Posted on December 20, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Philadelphia Phillies have acquired pitcher Clay Buchholz in a trade with the Boston Red Sox in exchange for minor league second baseman Josh Tobias. The Red Sox have been shopping Buchholz since they acquired Chris Sale in a trade with the White Sox earlier this month and managed to find a taker in the Phillies. As part of the deal, the Phillies will take on all of the $13.5 million Buchholz is owed in 2017 before he hits free agency next winter.
For Buchholz, the trade marks the end of a decade in Boston after he came up with the Red Sox in 2007. Buchholz had quite a few good seasons during his tenure with the Red Sox, but his performance started to drop off significantly in 2016. In 21 starts last season, Buchholz was 6-8 with a 5.01 ERA. As a result, he found himself being bounced between the rotation and the bullpen, often going long periods without being used in either role.
Had he stayed in Boston for the 2017 season, Buchholz would have likely been relegated to a full-time role in the bullpen. Despite some success as a reliever last year, $13.5 million would have been a steep price to pay for a middle reliever, even in today’s market.
Moreover, Buchholz would have likely been unhappy in a relief role, but barring multiple injuries, the Red Sox would have no other choice but to put him there. Boston’s rotation currently projects to include Sale, Cy Young winner Rick Porecello, David Price, Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz, and Eduardo Rodriguez, which would have made Buchholz the 7th man in a five-man rotation.
In Philadelphia, Buchholz will be guaranteed a spot in the starting rotation. He will join Jeremy Hellickson in giving the Phillies two veterans at the top of an otherwise young starting rotation. For the other three spots in Philadelphia’s rotation, Jarad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, and Aaron Nola have to be viewed as the favorites to lock down those jobs during spring training. However, the likes of Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, Zach Elfin, and Mark Appel may also compete for rotation spots, giving the Phillies a fair amount of rotation depth.
What exactly Buchholz brings to the Phillies after a trying 2016 season is unclear, but he appears to have something left in the tank. It also doesn’t hurt to have another veteran in their rotation, even if Buchholz isn’t the same pitcher he was a few years ago. At $13.5 million, the price for him is a little steep, but it may be a chance worth taking for a team just looking to stay competitive as long as possible in 2017.
In Tobias, the Red Sox aren’t getting an elite prospect, but he did have a strong season in A-ball in 2016 and could turn into a big league contributor down the line. More importantly, the Red Sox part ways with a player who wasn’t in their plans and free themselves of $13.5 million.
Boston had been previously telling free agents that they were out of money. But the Red Sox may now have the salary available to add either another hitter or setup man in their bullpen. Trading Buchholz may have freed up enough money for the Red Sox to become a factor on the free agent market again this offseason, which could make it a worthwhile trade for Boston.