Pittsburgh Pirates interested in Justin Masterson


The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking at Justin Masterson as an option to fill their fifth rotation spot, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Travis Sawchik.

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Pittsburgh is in need of pitching depth, with A.J. Burnett retiring and Vance Worley being lost on waivers to the Baltimore Orioles. Masterson is likely seeking a one-year deal to rebuild his stock after struggling with injuries the last two seasons, so he could provide the Pirates with some production at a much less steep financial commitment than other pitchers of his tier.

The aforementioned injuries limited Masterson to just 18 appearances (nine starts) in 2015, and he pitched just 128.2 innings between Cleveland and St. Louis in 2014. The former second-round pick is still just 30, however, and is two seasons removed from an All-Star campaign with the Indians in which he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA and led the American League in shutouts (3).

Masterson has two sub-4.00 ERA campaigns under his belt as a full-time starter, but has always battled command issues. He has a career 3.7 BB/9 rate and has hit 10 or more batters every season since 2010, including this past season in which he threw just 59.1 innings. But with the walks, Masterson has also brought his fair share of strikeouts, and owns a career 7.5 K/9 rate including a 9.1 clip during his 2013 season. Masterson was also amongst the best ground ball pitchers in baseball in 2011 and 2013.

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A healthy Masterson would bolster a Pirates rotation that already includes the likes of Francisco Liriano and Gerritt Cole at the top. More consistency from Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke could also quietly give Pittsburgh one of deepest rotations in baseball, and would help them in looking to make another postseason run in 2016 after falling to the Cubs in the National League Wild Card Game this past year.