Red Sox Release Justin Masterson


The first publicly-made decision by Dave Dombrowski, the new president of baseball operations for the Boston Red Sox, was to release pitcher Justin Masterson. Alex Speier of The Boston Globe tweeted the news yesterday:

The move suggests that the new president doesn’t want to let the crab grass grow more brown under his feet. Masterson was an experiment by the previous general manager Ben Cherington, one of many moves over the past year that didn’t pan out for the Red Sox.

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On August 9th, Masterson was put on waivers in what Boston Globe‘s Nick Cafardo deemed as a set of moves that were “no-brainers.” Cafardo said, “Masterson certainly has not lived up to his $9.5 million price tag,” which did seem high for just an experiment made by a GM who was throwing money at a problem.

Last season, the pitching staff for the Red Sox was in shambles and was disassembled. The starting rotation took the brunt of the hits, sending Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, and Felix Doubront to other teams, leaving only Clay Buchholz as the only starter to remain with the club. The team was 10th out of 15 teams in the American League with a combined 4.01 ERA and allowed 715 runs.

Flash-forward to this season. Cherington added Masterson, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, and Joe Kelly to join Buchholz in the starting rotation. The team ERA stands as the worst in the entire AL at 4.62 and have given up 591 runs in 120 starts, which puts them on pace for 798 runs by the end of the 2015 season. Clearly, that experiment failed before the season has even ended. Cherington may have left by his own will, but there’s enough evidence with the starting rotation alone, given how much the Red Sox paid and gave up for these pitchers, to suggests that he could have been fired at any point.

However, we can’t blame Masterson for the play of his teammates; so let’s look at him as an individual.

Masterson had a number of injuries which made him available for the Red Sox to sign him in the first place. The Cleveland Indians didn’t want him anymore, and the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t re-sign him after trading for him in 2014. Who wants a pitcher after his body has seemingly broken down for longer than a one-year contract? Hence why Masterson signed his deal with Boston.

His combined ERA for the two teams sat at 5.88 and he had an opposing batting average of .283 in 25 starts. This season, between not being able to stay healthy and playing poorly when he was available, Masterson only made 9 starts and posted a 5.61 ERA with hitters batting .289 against him. He tried, but he couldn’t make a go for it, especially not for the starting pitcher money he was given.

He appeared in nine games coming out of the bullpen, where he wasn’t statistically as bad as a starter, but that wasn’t saying much. As a starter Masterson had a 6.14 ERA while having a 4.11 ERA as a reliever. When you give up seven runs in 15.1 innings as a reliever, a job where you’re expected to barely allow any runs at all, you’ll find yourself out of a job very quickly.

For Masterson, the Red Sox, and the disappointed fans,  it took 120 games for them to part ways. It took the new president less than 24 hours to make it happen. Whether it was pride, loyalty, or stubbornness, Cherington never made the move to either release or trade Masterson. Considering that none of the other teams took an interest in Masterson’s services, shouldn’t Cherington have released him sooner, out of respect to the veteran? Instead, the former All-Star had to sit on the bench for a last-place team, twiddling his thumbs in the unlikely chance that he would be put into a relief situation, when he could be paid to sit at home with his family and not have the media all over him? Yes, Cherington was nice enough to give Masterson a chance when nobody else would, but Masterson’s exit now seems like one of cruel neglect.

Cherington may have left the Red Sox because of a difference in philosophies, but if that’s true then maybe it’s better that he’s gone. Judging by the beginning, middle, and end of Masterson’s story with Boston, Cherington’s philosophy doesn’t seem like one that the Red Sox should want for their team, the players, or the fans.

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