Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Boston Dumps Clay Buchholz

Well, that was disappointing.  I knew it was likely that Buchholz would be traded.  But I kind of hoped Boston would try to add a decent prospect or two in the deal.  That did not really happen as Buchholz was traded to the Phillies for a player named Josh Tobias, who I will discuss later.
Buchholz was the longest tenured player on the pitching staff, and the second-longest on the team behind Dustin Pedroia.  He was a first round pick in the same 2005 draft that also produced Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Bowden, Jed Lowrie, and Craig Hansen, an incredible amount of talent for one draft.  It could have been even better too, as Boston failed to sign draftees Pedro Alvarez, Charlie Blackmon, and Jason Castro.  Buchholz made his Major League debut in 2007 and took the game by storm by throwing a no-hitter in his second Major League start.   He ended up the season 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA in four games and was ticketed to a spot in the starting rotation the next season.
Unfortunately, 2008 was the first disappointment in Buchholz's career, and there would be many.  He did not adapt well to the Majors and spent considerable time in the minors.  He ended up just 2-9 with a 6.75 ERA.  He struck out 72 but walked 41 in 76 innings.  He bounced back in 16 games in 2009 and was 7-4 with a 4.21 ERA and his strikeout-to-walk ratio improved slightly.  He looked like he might have finally made it.
2010 was Buchholz's first full season in the Majors, and it was a breakout season.  Buchholz was terrific all season and was named to his first All Star team.  He finished sixth in the Cy Young vote with a record of 17-7 record and a sparkling 2.33 ERA.  He struck out 120 and walked just 67 in 173.2 innings.  He led the league in ERA+ and was second in ERA and WAR for pitchers.  Only his comparatively few innings really kept him from finishing higher.  At just 25 years old, Buchholz looked like he had finally arrived.  Unfortunately things would not really work out in the years ahead.
Throughout his career, Buchholz has shown a distressing tendency to be extremely hit-or-miss.  He tends to go through long stretches where he is terrible, and he tends to go down with injuries when he is having a great season.  2011 was the first season where injuries took a major toll.  He ended up pitching in just 14 games, but was impressive when he was on the mound.  He was 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA and an almost 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  Unfortunately he went down with an injury in June and could not make it back the rest of the season.  Boston could have used him down the stretch as fatigue to the starting rotation mostly doomed the team after holding a huge lead and they missed the postseason.
After starting off really ugly, Buchholz was able to turn around his 2012 season and was the best pitcher on a really bad team.  He finished 11-8 with a disappointing 4.56 ERA but was much better in the second half.  2013 saw Buchholz become the best pitcher in the league, until going down with an injury that curtailed his effectiveness when he returned and made him tough to rely upon in the postseason.  But when he was healthy, he was virtually unbeatable and his final numbers for the season were a 12-1 record and a remarkable 1.74 ERA.  He was named to his second All Star team that season and would have been a Cy Young candidate had he managed to stay healthy.  2014 saw a mostly bad Buchholz and he finished with an 8-11 record and an ugly 5.34 ERA.
Bouncing back in 2015, Buchholz had the best strikeout-to-walk and strikeouts per nine innings of his career by a sizable margin.  But as has been his pattern, it also included a lengthy amount of time on the disabled list.  He was able to make it into just 18 games.  Finally, in 2016 Buchholz was as inconsistent as he has ever been.  He went from being a major question mark, to being relegated to the bullpen, to not pitching at all, to being on fire down the stretch.
Buchholz has finished his Red Sox career after ten seasons.  He was 81-61 with a 3.96 ERA.  He struck out 899 batters and walked 417.  He was a two-time All Star and received Cy Young votes in 2010.  He was maddeningly inconsistent but could put together stretches where he looked like the best pitcher in the league.  Buchholz will be missed, particularly since he is one of the few good pitchers the Red Sox have developed over the last decade.
The player the Red Sox received was Josh Tobias, a soon-to-be 24-year-old second-baseman who is likely to be in either High A or AA.  He was not one of the Phillies' top ten prospects, nor was he particularly close.  Tobias had a decent year with the bat in Low A, but was old for the league, so those numbers may be misleading.  I would be surprised if he turned out to be a decent prospect, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
I don't like this trade.  Buchholz was frustrating because his numbers rarely matched his considerable talent.  But him going to the National League may result in him putting up fantastic numbers.  This was a salary dump plain and simple.  They do not have to pay any of his $13.5 million salary, but they did not really get anything of value in return, other than the salary relief.  It is a disappointing end to a good career in Boston.

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