A year ago, Justin Masterson played for the American League All-Stars and was a big reason the Cleveland Indians reached the postseason, if only for a game. This season, with free agency pending after contract extension talks fizzled, he finds himself traded to the other league with the non-waiver deadline looming.
The St. Louis Cardinals acquired Masterson on Wednesday afternoon for minor-league outfielder James Ramsey, rated the No. 8 prospect in the Cards system by Baseball America. The trading deadline is 4 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Peter Gammons, who covered Masterson when he played for Boston, first reported the deal.
Masterson, 29, has posted a 5.51 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 98 innings while being extremely vulnerable to left-handed batters. As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs points out, he'll be a great situational relief pitcher if nothing else. And if the Cardinals can "fix him" — which is their reputation — Masterson is a shade below elite as a starter. He posted a 3.45 ERA with three shutouts and 195 strikeouts in 2013, and a 3.21 ERA in 33 starts in 2011.
Masterson hasn't appeared in a major league game since July 7 because of a knee injury, but he was scheduled to return to the majors by the coming weekend.
The Cardinals' rotation is talented but questionable after Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn. Joe Kelly just came back from an injury, and the team is being cautious with Shelby Miller. Carlos Martinez hasn't been effective as a starter and Michael Wacha hasn't pitched in weeks because of a sore shoulder.
Masterson's addition doesn't necessarily preclude the Cardinals from adding a top-tier starter such as David Price or Jon Lester, and they have the minor league prospects to do it if they like. But they also should be interested in adding offense, which might be the next place general manager John Mozeliak looks to upgrade.
Considering that he was heading to free agency, the Indians are guaranteeing some kind of return for Masterson by getting Ramsey. He batted .300 with a .916 on-base plus slugging at Class AA Springfield (Mo.) of the Texas League, his second season at that level.
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