Would Justin Masterson be the right pitcher for the White Sox?


Aug 30, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Justin Masterson (63) delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

One player I’m not 100-percent sold on the Chicago White Sox and their interest in free agent right-handed pitcher Justin Masterson from the way he pitched last season with the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals.

The reason I mention him in writing about the Chicago White Sox is The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote the following in an article late in November:

"“As for the White Sox, if good impressions count, Masterson is golden. He’s 9-6 with a 2.36 ERA lifetime against them.”"

The article also stated:

"“Masterson, 30, has received inquiries from the four other teams in the AL Central – Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota and Chicago. The Chicago Cubs have shown interest as well.”"

In ’14, Masterson was 7-9 overall with a 5.88 ERA in 28 games, including 25 starts. With the Indians (19 starts in ’14), the RHP had an ERA of 5.51, and with the Cardinals, his ERA was 7.04 (nine games, six starts).

The strikeout numbers for Masterson declined as well last season with 116 in 128 innings pitched, but he did pitch in 64 fewer innings than he did in ’13 when he collected 195 strikeouts, a career-high in a season with 32 games played (29 starts).

Jul 1, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson (63) in the first inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

For his seven-year career, Masterston has racked up 1,141.2 innings pitched and has walked 471 batters, including 69 last season, amounting to a 3.9 BB9 (9xBB/IP) in his stints with the Indians and Cardinals.

What I do like about Masterson is he’s familiar with the AL Central, so that is one plus in signing Masterson, but on the other hand, the AL Central is familiar with Masterson as well.

Masterson is just one season removed from being an All-Star with the American League, but I question if last year was a sign of things to come for the 6-6, 250-pound pitcher, or if it was one of those seasons that just got away from the hurler.

The last time Masterson had a positive WAR (wins above replacement) was the ’13 season when it was 3.4. In ’11, he amassed a WAR of 4.1, but last season with the Indians it was -0.8 and with the Cardinals it was -0.9, so who knows what type of pitcher Masterson will be next season?

In his final 10 appearances last season (from July 7-Sept. 28), Masterson went 3-4 with a 7.99 ERA in 32.2 innings. In that span, he also allowed 41 hits, 29 earned runs and 16 walks and finished with 24 strikeouts.

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Again, that leaves me to question what type of pitcher will he be next season? Also remember in July, Masterson was on the disabled list with a sore right knee, which also had to affect his pitching performances last season.

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Then again, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports wrote the following on Masterson on Nov. 26:

"“Entering 2014, Masterson looked like he might wind up in the same category as James Shields, only younger. But a lingering ribcage injury from 2013 he never told anyone about wrecked his ‘14 season. It was diagnosed in September — too late for his walk year — but in time to help the new team.”"

Heyman also wrote that Masterson “he had the highest groundball rate among free-agent starters.”

So if it was injuries that caused the ’14 season to be his worst of his MLB career, maybe Heyman is correct in saying Masterson is a “bargain player” this free agency period. On the other hand, if the White Sox are unable to trade for Jeff Samardzija, would Masterson be the RHP the White Sox are looking for to round out a starting rotation that needs back of the rotation help?

As I stated in at the beginning of the article, I’m not 100-percent comfortable in signing Masterson, but I do feel he would be an upgrade on the RHP that was in the rotation last season for the White Sox.

If the price is right for Masterson, then why not take a chance on him? If he turns out to have another ’14-type season, then that I believe would spell disaster for the team on the South Side next season, and that wouldn’t be a good thing for all involved.