With new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski taking over the reigns, it will be interesting what the Boston Red Sox do about starting pitcher Clay Buchholz.
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Rob Bradford of WEEI.com wrote last Tuesday about the Buchholz situation being one of great importance. The only remaining starting pitcher of the 2013 World Series championship team will need the Red Sox to pick up his team option for $13 million, if he is to stay with the team another year. Bradford reported Buchholz saying, “I think it would have been easier to talk to Ben about this situation because I’ve been around Ben for 10 years. Obviously, Dave is well known in his craft and he’s really good at what he does. I’m not sure what his outlook on priorities are. It’s not like there’s loyalty from him to me, so that’s one of the situation that is a little different than it was.”
On Buchholz’s injury to his throwing elbow, Bradford states, “Upon the direction of Dr. James Andrews, Buchholz won’t begin his throwing program until Sept. 2. From there it will have to be a wait-and-see situation when it comes to if he can make it to a major league mound prior to the end of the regular season just more than four weeks later.”
Bradford believes that if the Red Sox were to look at Buchholz strictly as another free agent, putting any loyalty or guilt aside, then they should still take him:
"“Nobody is saying the Red Sox have to rely on Buchholz living the life as the team’s No. 1 in 2016. The growing likelihood is that Dombrowski and Co. will re-enter the high-priced world of ace acquisition. But integrating him into a rotation that has a currently unknown anchor, along with some sort of combination of Wade Miley/Rick Porcello/Eduardo Rodriguez/Henry Owens/Brian Johnson, would make sense.And what if you did get that elusive close-to-200-inninng season from Buchholz? Then you are sitting pretty with the chance to roll it over the next year for just $500,000 more.”"
Bradford also provides a list of possible candidates that the Red Sox could look at, including Jeff Samardzija, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmerman, Johnny Cueto, and David Price. All of the names, for different reasons, are dismissed as a reason not to pick up Buchholz’s option.
Tomorrow’s Mornin’ Chowda on BoSoxInjection.com will examine each of those names, and whether Buchholz should be picked up or become collateral damage. However, today, let’s just look at Buchholz on his own.
The Texas-native doesn’t need to be the righty ace of the Red Sox to be important; he just needs to be a solid performer. This season, before the injury, Buchholz was 7-7 with a 3.26 ERA in 18 starts and 113.1 innings. He had 107 strikeouts, which is excellent considering he only had 132 strikeouts in 10 more starts in 2014. He was only blown out once, a nine-run disaster against the New York Yankees in the Bronx, and that was just the second start of the year.
Before the 2015 All-Star Break, Buchholz had the best ERA of all the Red Sox starters and was second to Wade Miley for wins by one. However, a good piece of advice is to never look at wins as the end-all-be-all of pitching facts. Buchholz lost or had a no-decision in many games in which he performed well, and he allowed two or less runs in 11 of the 18 starts. While Miley was Jekyl and & Hyde, shutting the door on teams in one game only to be blown out in another, Buchholz was keeping his team in almost all of his games.
According to ESPN.com, Buchholz allowed fewer earned runs than most of the American League pitchers, with 41 runs. That total put him in better position than former Red Sox trade targets like Cole Hamels (47 runs), Samardzija (56 runs), Leake (52 runs), and James Shields (52 runs).
If it wasn’t for the injury, Buchholz could have proven that he was playing better than seven wins suggested. The team started derailing, after the much-improved play before the All-Star Break, right around the time that Buchholz left. His elbow may have taken the wind out of the Red Sox sails and helped frustrate them into the American League East cellar.
We’ll never be able to calculate a tangible figure, but that’s the point: the intangibles of Buchholz and his arm at present cannot be defined with 100% accuracy. Any decision would be a guess. If they pick up his option and make other moves to the roster, there should still be enough money to go around for another pitcher, depending on their asking prices. One thing is for sure: Dombrowski would be going on a gut feeling, instead of a concrete piece of evidence, if he doesn’t pick up Buchholz’s option.
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