Could Clay Buchholz Be A Bullpen Solution for Red Sox?

Clay BuchholzThe primary need the Red Sox have to address this offseason is obviously the hole in the bullpen left after Joe Kelly signed with the Dodgers. They’ve been rumored to be in the mix for big name relievers like David Robertson, but going after one of the pitchers not on the national radar could be a potential option. While it’d come with some extra risk, going after Clay Buchholz might be the solution for the Red Sox.

His season unfortunately ended in the middle of September after he was diagnosed with a flexor strain in his forearm, but Buchholz had a bounce back season in 2018 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He threw for a 2.01 ERA and 1.032 WHIP while striking out 81 over 98.1 innings. Not only were his stats improved, but Richard Morin of the Arizona Republic wrote an article saying the 34 year old was a lot more consistent and appeared to be stronger mentally.

With that being said, Buchholz has definitely struggled with inconsistency over the years. Back in June of 2016, for instance, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald wrote that “so far out of relief, Buchholz has been good, solid, and disappointing, all within in his first two appearances.” These comments came right after he had given up four runs to the Orioles during a 3.1 inning out.

But it’s not like he was consistently bad. He hadn’t given up any runs during the first two innings of the aforementioned appearance and had blanked the Blue Jays during an inning long outing a few days before. The right hander simply seemed to implode after Dustin Pedroia made an error on what should have been a routine double play ball.

That ability to implode after what should have been a relatively minor setback is what people remember about Buchholz’s time with Boston. Even after a successful season with Arizona, people have claimed he “can’t pitch for large markets” like Boston or “handle the pressure of a heavy sports town.” This might be the truth, but it might be worth taking a risk on him since he’s not one of the big names being heavily targeted and could therefore be signed for less money.

The strong and consistent comeback season should make the Red Sox strongly consider bringing Buchholz back to Boston. Since the righty seemed to prove himself last year, the main source of concern shouldn’t be his consistency but his history of injury. As mentioned before, his season ended early last year due to a partial flexor tare in his right forearm and he also missed most of 2017 after needing surgery to address a similar injury.

Perhaps the other thing worth noting is that Buchholz spent most of last year as a starter and that might have played a role in why he was more consistent. He does have a fair amount of experience working out of the bullpen, however, and could be a good contender for a long relief spot.

In the end, pursuing Buchholz could also play into Boston’s overall strategy. Some of the higher ups in the Red Sox organization have expressed an interest in not making any big moves until everybody knows where Craig Kimbrel will be spending 2019 (and potentially beyond). Unlike some of the big names being discussed this offseason, the former Red Sox might still be available after that potentially late point in the offseason. So while it might not be the most obvious path to take, bringing in Buchholz might be the right move for Boston.

Red Sox Still in the Mix for David Robertson

As most of Red Sox Nation is waiting for Boston to sure up their bullpen for next year, people like Mark Feinsand are reporting “the Red Sox are still in the mix for free-agent reliever David Robertson.” Jason Veritek’s wife, Catherine, even sent out a tweet suggesting the right handed reliever is coming to Boston and the Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry will have a little extra spice to it next year.

This can only be interpreted as positive news as Boston’s been showing a strong interest in him since early on in the offseason, but they’ll have to make a big push soon if they want to sign him. If they sit back and wait to see what Craig Kimbrel does like some executives have been saying they might, they could easily see Robertson go elsewhere.

Despite dispatches from Yankee territory suggesting the Red Sox didn’t think Robertson wanted to come to Boston, most pundits agree the interest is mutual but there are several teams remain in the mix. It shouldn’t be surprising other clubs are interest because the Phillies have shown interest in bringing him to town and the Yankees might bring him back as they could use some help filling in their bullpen for next year. With at least three teams in the mix, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Robertson is simply trying to ensure he gets the best deal possible.

The major hang up for the 33 year old is that he’s looking for a three year contract, but most teams are only willing to give him two (reports suggest the Red Sox fall into this category). Based on a successful 2018 season where he ended up with a 1.03 WHIP and 3.23 ERA while striking out 91 and giving up 30 runs (25 of them earned) over the course of 69.2 innings, however, three years isn’t too much to ask if teams can get him to commit to a reasonable salary (he made $13 million in 2018 and has averaged $11.5 million per season since 2015).

It’s worth noting that a cursory scan of his stats from last year appear to be better than those put up by Joe Kelly, who the Dodgers signed to a three year deal with an option for a fourth earlier this month. Kelly is guaranteed $25 million over those three years and could receive upwards of $33 million if he hits all the incentives included, so Robertson’s demands are reasonable and should definitely be considered by the Red Sox.

As all these discussions are taking place, Boston’s geographic location might come into play. Robertson currently makes his offseason home with his family in Rhode Island and is rumored to want to sign with a team located close by. Rhode Island obviously isn’t far away from Boston and, for what it’s worth, is even home to the Red Sox’s triple-A affiliate. This could prove to be an advantage if it becomes clear nobody’s willing to sign him to more than two years.

With all that being said, the major factor still seems to be whether or not Boston will move forward with a big signing before they know what Craig Kimbrel will do.

Red Sox Agree to Minor League Deal With Zach Putnam

With all the talk about the Red Sox’s need to address the bullpen, especially now that Joe Kelly’s gone and Craig Kimbrel might be on his way out, folks have been closely watching how the organization approaches the free agent market. While we haven’t seen them sign a big name yet, Boston did just make a step in towards providing some potential relief support by signing Zach Putnam to a minor league deal.

The plain and simple fact that it’s a minor league deal shows Putnam isn’t ready for prime time right now, but he does have a history that shows he might be able to make a difference in the big leagues after proving he’s recovered from injuries. He missed the 2018 season and most of 2017 after having Tommy John surgery, but had some success with the Chicago White Sox before that. From 2014 to 2017 he pitched 139.1 innings with a halfway decent ground ball rate of 47.6 and 149 strikeouts while giving up 46 runs (42 of which were earned), 108 hits (11 of which were homers), and 56 walks. Perhaps his best stat was that he kept batters to a 27.2 percent hard-hit rate, which is well below the league average.

Since the Red Sox had to pay a $12 million luxury tax for their 2018 salaries and are likely to do so again in 2019, it’s also worth noting that they’ll have control of Putnam until at least 2020 through arbitration. Putnam already has four years of big league service, so he’ll hit the five year mark if he spends a good chunk of time in Boston this year. But that could be delayed if he doesn’t find much success and therefore only spends a limited amount of time in the big leagues.