The Red Sox have long wanted Justin Masterson back, but the Indians aren't having any of it
The pitching market is starting to look like it's broken down into expensive starters that will require long-term deals on one side, and question marks with upside -- but plenty of risk -- on the other. Because of that, it's no wonder that the Red Sox are exploring the trade market to bring in some starting depth. Nor is it surprising to see that, with former pitching coach John Farrell now the manager, that they would be once again exploring one of the arms that got away. Ken Rosenthal:
This has pretty much been the story since Boston traded him back in 2009. Red Sox want Masterson, Indians not willing to give him back for suggested price. Play a few months, call Cleveland again, rinse, repeat. Here we are now, at the winter meetings, Boston's in need of some pitching help, and Masterson's name pops up again.
Sadly, there's no word out there on just what it is the Red Sox are offering in exchange for the right-handed Masterson, who has two years of team control remaining and is in his second season of arbitration. You'd probably be right if you guessed something along the lines of a B-prospect, though, maybe Drake Britton or Stolmy Pimentel in order to even out the effects on the 40-man roster. That price seems appropriate for a pitcher who has shown durability and an ability to throw 200 innings in a season with Cleveland, but has yet to consistently capitalize on the upside he has shown at various points in his career.
Masterson's time in Boston was very good, though, with the righty throwing 160 innings with a 124 ERA+ between 2008 and 2009. He worked mostly out of the bullpen, but also started 15 games. Given how productive he is against his fellow right-handers -- Masterson has limited them to a .224/.304/.302 line and struck out 2.7 times as many as he's walked in his career -- he would even make sense for the Red Sox out of the bullpen as a long-relief option with the ability to start, meaning that acquiring Masterson wouldn't necessarily mean the end of their chase for starting pitching help.
Think of him as the right-handed analogue to lefty Franklin Morales, who is already in a similar situation in the Red Sox bullpen. This might be the way to acquire starting pitching depth without having to invest in the Aaron Cooks of the world once more, and his acquisition would further narrow the field for the bullpen projects Boston has stocked up. He would likely cost more than $5 million in arbitration due to his previous time as a starter, but that's not a ridiculous sum, especially if he ends up having to start some.
Of course, it will take the Indians being willing to move him for the prices Boston are suggesting, and as Rosenthal says, that isn't happening yet. Given some time, the two sides might work something out, though.