Injury-prone, but reportedly healthy starting pitcher Justin Masterson may be worth a look by the Yankees this offseason in their search for rotation help.
With sure-things available on the free agent starting pitching market, the New York Yankees best chance of upgrading their thin rotation in 2017 may be bringing in a few of the good-when-healthy arms looking for work this offseason.
Rich Hill is the most prominent of this group, but for those who are wary of committing $50-plus million to the 36-year-old, there are some cheaper alternatives available.
One of these is Justin Masterson, who announced in a recent appearance on MLB Network Radio that his agent is “talking to a few teams…looking for a situation that will fit,” before going on to say that he feels “healthy” and “strong”.
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Still just 31-years-old, Masterson is only a few years removed from being a solid front-of-the-rotation option for Cleveland. His most recent successful season was 2013, where he pitched to a 3.45 ERA and 3.35 FIP in 193 IP while striking out 24.5% of batters and walking 9.5%, a performance that earned him a place on the AL All-Star Squad that year.
More recently, however, was Masterson’s disastrous 2015 campaign with the Red Sox, where he worked to a 5.91 ERA and 4.89 FIP in 59.1 IP before being released in August. He spent the majority of 2016 with the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate, putting up a 4.97 ERA and 4.70 FIP in 54.1 IP.
A series of shoulder and knee issues have been the primary culprits behind Masterson’s struggles in recent years. It’s admittedly a long shot that he can come anywhere close to his previous form, but on a minor league deal, there is no real risk to bringing him on board.
If healthy, Masterson would be an especially good fit for Yankee Stadium because of his ability to keep the ball on the ground. He has a career 56.3% groundball rate because of his nasty sinker, which he has thrown 44.9% of the time in his career according to Pitchf/x data.
The Yankees have been known to lure the top minor league free agents with relatively lucrative MiLB offers in recent years, so unless another team is willing to commit guaranteed money to him, they may have a leg up, especially since at the moment have two open rotation spots up for grabs.