Right-hander Justin Masterson has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder and is expected to be healthy in time for Spring Training, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). Masterson, who signed a one-year, $9.5MM contract with the Red Sox this past offseason, struggled mightily in Boston and was ultimately released in mid-August.
At one point, Masterson looked to be primed for a sizable free-agent payday. As a 28-year-old in 2013, Masterson posted a strong 3.45 ERA with 9.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and an excellent 58 percent ground-ball rate in 193 innings of work with Cleveland. Masterson was a year away from free agency at that point, and the Indians were unable to come to terms on a contract extension in Spring Training. Cleveland made a then-questionable-looking decision to pass on reported offers of a two-year deal in the $35MM range that were proposed by Masterson’s camp. In hindsight, their concerns certainly look justified, as Masterson’s career has taken a turn for the worse due to knee and shoulder issues.
Masterson logged a 5.88 ERA in 128 2/3 innings in a walk year that was derailed by the aforementioned knee issues, and the 5.61 ERA he recorded in 59 1/3 innings this season in his return to Boston wasn’t any more encouraging.
If healthy, Masterson would make an intriguing buy-low candidate for teams in need of pitching help this winter. The side-arming righty has twice posted a sub-3.50 ERA in campaigns where he surpassed or very closely approached 200 innings. He routinely ranks among the league leaders in ground-ball rate, and his career mark in that regard is a hefty 56.3 percent.
Masterson’s name has been around for awhile, but he’ll pitch the entirety of next season at the relatively young age of 31, so a rebound shouldn’t be entirely ruled out. He’ll be looking at a sizable pay cut from this year’s $9.5MM salary, but I’d imagine that like Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson last season, his upside and track record could land him a big league deal with a low base salary and a good deal of innings/starts-based incentives.