According to general manager Matt Klentak, it is the mission of the Philadephia Phillies to have as much starting pitching as possible, and so the club swung a deal today with the Boston Red Sox with that end in mind.
The trade brings in 32-year-old right-hander Clay Buchholz. He was the Red Sox first round pick at 42nd overall in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft out of McNeese State University. In exchange, the Phillies sent minor league second baseman Josh Tobias to Boston.
Buchholz throws a four-seam fastball that sits in the low 90s, but has reached the upper 90s in the past, and also has a cutter, curve, and changeup in his arsenal.
Over parts of 10 seasons with the Red Sox, Buchholz has gone 76-57 with a 3.97 ERA. He has allowed 1,039 hits over 1,094.1 innings in 184 games, 177 of those as starts. He has a career 850/392 K:BB ratio.
BUCHHOLZ’S EARLY CAREER
Buchholz reached the big leagues quickly, making his first start on an emergency basis for Boston in August of 2007.
He then received a look in September of that season with three more appearances. In fact, in only his second ever big league appearance on September 1, Buchholz threw a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles.
Despite the no-no, Buchholz was shut down with shoulder fatigue after two more outings. Because of this he was not on the postseason roster as Boston won their second World Series crown in four years that fall.
Buchholz broke camp as a member of the BoSox rotation in 2008 as a 23-year-old. However, he was limited to just 16 appearances (15 starts) by a combination of a torn fingernail and poor performances.
He began the 2009 season back in the minors. But then Buchholz broke back into the Boston rotation in the second half of the season, helping the club reach the playoffs.
There he started in Game 3 of the Division Series. Buchholz left after five solid innings with a 5-1 lead. But the Red Sox bullpen would blow the game in a 7-6 loss. This gave the Los Angeles Angels a series sweep.
In 2010, Buchholz became a big winner for the first time, going 10-4 in the first half. Because of this, Buchholz was selected to his first AL All-Star team. He finished that year at 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA, and allowed just 142 hits over 173.2 innings.
He became a regular member of the Boston rotation in 2011 at just age 26, and Buchholz was then signed to a four-year, $30 million contract extension. However, a stress fracture in his back drove him to the DL in August, and he would miss the remainder of the season.
In 2012 he battled through a couple of apparently minor physical issues to win 11 games over 29 starts. Then in 2013, Buchholz came out like gangbusters. He was the AL Pitcher of the Month for April and was 9-0 when injury struck again. This time a neck strain would sideline him for three months.
Buchholz returned strong in September, and was a member of the rotation in the postseason as the Red Sox drove to a World Series crown.
He made a start that year in the ALDS, and two in the ALCS. Buchholz then also started Game 4 of the Fall Classic, pitching well in a game won by Boston to take a 3-1 series lead.
The last three years have been very much a yo-yo situation, with Buchholz flashing glimpses of greatness around stretches of ineffectiveness.
In 2015, he was the Red Sox starter on Opening Day against, of all teams, the Phillies. He tossed seven innings of shutout ball that day at Citizens Bank Park, striking out nine batters.
Buchholz struggled after beginning this past season in the rotation, and was exiled to the Boston bullpen. Working his way back into a starting opportunity, he was excellent in four of five September starts. In that final month he went 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA, allowing just 23 hits over 28.2 innings and striking out 21 batters.
On October 10, Buchholz was given the start in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. Over four innings he allowed six hits and two earned runs, both scoring on a two-run single by Tyler Naquin in the top of the fourth. The Indians went on to a 4-3 win to sweep the series.
BUCHHOLZ IN THE PHILLIES ROTATION
It is that final month pitcher whom the Phillies are hoping that they are getting. If nothing else, Buchholz will eat up innings for the first four months while their young starters continue to develop.
The price of Josh Tobias, the Phillies’ 10th round pick in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft, is a minimal one. He is not among the club’s top prospects. He split the 2016 season between Lakewood and Clearwater, hitting .291 with a .362 on-base percentage. Tobias had nine homers and 31 doubles, and also drove in 69 runs and scored 70 while playing primarily at second base.
As things stand now, the Phillies rotation will likely be made up of Buchholz, Jeremy Hellickson, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, and Aaron Nola. If Nola proves to be physically incapable of going, look for Jake Thompson to take advantage and break camp with the team.
There has not been much recent conversation in Phillies circles regarding Nola, at least not publicly. When last we saw him, the righty was throwing without pain, and it is expected that he will come to spring training hoping to stay healthy. A barking elbow ended his 2016 season early, and so Phillies fans would be forgiven if the name “Tommy John” were to weigh heavily on their minds.
If that worse case scenario does unfold, Zach Eflin and Ben Lively should each find themselves receiving opportunities. That will be based on their own pitching, as well as the effectiveness and health of the others.
Buchholz is a nice pickup for the 2017 season, and is only guaranteed this one final year at $13.5 million. It is a contract that the Phillies can easily absorb.