Red Sox trade for Rick Porcello, sign Justin Masterson
SAN DIEGO — It took about 12 hours for the Red Sox to look like a contending team again. But are they satisfied stopping there?
The Sox left a raucous Winter Meetings with three new starters, making a deal with the Detroit Tigers on Thursday morning for righthander Rick Porcello. The Sox also agreed with righthander Justin Masterson on a one-year, $9.5 million deal that includes incentives.
The third move is a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks that would bring lefthander Wade Miley to Boston. The Porcello trade was completed before general manager Ben Cherington boarded a flight home. Masterson’s deal was announced Thursday night. The other move might take a day or two to finish.
After failing to sign Jon Lester on Tuesday, the Red Sox landed three durable young starters at a modest cost. That might have been their plan all along given how quickly the moves were made.
The Sox sent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and righthanded reliever Alex Wilson to Detroit along with minor league righthander Gabe Speier.
To obtain Miley, the Sox will send righthanders Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster to Arizona along with a yet-to-be-determined prospect. That deal was put together late Wednesday night.
The three new starters will add only $26 million to the payroll based on the arbitration projections for Miley and Porcello. The Sox also have yet to part with any of their top prospects.
The only significant loss was Cespedes, a power hitter who became expendable after the Red Sox signed Hanley Ramirez to play left field.
The rotation, while unquestionably improved, lacks an ace. Cherington was asked whether another addition is needed.
“I think it’s never a question whether a team would benefit from having an ace or a front-of-the-rotation type starter. The question is how do you get them and where do they come from?” he said.
“If you look at 2014, the top 10 or 15 starting pitchers, there are a bunch of them two years ago would not have been on that list. Pitching can change quickly. Hopefully we’re closer to building some strength and depth in the rotation.”
Free agent James Shields, who lives in the San Diego area, met with Red Sox officials on Wednesday. The other alternative would be to trade for a prominent starter.
“We’ll see what comes to us,” Cherington said.
Masterson, Miley, and Porcello have similar qualities, particularly their ability to work the bottom of the strike zone with two-seam fastballs and produce ground balls.
Miley had a ground-ball rate of 51.1 percent last season and Porcello 49 percent. Masterson, when he was healthy in 2013, led the majors at 58 percent.
“There’s some benefit to that in Fenway Park, obviously,” Cherington said.
The Red Sox also feel their infield defense, particularly Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli on the right side, will make a difference for the two new righthanders, Masterson and Porcello.
Pablo Sandoval represents a defensive upgrade at third base and the Sox feel Xander Bogaerts will be improved at shortstop. A solid defense and plenty of ground balls lead to quick innings.
There’s also youth and reliability. Porcello has pitched six seasons in the majors but doesn’t turn 26 until later this month. He has averaged 30 starts a season.
Miley just turned 28 and has averaged 32 starts the last three seasons. Masterson will be 30 in March and from 2010-13 he averaged 31 starts.
“Porcello is a guy we had targeted earlier in the offseason. Kind of come into his own the last couple of years,” Cherington said. “Pretty strong combination of scouting and analytics work on him . . . We think he’s a good fit for Fenway.
Porcello, long overshadowed in Detroit by teammates Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, had the best season of his career in 2014. He was 15-13 with a 3.43 ERA and had three shutouts.
“We think he’s at a good point in his career,” Cherington said.
Porcello will be a free agent after the coming season. The Sox will want to get to know him better before considering an extension.
Masterson was drafted and developed by the Red Sox before being traded to Cleveland in 2009 as part of a package for Victor Martinez. Masterson became a full-time starter in 2010 and was 43-48 with a 4.05 ERA over four seasons.
Masterson turned down a three-year, $51 million extension offer from the Indians last season. He was 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA before being traded to St. Louis in July. Masterson was then even worse, posting a 7.04 ERA.
Rib cage, knee, and shoulder injuries were largely to blame for Masterson’s woes. Red Sox manager John Farrell was the pitching coach when Masterson was with the Sox from 2008-09 and knows him well.
Masterson was seeking a one-year deal to rebuild his value before entering free agency again or considering an extension.
Cherington reserved comment on Miley.