a��Over the next 30 days, I’ll look at 30 playersa��one from each teama��that I believe should be traded, but more along the lines of aA�a�?what ifa�? scenario. Some will seem obvious, just as others will seem nonsensical. Some may also seem desperate, but it’s important to understand that this list is entirely subjective and made up solely of notable names. A player can be deemed movable for any of the following reasons: production (or lack thereof), current and future team outlook, age, potential return value, salary, or even injury history.
Is there any way to predict which Clay Buchholz, now 31, will show up for the Boston Red Sox in 2016? Will it be the 2010 version, whose 28 starts registered an ERA/FIP of 2.33/3.61 over 173.2 innings?
Maybe it will be the 2012 and 2014 versions, when his ERA/FIP finished at 4.56/4.65 and 5.34/4.01 respectively over start totals of 29 and 28.
As for other examples of a�?Good Clay,a�? I’m afraid each sample consistently comes up short. Of his a�?fulla�? seasons I did not specifically mentiona��which include five othersa��the most starts Buchholz made was 18 (2015), with two of 16 (2009, 2013), one of 15 (2008), and another with 14 (2011).
That’s genuinely a shame, as his previous injury-shortened seasons looked promising.
In 16 starts back in ’13, spanning 108.1 innings, his ERA/FIP finished at 1.74/2.78 alongside a strikeout rate of 8.0 per ninea��his highest mark since 2008 (8.5). Then after a start on June 8, nobody saw from Buchholz again until September 10. He was shelved due to neck soreness.
Unfortunately, missing time through injury has become somewhat of a tradition for the 42nd pick of the 2005 amateur draft. This past season was more of the samea��after 18 starts, his season was over. It started with a right flexor strain, which kept him off the mound after a July 10 start.
Despite not wanting to shut him down for the season, Boston ultimately succumbed to the inevitable as Dave Dombrowski announced near the end of August that his season was over. His ERA/FIP of 3.26/2.68 alongside 8.5 strikeouts per nine again painted a promising picture, but an all too predictable, unfinished one.
Here’s the thing: he’s got a team option for 2017 worth $13.5 million ($14 million had he finished No. 1 or 2 in the Cy Young vote). While there’s one last chance to do it before free agency hits, common sense tells me that won’t happen.
If you’re Boston, instead of waiting an entire year to decide whether or not you’ll take the optiona��he’s due $13 million in 2016, a pittance comparativelya��why not try and see what can be had for him? Right now.
Sure Boston is in need of starting rotation help (and you can never have enough), so trading a starter might seem counterproductive, but Buchholz is no ordinary starter. In two of his three seasons that have netted 28 or more starts, he’s been bad across the board.
Plus, when you’re nine years into a career as a starter and you’ve only hit the 20-start plateau thrice, that’s an issue. We’ve covered all that. In the other six, he’s pitched just over half of one in five of them.
2008 and 2009, his first two full seasons in the big leagues, were poor. As previously mentioned, 2012 and 2014 were not kind to him either. That’s why his career ERA/FIP is so elevated at 3.85/3.90. Couple that with an underwhelming K/9 of 7.1, and then what?
Buchholz has shown glimpses of and could have gone on to be one of the greatsa��I suppose there’s still some timea��but instead he quite frankly must go down as one of the most frustrating and unlucky talents in recent memory.
Last week, Boston acquired closer Craig Kimbrel for several prospects. In light of the aging Koji Uehara, picking up another a�?closera�? made sense but they had other options. They could have traded those prospects, or a similar package of them to beef up their rotation instead.
Just to clarify, offense wasn’t the problem in Boston either: top 5 in baseball in both batting average and on-base percentage; seventh in slugging percentage. As for team ERA and what opponents hit off them, that put them 25th in the pack in both categories.
I could have easily said get rid of Dustin Pedroia, Pablo Sandoval, or Hanley RamA�rez, but that seemed too obvious. And again: offense wasn’t the issue. Who’s going to take RamA�rez at this point, given his lack of production and contract situation? Who’s going to want to take on Sandoval’s contract? Not many, I’d wager.
Not to mention: although they finished last in the AL East for the second consecutive season, Boston is not rebuilding. They are perfectly capable of building upon what they’ve got rather than surrendering the majority of the valuable pieces they possess. In fact, of those three mentioned above, I’d only listen to an argument centered around Pedroia.
But as we sit here, I remain stuck with Buchholz, and you cannot convince me there isn’t one team out there willing to take a risk. Even if it’s not a a�?blockbuster move,a�? flip him for another pitcher; maybe even two, depending on the quality, age, etc.
Assuming they don’t pick up his option, I just can’t imagine that the organization would be too thrilled at the prospect of Buchholz having another a�?greata�? 15-start season only to see him walk in free agency for nothing in return.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs