 3.83 ERA since the start of May, has essentially filled the Red Sox rotation.

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Sure, the Red Sox could move Joe Kelly to the bullpen in place of Masterson, but not only has Kelly been better than Masterson this season, he’s also a part of the team’s future. So, with that being said, the Red Sox have left Masterson with two options.

The 6’6″ sinkerballer can either accept a bullpen role for the rest of the season or he can make another rehab start at Pawtucket and evaluate his options. As it’s unlikely that a rotation spot will open up in the near future (barring an injury), this is essentially a question of whether Masterson wants to move to the bullpen or be designated for assignment.

Perhaps he’ll choose the DFA, but there’s hope that Masterson could be a useful reliever, albeit with a high price tag. Throughout his career, he has had trouble facing left-handed hitters to the point where it’s actually remarkable he’s started consistently for so long. Those troubles have not gone away in 2015 as he’s allowing lefties to hit .297/.390/.511 versus .260/.383/.420 and, though neither of those slash lines is particularly good, his performance against lefties is nothing short of awful.

As a reliever, the Red Sox would be able to limit his opportunities to fail against left-handed hitters and likely provide for a better overall performance. Plus, given that Masterson is stretched out to start, he could save the ‘pen by going multiple innings in relief. Whether or not he fully turns it around this season, he’s probably finished as a starter and pitching in relief could be his last chance to stick as a major leaguer. The Red Sox might give him a bit of time to decide if this is what he wants, but it’s the best decision for both him and the Red Sox.