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Grading the Boston Red Sox's Signing of Free Agent Ryan Dempster

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 03: Ryan Dempster #46 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum on October 3, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Benjamin KleinContributor IIIDecember 13, 2012

The Boston Red Sox came into the offseason knowing that they needed to add at least one pitcher to their starting rotation, and they got that out of the way by signing free-agent right-hander Ryan Dempster.

Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston confirms that Boston has signed Dempster to a two-year, $26.5 million deal:

Dempster, Red Sox strrike 2-year deal for $26.5m, pending physical., source confirms. @ken_rosenthal first with this one,.

— Gordon Edes (@GordonEdes) December 13, 2012

The signing comes just days after Dempster turned down a very similar offer from the Red Sox, also as reported by Edes:

But was signing Dempster the right move?

Yesterday I wrote about how signing Dempster to a three-year deal would absolutely be the wrong decision, but now that Boston has landed him for just two years, everything changes.

Giving Dempster a three-year deal would have been a major investment on a 35-year-old pitcher who struggled during the second half of the season after being traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers—his first stint pitching for an American League team.

Between Chicago and Texas last season, Dempster went 12-8 with a 3.38 ERA in 173 innings of work, striking out 153 while walking 52. He has tossed at least 200 innings and started at least 30 games in four of the last five seasons. To say he’s been a durable pitcher in recent memory is an understatement.

In comparison, Jon Lester has thrown at least 200 innings in four of the last five seasons and started 30 games or more in five straight campaigns. Clay Buchholz has never started 30 games in a season or thrown 200 innings. Neither has Felix Doubront.

Dempster now joins Lester, Buchholz and Doubront—as well as John Lackey—in Boston’s starting rotation, a rotation that went 48-72 with a 5.19 ERA last season.

Boston’s latest acquisition only has limited experience against the opposing four teams in the American League East, and he’s had mixed success.

In two starts against the Baltimore Orioles, he’s 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in 13.1 innings. Against the New York Yankees, however, he’s 0-4 with a 7.62 in five starts and 28.1 innings. Dempster is 3-4 with a 4.29 ERA in 51 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays and 0-0 with a 5.27 ERA in 13.2 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays.

No matter what his record against the AL East clubs was, however, the Red Sox needed to find another starting pitcher. With only four legitimate starters on the 25-man roster going into this past week, the Red Sox were flirting with the idea of having Franklin Morales start again. Now, they can have Morales stay in the bullpen, a place he’s pitched from most often over the course of his career.

The biggest factor to consider when looking at this Dempster signing is that the Red Sox filled a void without creating another. They didn’t trade for a frontline starter that involved giving up major league or minor league talent. They signed an above-average starter to a very reasonable contract and are now in a better position to succeed in 2013.

Grade: B

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