The 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.