|Buchholz showcased or given a real shot on Friday?|
Written by Bjoern Hartig (Contact & Archive) on July 15, 2009
Patrick Sullivan of Baseball Analysts has a detailed analysis of Clay Buchholz (remember, the one who through a no-hitter in his second major league start?) and Boston's starting pitching situation.
All of this brings us to Friday night, when Buchholz will make his first Major League start of 2009. Why Friday night? Well the Red Sox say that since Buchholz is on rest, it's an opportunity to allow them to align their rotation since they had two starting pitchers in the All-Star Game. It's one of those statements that sounds logical enough but when you apply any scrutiny at all, it just doesn't add up. Neither Josh Beckett nor Tim Wakefield actually pitched last night in St. Louis and even if they had, it would have been no more than an inning or so. Besides, why couldn't they start their three other starters and then turn to Beckett and Wake?
So then you get the other end of the spectrum. People say the reason that he is starting on Friday night, in Toronto no less where they are shopping this deadline season's prize, is that they are "showcasing" Buchholz. It's as though were it not for the sight of him on a Major League mound, teams' front office personnel might question Buchholz's very existence. That doesn't make much sense to me either. He's been an incredibly consistent and dominant Minor League pitcher and he has tossed a no-hitter in the Big Leagues. A July start in Toronto will do little to enhance or detract from his value.
That leaves two possibilities. One is that the Sox just want to give the kid a nod. He's been great all season long and deserves a chance at the Big League level - nothing more, nothing less. The other possibility is that they want to see how he performs Friday night and beyond in case they decide they want to move, say, Brad Penny. I think this is the most likely scenario. Other than Halladay, I am not sure of another player who could be available before the deadline for whom Boston would move Buchholz.
But make no mistake, the Red Sox are going to be involved in what is shaping up to be one of the most active and exciting trading seasons in recent memory. While Boston cherishes its organizational depth, it is also a team that is not afraid to go for it. As they say, "flags fly forever." They boast enough depth and possess the financial wherewithal to replenish with free agent stopgaps, that they can match just about any offer another team could without suffering too badly in the long term. And if you don't think they have the stomachs to deal with trading great talent, consider the Beckett (and Mike Lowell) for Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez trade.
If the Red Sox are indeed willing to trade Buchholz, potential buyers should beware. Unless the Red Sox get a real difference maker for Buchholz (and apparently, there are none available apart from Halladay), there can only be one reason why they are willing to trade a young pitcher with ace stuff: They know something other teams don't. This could be an injury (highly unlikely) or a substantiated assessment of his character that makes the Red Sox believe he will never become a "mature" major leaguer. Otherwise, they better keep him and that is actually what I would suspect will happen. If Buchholz shows he has learned his lesson, there is no reason why Boston should keep Penny, Schmoltz and Wakefield on their staff. They will trade Penny away for a decent prospect and in effect, they were able to buy a few average innings and an o.k. minor leaguer for a little less than $3 million.