The Boston Red Sox cleared their starting-pitching logjam Tuesday by trading Clay Buchholz to the Philadelphia Phillies, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.

The Phils, as Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, sent minor league infielder Josh Tobias to Boston and assumed all of Buchholz’s $13.5 million salary in 2017.

The Red Sox got salary relief. The Phillies got a talented-if-flawed lottery ticket. There are question marks and causes for handwringing, as we’ll delve into shortly. From here, though, it looks like a win-win.

Boston selected Buchholz 42nd overall in 2005 with the compensatory pick they received after Pedro Martinez signed with the New York Mets. He debuted in 2007 and twirled a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park in his second start.

Needless to say, the Beantown faithful had high hopes.

Buchholz showed flashes throughout his 10 seasons with Boston. He made two All-Star teams, in 2010 and 2013, and finished sixth in American League Cy Young Award balloting in 2010, when he led the majors with a 187 ERA+.

Injuries, however, took their toll. Buchholz never threw more than 189.1 innings in a season. Before 2016, he went to the disabled list seven times in his career with the Red Sox. In 2016, he was temporarily bumped from the rotation and finished with a 4.78 ERA in 139.1 frames.

He’s a mixed bag—no argument there—and he’s the poster boy for the “injury-prone” label.

There are causes for optimism, though. Buchholz’s average fastball sat at 92.1 mph in 2016—right around his career average of 92.7 mph. He also finished on a strong note, winning five of six decisions and posting a 2.86 ERA in his final 56.2 innings.

“He’s pitching his best baseball of this year at the right time for us,” Red Sox skipper John Farrell said in early September, per Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. “You can’t give Clay enough credit. … I’m very proud of him. Proud of the resiliency he has shown.”

Buchholz became expendable after the Red Sox acquired ace Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox to join a rotation headlined by reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, David Price and knuckleballer Steven Wright.

Boston could have traded another arm, such as lefty Drew Pomeranz, and likely gotten a better return in prospects. The 24-year-old Tobias, who played at High-A last season, profiles as a fringe big leaguer at best.

Boston, however, gave itself some payroll flexibility. It’s unlikely the Red Sox will use that money now, but it could come in handy if they want to add a veteran piece at the deadline and may protect them from luxury-tax penalties.

The Phillies, likewise, have a crowded rotation that features Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola and Vincent Velasquez, with Alec Asher, Zach Eflin, and Jake Thompson also in the mix.

Buchholz could slot into the bullpen. Considering his price tag, however, Philadelphia will surely give him a shot to crack the rotation.

The obvious question is why the Phillies, a young team in the midst of a rebuild, want an expensive one-year rental.

It’s actually part of a pattern. Philadelphia also acquired veteran infielder/outfielder Howie Kendrick and reliever Pat Neshek this winterwho each have one year left on their contractsand signed reliever Joaquin Benoit to a one-year pact.

The idea, possibly, is to see if these veteran pieces can mesh with the Phillies’ young core and vault the club into contention in the National League East. Philadelphia finished 71-91 last season but played .500 ball through May. They’re a team on the rise.

If the Phils are fading by the trade deadline, they can dangle their veteran rentals.

Buchholz won’t have much value if he gets hurt or flounders. That’s what makes it a gamble. If he stays off the disabled list and pitches like he did down the stretch in 2016, however, he could bring back a far greater prospect package in late July than he cost the Phillies in mid-December.

As for the money, the Phillies have enough inexpensive pieces on their roster to offset Buchholz’s price tag. Plus, they’re locked into a 25-year, $2.5 billion TV deal.

Getting back to the Red Sox: As enigmatic as he was, Buchholz was their longest-tenured pitcher. In fact, with Buchholz gone, only one member of the Boston roster has been around since 2012, as’s Ian Browne pointed out:

It’s the end of the era, even if it was a frequently frustrating era. That deserves at least a passing mention. Buchholz pitched on a World Series winner in 2013, and he’ll always have that rookie no-no.

Now, the Red Sox get to move on. And the Phillies get a chance to see if they can figure Buchholz out.

It’s an intriguing, bittersweet proposition with win-win possibilities.


All statistics and contract information courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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