BOSTON (CBS) — So Clay Buchholz is gone, traded today in exchange for a marginal prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Incredibly, there are people celebrating this.
Oh, you short-sighted fools.
Let’s start here: when did it become desirable for the Red Sox to shed salary for the purposes of staying below the luxury tax threshold? They’re the Red Sox, people. They have more money than most organizations in baseball. Buchholz is due $13.5 million in 2017 – a bargain by modern major league standards – and his contract is up after next season. Most organizations might view that as some sort of expensive insurance policy, but here, in Boston, that is the cost of doing business.
The Red Sox had seven starters on the roster after the acquisition of Chris Sale, including: David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez and, of course, Sale himself. Buchholz was the seventh. Trading him makes sense if you believe the Red Sox will only need five starters in 2017, and we all know that most every team needs more than five. They are likely to need seven, eight or beyond, which means Boston had as deep an arsenal of starting pitching as anyone in the game.
Don’t you see? After the Sale deal, it made more sense to keep Buchholz than it did to deal him, something the Red Sox learned last year when Buchholz went 4-1 with a 3.17 ERA in his final 11 games (including eight starts) over the final two months. Can you rely on him? Of course not. But Buchholz was always more than serviceable as middle- or back-end-of-the-rotation guy, which is what he would have been on this team.
Let’s say that again. If Buchholz is one of your top two or three starters, you’re asking for trouble. But put him down at No. 4 or below and, well, you’re likely to get something out of him during the regular season.
If the Red Sox were worried about the glut of pitchers in their rotation, they could have solved the “problem” by moving someone to the bullpen, most notably Pomeranz, who has been a more effective reliever than starter, especially in the American League. They could have found a way to stash Steven Wright, be it as a long man or with a phantom injury. They could have held onto as many arms as possible.
Think about it: earlier this month, upon acquiring Sale at the winter meetings, president of baseball operation Dave Dombrowski said that when a team has a chance to win, you “go for it.” Trading Buchholz does nothing to support that assertion, unless the Sox think A-Ball infielder Josh Tobias (whom they acquired in the Buchholz deal) is going to help them win a championship in 2017.
Now the real rub: When did Sox fans and/or critics decide that the Sox couldn’t pay a luxury tax, even at 50 percent, for any amount over $195 million? What a crock. And before anyone starts talking about draft-pick penalties for exceeding the tax, well, it certainly doesn’t seem like Dombrowski has had any regard for the Red Sox farm system over the last 12-15 months, when he has dealt away many of the team’s best organizational players for pickups like Pomeranz and Tyler Thornburg.
Look, we all get it. Sale is in, Buchholz is out. That’s an upgrade. But if the Sox were truly looking to “go for it,” in 2017, wouldn’t they have been better off keeping both?