By Jared Lankes
If you forgot, like I almost did, the Pirates do indeed have Justin Masterson. He was signed toward the beginning of the season and headed straight to extended spring training to get himself in shape. Everyone passed on him this offseason, even the Pirates. However, the Pirates were able to pluck him away at a good price whether or not he works out. The Pirates made a low risk/high reward signing with him like they do with many pitchers they have or have had in the past.
Justin Masterson is a career 64-74 with a 4.31 ERA, which in turn is very average. However, he has really fallen off since being named an American League All-Star in 2013. Since then, he’s had ERAs of 5.88 and 5.61 in 2014 and 2015 combined between the Indians, Cardinals, and Red Sox. He also hasn’t collected 200 innings since 2012 and his best innings season since then was 2013 when he logged 193 innings. He hasn’t been anywhere close to a workhorse the last 2 seasons, including only pitching 59.1 innings last season. So he hasn’t been able to eat up innings, and it’s clear that he has fallen on hard times.
Masterson has been stretched out to 4 innings so far in extended spring training, so he isn’t even really close to hitting the mound for anyone competitively, let alone in the bigs. Despite all this, many do believe that Justin Masterson will be able to help the big league club in some way, shape, or form. I would tend do agree but he does have many obstacles to get there.
By the time he is ready for the MLB again, the Pirates pitching staff will be stacked after, at the least, Taillon comes up. The move would also put Nicasio to the pen which makes them deeper as well. The depth is only added to if Glasnow and Kuhl come up as well. So finding a spot for Masterson may be difficult, if the young guys perform like they are expected to.
I think Masterson really comes into play if there is an injury or someone isn’t performing well and needs to be replaced. I feel like the Pirates just signed him as an afterthought in the hopes that there was a sliver of hope that he could get his career back. The fact that he seems far away from competitive action and we haven’t really heard about him scares me a bit. I just don’t think he’s in any major plans going forward for the Pirates. He’s basically a fallback option if something were to go wrong. Who knows? We might see him at some point this year; we might not. Time will tell.