2014 Statistics: 128.2 IP, 5.88 ERA, 4.5 FIP, 8.11 K/9, 4.83 BB/9, 0.84 HR/9
2015 Age: turns 30 on March 22
Position: Right-handed starter
It's been a real up and down career for Justin Masterson so far. Once the prize of the trade that sent Victor Martinez to Boston, Masterson has alternated great seasons and really crummy ones. His 2014 season was more the latter, as he got smacked around as a member of the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals. He also dealt with a nasty knee injury, which seemed to sap a lot of his velocity. The assumption was that the Cardinals and their seemingly mystical ability to to reconstruct pitchers was going to be perfect for Masterson, but he was putrid during his few months with St. Louis.
By now you're probably thinking "Why the hell would we want such a crappy pitcher?". You want him because he's just the sort of buy-low free agent that every team pines for. He's had a good deal of success and his turbo sinker would likely play very well in homer-happy Yankee Stadium. Most importantly, he's likely to take a shorter deal in an effort to rebuild some of his value. There's also some appeal in buying low on a currently 29 year old, as opposed to most of the older gents that the Yankees usually try to strike gold with.
There is some concern with Masterson's velocity, however, so it's not necessarily a case like with Brandon McCarthy and his peripherals being pretty good and his coaching being terrible: there's legitimate reasons to think Masterson might not be good ever again. His fastball averaged 93 MPH in 2013, but just 90 in 2014. For a guy that's never had great control, that's problematic.
There's also the problem of the marketplace. Most general managers are smart enough these days to look towards a guy like Masterson. While his hideous ERA will make some shy away, I'm sure many front office folks will be savvy enough to realize the former ace could be a boon to a starting staff. There could be quite a bit of competition for Masterson after the best available pitchers get picked up.
Masterson is a low-risk, high-reward type, but bringing him aboard on a team with so many injury questions on the starting staff might give the Yankees pause. But for a franchise that has been recently concerned with draft pick compensation and the length of commitments, Masterson could be appealing. His awesome sinker would actually make him an interesting successor to Hiroki Kuroda if the team chose to go in that direction.
My gut feeling is that Masterson will not be a Yankee. I suspect that free agency will work out in such a way that the team feels he is not needed. If things don't go according to plan (as they often do) however, I would not be surprised if Brian Cashman comes knocking at Masterson's door. This is the guy who acquired Nick Swisher, Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy, after all. Dude likes bounceback candidates.