After having a shaky start but eventually becoming the “ace” for the Red Sox in 2015, Clay Buchholz ended his season in late July because of an elbow injury. From May 4th to July 10th (the day of his injury), Buchholz was one of the best pitchers in the American League posting a 2.55 ERA with 88.1 IP and 83 hits allowed, pitching less than six innings twice, one of them being the game he left with an injury.
The idea of having him as the “ace” of the rotation this season started out as foolish, but at the end it wasn’t all that dumb. Of course Buchholz is not a proven number one pitcher, but he was being the leader of the rotation during the first half of the season. His name was even thrown out before the All-Star Game when people discussed which Red Sox players would be in the American League team. He was a decent pitcher for almost 100 innings, but his health issues came back. Again. Like in 2014. Like in 2013. Like in 2012… I think you get the point.
As maybe you heard, Buchholz’ 2016 option was exercised by Boston and it seems that he will be back with the team next year, which obviously caused divided opinions among Red Sox fans. Some of us are already criticizing Dombrowski for bringing him the injury prone guy back, while others are trying to reach out to the President of Baseball Operations to convince him to include Buchholz in a trade. However, paying the guy $13 million to pitch with a Red Sox uniform during the first months of the seasons is not a a bad idea.
Dombrowski has openly said that the Red Sox are willing to pay what it takes to get a proven number one starter, whether it is by trade or free agency; so we can be sure that we are going to have someone new as the Opening Day starter. But it is going to take more than a proven ace to fix this rotation, because even though Eduardo Rodriguez has the talent to be a solid number one or two, this pitching staff is a complete mess. You can also make a case for Wade Miley being a reliable pitcher that you know is going to give you something between 10-13 wins with a 4.00 ERA, but that is not enough. If we take a look to the years where the Red Sox have been succesful, it is because they have had one of the best rotations in the American League. You can’t just have that with an ace and two talented guys.
Buchholz is obviously a concern because of his health issues, but when healthy he has been one of the best pitchers of the league. Have we already forgotten how he was on the way of having a Cy Young season in 2013? The Red Sox can afford the risk of paying him $13 million because trading him is not worth it, at least for now. Starting pitchers are expensive, and trading a pitcher who can be good and will cost $13 million next year is a risk that you can’t take. Someone with Buchholz’ profile has to be part of how Dombrowski is going to fix this team, and that someone would cost more than the actual Buchholz.
I’m not trying to say that he is going to be a horse pitcher and pitch 200 innings, win 19 games and end the season with a 2.00 ERA because we know that’s not him. There’s a realistic probability that he will be back on the DL by July, but that’s the risk you take with every other single pitcher. Most ptichers nowadays have red flags on them and they cost more than $15 million, at least. He can stick around until the trade deadline, when I’m sure there are going to be teams looking for someone like him.
We have to stop thinking that the Red Sox are going to get a perfect pitcher and build a perfect rotation, because that’s impposible. What the Red Sox can do is build a consistent rotation that works. With at least two or three solid guy ahead of him in the rotation, Buchholz can be part of the solution.