Ben Cherington Looks Back at 2009 Justin Masterson-Victor Martinez Trade, Agrees With Theo Epstein’s Decision

Justin MastersonJustin Masterson has been excellent this season, which is understandably difficult for some Red Sox fans to watch.

Masterson was traded from Boston to Cleveland, along with Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price, in exchange for Victor Martinez just before the trade deadline in 2009. Martinez played well during his season and a half in Boston, but he signed with the Tigers as a free agent before the 2011 season, and Masterson is currently evolving into one of baseball’s brightest young pitchers.

Ben Cherington wasn’t the Red Sox’ general manager at the time of the 2009 trade that sent Masterson packing, but he said during a radio appearance on WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan on Thursday that he would have made the same trade that then-GM Theo Epstein made. The Red Sox needed some offensive firepower that year, and they were a bit unsure as to what the future held for Masterson, who pitched as both a starter and a reliever in Boston.

“We didn’t see him performing quite like this as a starter. We thought, at the time, he would be a good major league starter or a really good reliever, and he’s probably exceeded that in a starting role,” Cherington said. “I don’t think we should be too surprised by it, though. This is a pretty impressive young man. Masterson, going back to the draft, he stood out in the draft as the top makeup on the board that year. Even though he does it in sort of an unconventional way, it’s a combination of his physical size, strength and stuff with his drive and makeup to succeed that separated him.

“We were able to get him at a spot in the draft — a lot of good work by Dan Matson, one of our scouts that year to get him — but fast forward, and if I’m in Theo’s shoes at the time, I would have done the same thing. The deal made a lot of sense at the time. We were trying to get into the playoffs, and Victor Martinez certainly helped to get us into the playoffs. We needed that bat in the middle of the lineup at a key position. He helped us for the time he was here. But not surprised at all that Justin is having success, but yeah, he’s probably exceeded our expectations.”

Masterson has had some ups and downs since joining the Indians, but he’s been very effective this season. The right-hander enters the Indians’ four-game series against the Red Sox with a 7-2 record and 2.83 ERA in 10 starts.

Martinez is no longer contributing in Boston, but he hit .336 in 56 games down the stretch in ’09 and hit .302 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs in 127 games in 2010, so it’s hard to fault the Red Sox too much for their gamble.

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