Yesterday, just hours after the news broke of Josh Hamilton signing with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, fellow free agent Ryan Dempster signed with the Boston Red Sox. The deal is reportedly for two years, worth $26.5 million and will be finalized Friday, pending a physical.
It’s believed that Boston beat out the Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins and possibly others for the 35 year old right-hander; widely considered the top pitcher of this year’s free agent class.
After the division-rival Toronto Blue Jays started the offseason out with a bang by acquiring most of the talented players on the Miami Marlins roster, the Red Sox have been signing every free agent they can get their hands on to fill the holes in their roster left by last season’s trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, these desperate moves to stay competitive in the American League East might come back to haunt Boston: if the deal with Mike Napoli ends up getting done, they will have $114.5 million over the next three years (and $70.25 million over the next two) committed to four players over the age of 30.
Dempster will fill a big hole in the Red Sox rotation, but definitely isn’t the ace, number one starter kind of guy they really need. He has a career ERA of 4.33 and posted a 2.25 ERA in 16 games last season with the Cubs, but that number ballooned to 5.09 in 12 starts after being traded to the Texas Rangers. Dempster has always had solid numbers while pitching in the usually (until recently) mediocre National League Central Division, but a move to a division as chock full of talented hitters (many he has faced limitedly or not at all) like the American League East will test his abilities. Expect the numbers from his stint with Texas to be more indicative of his first season in Boston as he adjusts to a new league and division.
From a fantasy perspective he’s not going to wow anyone and definitely shouldn’t be taken early in any drafts, but he’ll make a great late round or waiver pickup. In 2013, Dempster should post a 13-10 record with an ERA around 4.80, 150 strikeouts and a WHIP around 1.50.
The Red Sox have done what they can to fill the obvious holes in their roster, but a lackluster free agent class has forced them to reach financially for near replacement level players. Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa Bay should easily finish the season ahead of Boston in the standings.