It's been quite the busy day in baseball between the Jason Heyward trade and Russell Martin signing, but the Red Sox have been quiet. That doesn't mean there's been no Boston-related news, however, as Jerry Crasnick has the Sox as one of six teams interested in free agent Justin Masterson:
Red Sox fans would have been quite happy with this news a year ago. After the Red Sox sent him to Cleveland in the Victor Martinez trade so many years ago, Masterson put up big years in both 2011 and 2013 for the Indians. 2014, however, was not kind to him. Masterson missed a good chunk of the season with a knee injury, and whether because of the knee or not, struggled throughout much of the year, finishing with a terrible 5.88 ERA on the back of some serious control issues which saw his walk rate spike to 4.83 per nine innings.
Even with that terrible walk rate, Masterson's peripherals suggest he was not quite as bad as his results would suggest. Still, there are serious concerns with a drop in velocity from 93 MPH to 90 MPH on his fastball, and 91 MPH to 88.5 MPH on his sinker. If this is where Masterson really sits now, and not simply a symptom of some nagging injuries, then Masterson is going to need to make some big changes if he wants to bounce back from his awful season.
In the event that he is healthy and his velocity returns as a result, Masterson is still not the top pitcher the Red Sox need at the front of their rotation. However, the Sox definitely do need two pitchers, and making Masterson the second isn't too bad of an idea. Given his 2014 season, he can likely be signed on a short-term deal, and while Fenway is generally not an ideal location for pitchers to rebuild value, Masterson's ground ball tendencies might be enough to make the perceived difficulty of pitching in Fenway more beneficial than its small dimensions are punishing.
Justin Masterson is not a safe choice for a Red Sox team in need of serious rotation help, and in a market with plenty of good starting pitchers available, he's not involved in any of the dream scenarios. Still, if the Red Sox are going to invest heavily in terms of both years and dollars in their first choice, Masterson could provide a good complement to, say, Max Scherzer or Jon Lester. Assuming, of course, that the Red Sox do their due diligence, and have good reason to believe 2015 will be different from 2014.