Boston Red Sox must trade Clay Buchholz to clear rotation logjam

Aug 12, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) looks on from the dugout during the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 12, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) looks on from the dugout during the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox will inevitably need to deal away one of their surplus starting pitchers, with Cla Buchholz being the most likely to go.

You know how they say that you can never have too much pitching? Well, the Boston Red Sox may actually have too much pitching.

The addition of Chris Sale to an already crowded rotation leaves the Red Sox with seven viable starting pitchers heading into next season. Sale is obviously locked into one spot, alongside co-aces Rick Porcello and David Price, which leaves four pitchers to fight over the two remaining rotation spots.

One of those spots should go to Steven Wright, who earned that opportunity with an All-Star campaign before a shoulder injury shut him down for the rest of the season. As long as he’s healthy, Wright deserves a shot to prove that his breakout year wasn’t a flash in the pan.

More from Red Sox News

Dave Dombrowski has always been high on the upside of Eduardo Rodriguez, so it would be a surprise if the 23-year old wasn’t given every opportunity to claim the final rotation spot. He was inconsistent this year following a delayed start due to injury, while a history of tipping his pitches is something to keep an eye on, but he may be the only young pitcher left in the organization that has the ceiling to be a future top of the rotation starter.

If these two pitchers round out the rotation to begin the season, Drew Pomeranz and Clay Buchholz will be relegated to bullpen duty. One of them can add value as a long reliever that gives them a bit of insurance for the rotation, but there’s little need to keep both of them in that role.

Which means someone will inevitably be traded away and that someone needs to be Buchholz.

The Red Sox have already taken calls from other teams regarding their surplus of starting pitching, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, who reports that Dombrowski has prioritized dealing Buchholz over Pomeranz.

Trading Buchholz makes the most sense given that there’s no room for him in the rotation and they simply can’t afford to pay $13.5 million for a middle reliever that isn’t likely to factor into high-leverage situations.

Dombrowski has shown restraint on the free agent market with an eye on dodging the luxury tax, which now comes with more draconian penalties under the new collective bargaining agreement. It’s no longer merely about saving John Henry’s wallet, but rather the potential increased loss of draft picks and international signing pool money that is scaring them away from going over the tax threshold for a third consecutive year. If they planned on going over the tax then surely they would have made more noise on the free agent market, therefore going slightly over the tax makes no sense.

More from Red Sox News

Boston was already flirting with the tax line when the offseason began, so adding Sale – no matter how much of a bargain he is – will likely put them over. This makes it essential to shed salary somewhere and Buchholz is the only expendable pitcher making enough money to make a difference.

Pomeranz would certainly bring more value in return, which could be enticing if Dombrowski is looking to restock a farm system that has become nearly barren under his watch. Except the return won’t match what Dombrowski gave up to acquire him in the first place, top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza.

While the success Pomeranz had in San Diego, which earned him his first All-Star nod, didn’t translate in Boston, we have to factor in that he had already blown by his career-high in innings pitched by the time he got here. He’s capable of far more than he showed in his brief stint with the Red Sox to end the season, he’s on an affordable contract and under team control until 2019. Even if Pomeranz starts the season in the bullpen, he still conceivably has a future in the rotation.

Buchholz, on the other hand, does not. Even if he sticks with the team for another season, there’s little reason to believe that the Red Sox would have interest in re-singing the enigmatic veteran. A strong finish over his final eight starts provides a sliver of optimism, but we’re talking about a pitcher that can turn from stud to dud at the drop of a hat. Even if trading him ends up being merely a salary dump that brings back a low-level prospect, at least they get something for him and can save some salary to help them duck the luxury tax.

Next: Red Sox claim Rutledge in Rule 5 draft

Dombrowski is in no rush to deal away any of his pitchers and may even wait to ensure that they all make it to camp next spring in good health before making a move. At some point you have to believe one of them will be traded, so unless the Red Sox are blown away by an offer for one of their younger pitchers that restocks the farm system, it’s likely to be Buchholz that is on his way out.