The time hasn’t come for David Ortiz. The time has come for Clay Buchholz.
At some point, John Henry, Tom Werner, and Dave Dombrowski will have to have a conversation with Ortiz about not retiring. At some point, the same Red Sox brass is going to have to have a conversation about dealing Clay Buchholz.
Ortiz continued his phenomenal stretch in what he says is his final year. He tied Saturday’s game in the ninth with a scorching triple off Luke Gregerson. He won the game in the 11th with a scorching double against Michael Feliz. He’s hitting .320 and has knocked in 33 runs. His third-inning homer gave him 11. He fell a single shy of the cycle. Ortiz left without speaking to the media because he had to rush to his daughter’s birthday party. But he did all of his talking on the field.
As poor a season as Buchholz has had, give him this: He gave the Red Sox a chance to come back. After allowing five runs in the first two innings, he shut the door for four innings following George Springer’s grand slam.
Nobody felt worse after the 6-5 victory than Buchholz. He spoke of being frustrated.
“I have to do a better job in the first two innings minimizing damage. Two walks right there [in the second] really hurt,” Buchholz said. “It’s got me scratching my head and then I didn’t give up anything for four innings.”
And the scouts in the stands took note. Buchholz still has trade value.
There are teams already looking for their next starting pitcher acquisition and, believe it or not, Buchholz catches their eye. It’s not because of the ballooning ERA (6.11) or the struggles he’s had, it’s for the stuff he has and the fact that he’s perfectly capable of going on a good run.
You’re not going to get a haul of great players for him, but he’s not untradeable.
It’s time for a change of scenery for Buchholz.
Maybe it’s just been too long here.
The Red Sox probably could have moved him this offseason, but Dombrowski probably had enough people in the organization telling him that Buchholz was on the verge of putting it all together. And so the team traded Wade Miley instead and picked up the $13 million option.
Buchholz isn’t a washout by any means. Scouts have seen him, evaluated him enough to know what he is. And while the perception has turned negative here, it’s not that negative around baseball.
Nobody watches Buchholz and says, “Man, has he lost it.” In fact, what they see is a talented pitcher who just can’t seem to put it together.
“He’s got great stuff,” said one American League scout who watched him Saturday. “He’d be on anyone’s list to acquire if he were made available.”
It seems Buchholz needs that next chance.
The Red Sox will have Eduardo Rodriguez and Joe Kelly returning to the active roster soon. Manager John Farrell has said there will be no six-man rotation in Boston’s future and, with off days coming up, it will be easy to kick Buchholz down the road and avoid starting him when his turn comes up.
The preference would be not to use Buchholz out of the bullpen simply because he’s never done it. And when you haven’t done it, there’s more of a propensity to get hurt. That’s the last thing the Red Sox want to do to Buchholz now.
When teams see a pitcher of Buchholz’s caliber who earns a reasonable $13 million a year, that piques their curiosity, if not their interest. If he continues to pitch poorly, then it’s not a big risk to take. If he pitches well, they have a bargain.
That’s pretty much what went into Boston’s decision to pick up the 2016 option. They elected not to trade him because there’s a good streak waiting to happen.
Teams such as the Royals, Twins, and Angels, to name a few, are already looking. There’ll be only so many names to be had. If you had to pick names of pitchers you think will definitely be available, the two who come to mind are Atlanta’s Julio Teheran and San Diego’s James Shields. It doesn’t appear the A’s would part with struggling Sonny Gray yet, so the Red Sox find themselves in a good spot to deal someone such as Buchholz, especially if ace David Price has turned things around.
When Buchholz says it’s only a couple of bad pitches and one bad inning that’s causing his poor outings, he’s probably right. There seems to be a lack of concentration that slips in somewhere along the line and it winds up hurting him. But eliminate that bad concentration block and you’d have an entirely different outlook.
Buchholz, 31, is 75-54 in his career with a 3.95 ERA. He’s been a 17-game winner. He’s pitched a no-hitter. He’s a two-time All-Star. And he’s had some really impressive stretches.
But it’s time for a change for both the team and for Buchholz.
As for Ortiz, there needs to be an intervention at some point. Tell teams to hold off on the gifts. He must be lured with a $20 million-plus contract, because if you’re thinking Pablo Sandoval is replacing Ortiz as the DH, you’re likely to be disappointed.
Ortiz is virtually irreplaceable, especially the one we’re seeing in the first six weeks.
It’s time to say goodbye. But not to Ortiz.