The Red Sox have added yet another starter, as ESPN's Buster Olney is reporting that they have signed free agent right-hander Justin Masterson. USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that the one-year deal is for $9 million.
Masterson was drafted by the Red Sox back in the second round of the 2006 draft, and was traded to the Indians in the 2009 Victor Martinez deal. Current manager John Farrell used to be Masterson's pitching coach during his brief time with Boston in the majors.
Masterson had a rough 2014, struggling with both the Indians and the Cardinals, despite the magical pixie dust the Cardinals always sprinkle on their project pitchers. He did average 199 innings per year and a 96 ERA+ from 2010 through 2013, however, and had seemingly broken out in the last of those years before 2014's comedown. While this would normally be cause for alarm, a one-year deal that gets Masterson reunited with Farrell makes a lot of sense, especially since, realistically, all it is doing is pushing Joe Kelly to the bullpen as a swingman. That's a role Kelly is familiar with, and as he's under team control, it's a great use of available resources meshing with outside ones to form as much depth as possible.
If the bad version of Masterson shows up, he ends up in the pen and Kelly is a starter once more. Hell, if the bad version of Clay Buchholz shows up, there is already major-league depth there in Kelly. It's worth pointing out, too, that Kelly is a pretty good bullpen piece: he owns a 3.25 ERA in 52 innings and 30 relief appearances in the majors, with 8.4 strikeouts per nine. As a starter, Kelly punches out 5.6 per nine, and is far more reliant on his grounders.
In essence, Masterson is a potential plus, giving the Red Sox someone who has the ability to throw 200 innings of league-average or better baseball. He's a risky signing, sure, but a low-cost, one-year signing, and the Sox have built-in insurance for him in the form of Kelly, as well as the eventual coming of Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez from Pawtucket.
The Red Sox still need to acquire their top-of-the-rotation arm, but all of a sudden, they've combined Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly with Masterson, Wade Miley, and Rick Porcello. That's light years ahead of where they were to start the winter meetings, and they did it all without giving up any major prospects.