clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Should the Yankees be interested in Clay Buchholz?

New, 9 comments

Rumor has it the Yankees might be keeping an eye on Clay Buchholz. Should they be interested?

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, Josh Heller brought you an interesting rumor about the Yankees pursuit of a rotation upgrade. Apparently the team is showing interest in starters Jeff Samardzija and Clay Buchholz.

The Buchholz part of this rumor, specifically, has generated a significant and largely negative reaction. Unsurprisingly so, of course, players who have spent their career playing for the Boston Red Sox are not typically favorites of the Yankee fanbase. However, as Josh pointed out in his article, and as several PSA members referenced in the thread, there are positive signs to consider in his 2015 performance, that suggest Buchholz might be a useful addition to the team after all.

Indeed, amid a struggling Boston team, Buchholz has been quietly turning a very impressive season. His BABIP-inflated ERA may not grab headlines, but his 2.67 FIP places him eighth among qualifying starting pitchers, between Corey Kluber and Sonny Gray. By wins above replacement, he is ninth, having posted 2.7 WAR in just over 100 innings. Buchholz easily outstrips all other pitchers the Yankees have been recently linked to. In fact, he has arguably been better than all but the top handful of pitchers in all of baseball. Only three pitchers have thrown more innings and posted both better strikeout and walk rates; Kluber, Max Scherzer and Madison Bumgarner. If aces are judged by providing their teams with quantity and quality innings, then Buchholz rates among the very best in the league this year.

No one hit wonder either, this isn't the first time he is pitching like one of the top starters in baseball. Three months into the 2013 season, Buchholz looked like not just like a Cy Young candidate but the prohibitive favorite before a neck and shoulder injury derailed his season. Shoulder trouble can be a challenge to recover from, and working back from it, along with some knee trouble, may have contributed to his below par 2014. Now seemingly fully healthy, Buchholz appears back to his dominant peak. Still only 30 years old, he may well have multiple excellent seasons left in him.

Of course, for a pitcher to have struggled as much as he has with injury through his 20's is troubling, but if there were no question marks here at all there is no chance Buchholz would even be coming up in trade discussions, however much the Red Sox have struggled so far this season. Consider further the incredibly team-friendly deal he is signed to; $12 million this season with two option years remaining at $13 million and $13.5 million respectively. This is approximately half the market rate for an elite starting pitcher in the prime of his career. For that, a team might be willing to accept the risk of him missing a month or two each year and still feel they could come out ahead by picking him up in a trade.

However, the combination of his relative youth, low price point and strong performance will not come cheap; even if we assume Boston won't demand a premium for trading to the Yankees a player who came through the Red Sox farm system. In discussing the valuation on a potential Buchholz trade, Brian McPherson of Providence Journal brings up the Cubs acquiring a top-five prospect in Addison Russell for Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Samardzija came with a strong health record and was still under arbitration, but had one fewer year of control and hasn't matched Buchholz's peak. The Yankees obviously don't have a prospect at the level of Russell, so Boston might look to demand multiple names from the top of New York's system. After all, the Red Sox received a top-100 pitching prospect in Eduardo Rodriguez from Baltimore for a reliever rental in Andrew Miller. 2.5 years of Buchholz will certainly cost more.

Personally I'd be surprised if the Yankees could get Buchholz for a package that didn't contain both Luis Severino and Aaron Judge. Any deal that gets made will likely come at a steep cost, and could easily leave both fanbases feeling unhappy. Even if nothing comes of it though, I'd take it as a positive sign if the Yankees were truly interested enough to at least determine what the price would be. While the Red Sox will look to sell high on his strong first half, there is a chance the injury risk will depress the market. A chance worth exploring.

Clay Buchholz might well be the type of pitcher who could improve this pitching staff, both for this year and beyond. If he truly is on the market, Brian Cashman needs to at least check in with Ben Cherington. Even if it ends up being a short phone call.