Breaking Down The Clay Buchholz Trade

Clay Buchholz throws a pitch in Game 3 of the 2016 ALDS. (Getty Images)

Clay Buchholz was selected by the Boston Red Sox with the 42nd overall pick in the 2005 MLB amateur draft. He made his major league debut on August 17, 2007. Two weeks later he threw a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles.

Buchholz was only 23 years old, he was without question, the future.

Tuesday morning December 20, Buchholz became part of the Red Sox past.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports tweeted news that the Red Sox had dealt Buchholz to the Philadelphia Phillies. A few minutes later Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweeted that the Red Sox would receive Josh Tobias, a 24 year old second base prospect in exchange for Buchholz.

There are several ways to view this deal.

1: The Red Sox got hosed

No matter what you thought about Clay Buchholz, and make no mistake about it, many Red Sox fans considered Buchholz to be an eternally frustrating, under-achieving, bust type of player. He was a legitimate major league pitcher for the better part of the last 10 seasons.

Buchholz was at times awful, but he was downright tough as well. Buchholz was arguably the best starting pitcher in the American League through the first half of the 2013 World Series season.

Last season he was one of the team’s better pitchers after the All Star break.

The Red Sox had picked up his team controlled 2017 option at a cost of $13.5 million, which is amazingly enough not an outrageous price for a starting pitcher who can be very tough to hit at times.

Josh Tobias is 24 years old, he was a 10th round pick of the Phillies in the 2015 draft and he has yet to advance beyond high-a ball in the minors. If he does eventually get to the majors, he’s unlikely to be much more than a role player off the bench.

That’s really not much for legit major league pitcher. Pitching is major league baseball’s most valuable commodity. Barring a totally unforeseen transformation into a legit offensive force, Josh Tobias may not ever be much more than a marginal major leaguer.

Just about every Red Sox fan understands why the team would trade Clay Buchholz, but is this really the best the team could do??

Obviously Buchholz wasn’t going to be enough to re-stock the team’s minor league system with prospects that could match the talent of Michael Kopech or Yoan Moncada, but perhaps they could have done better than this?

No.2: This was addition by subtraction

Buchholz has never been known as a clubhouse cancer, but he has been a very frustrating player to watch, and one has to imagine he’s been tough to manage over the years as well.

When the Red Sox added Chris Sale three weeks ago, their starting rotation became overcrowded.

David Price, Rick Porcello, Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright, and Drew Pomeranz add up to six legit starting pitchers. That’s not including Brandon Workman who is coming back from injury and Henry Owens, a former top pitching prospect who may or may not have a future in the majors.

Even if Buchholz was a dream to have in the clubhouse, the reality was that there just might not have been any space for him on the roster.

That being said, it still feels like they could have, and should have gotten more in return for him.

No.3: The trade was made to clear salary

Okay, the Red Sox didn’t get much in exchange for Buchholz, but guess how much of his $13.5 million 2017 salary they’re going to have to pick up the tab on? Not one cent.

The Red Sox are by no means a penny pinching team, but the reality is that dealing Buchholz for a player unlikely to ever reach the majors in 2017 drops the team’s guaranteed payroll from $179 million to approximately $166 million. Add in the estimated costs of the team’s arbitration eligible players and has the team’s estimated 2017 payroll at $195.6 million.

That’s just about at the threshold for the MLB luxury tax.

It is conceivable that the team made the deal to get under that threshold. It is also conceivable that the team is willing to pay a luxury tax but they’re not going to pay that just to keep Clay Buchholz on the roster.

Could the Red Sox be prepping for a run at one of the remaining big bats available on the free agent market?

It is worth noting that two of the top three home run hitters in the American League from 2016 are still available on the free agent market.

Mark Trumbo hit 47 home runs for the Orioles. Edwin Encarnacion crushed 42 long balls for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Both players are still out there, both would seem best-suited for American League rosters where they could be used as designated hitters. The Orioles have reached an impasse with Trumbo.

Mark Townsend of Yahoo Sports reported on Saturday that the Orioles had pulled their four year offer to Trumbo thus increasing the likelihood that he ends up on a different team in 2017.

Edwin Encarnacion has watched the market for his services thin out dramatically. Yes the Red Sox inked Mitch Moreland to a low-salary deal, but while one could make a case that Moreland provides more value to the Red Sox, one would have a tough time wining an argument that Encarnacion is not a vastly superior offensive player.

One thing is certain, Clay Buchholz is no longer a member of the Boston Red Sox. His final stats as a member of the team are an 81-61 record, an ERA of 3.96, 899 strikeouts in 1,167.2 innings pitched. He made two All Star teams and was a part of two World Series title runs (2007, 2013.)

Best of luck in Philadelphia and oh-by-the-way, the Red Sox play four games against the Phillies in 2017. Two at home on July 12,13 and two in Philly on July 14 and 15. Could a healthy and effective Buchholz be on the mound for Philadelphia? As any Red Sox fan knows, it is impossible to predict whether or not that happens.



About the Author

Ben Shapiro
Red Sox columnist for ESPN New Hampshire. Originally from Western Massachusetts, I currently live in New York City with my wife and dog. I've previously written for Huffington Post, Bleacher Report and

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