Blue Jays sign Clay Buchholz to Compete for Rotation Spot

The Toronto Blue Jays add another rotation option, this time with a familiar ex-rival.

 

 

News broke late Thursday evening of yet another Toronto Blue Jays signing after an 11-4 torching at the hand of the then Bryce Harper-less Philadelphia Phillies. After Bud Norris was added to compete for a bullpen spot, the Blue Jays signed veteran righty (and lefty bat!) and permanently wet-looking Clay Buchholz to a major-league deal:

 

 

As Feinsand stated in the above tweet, Buchholz was actually pretty good in 2018 with the Diamondbacks, and surprisingly had very few takers on the free agent market if he signed  with the Blue Jays. The deal itself seems reasonably palatable as well, with Jon Heyman tweeting the details as a $3 Million deal with up to $6 Million in incentives. Buchholz has been a mix of good and bad and often injured in his major-league career, so it’s a slight gamble for a team with little to play for in 2019, but the money involved surely isn’t debilitating.

 

Standard Pitching
Year Age Tm W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2007 22 BOS 3 1 1.59 4 3 1 1 22.2 14 6 4 0 10 22 303 2.75 1.059 5.6 0.0 4.0 8.7 2.20
2008 23 BOS 2 9 6.75 16 15 1 0 76.0 93 63 57 11 41 72 69 4.82 1.763 11.0 1.3 4.9 8.5 1.76
2009 24 BOS 7 4 4.21 16 16 0 0 92.0 91 44 43 13 36 68 111 4.69 1.380 8.9 1.3 3.5 6.7 1.89
2010 25 BOS 17 7 2.33 28 28 1 1 173.2 142 55 45 9 67 120 187 3.61 1.203 7.4 0.5 3.5 6.2 1.79
2011 26 BOS 6 3 3.48 14 14 0 0 82.2 76 34 32 10 31 60 124 4.34 1.294 8.3 1.1 3.4 6.5 1.94
2012 27 BOS 11 8 4.56 29 29 2 1 189.1 187 104 96 25 64 129 92 4.65 1.326 8.9 1.2 3.0 6.1 2.02
2013 28 BOS 12 1 1.74 16 16 1 1 108.1 75 23 21 4 36 96 237 2.78 1.025 6.2 0.3 3.0 8.0 2.67
2014 29 BOS 8 11 5.34 28 28 2 2 170.1 182 108 101 17 54 132 75 4.01 1.386 9.6 0.9 2.9 7.0 2.44
2015 30 BOS 7 7 3.26 18 18 1 0 113.1 114 48 41 6 23 107 132 2.68 1.209 9.1 0.5 1.8 8.5 4.65
2016 31 BOS 8 10 4.78 37 21 0 0 139.1 130 80 74 21 55 93 94 5.06 1.328 8.4 1.4 3.6 6.0 1.69
2017 32 PHI 0 1 12.27 2 2 0 0 7.1 16 10 10 1 3 5 37 4.79 2.591 19.6 1.2 3.7 6.1 1.67
2018 33 ARI 7 2 2.01 16 16 1 0 98.1 80 25 22 9 22 81 215 3.47 1.037 7.3 0.8 2.0 7.4 3.68
12 Y 12 Y 12 Y 88 64 3.86 224 206 10 6 1273.1 1200 600 546 126 442 985 112 4.00 1.290 8.5 0.9 3.1 7.0 2.23
162 162 162 14 10 3.86 35 33 2 1 201 190 95 86 20 70 156 112 4.00 1.290 8.5 0.9 3.1 7.0 2.23
BOS BOS BOS 81 61 3.96 206 188 9 6 1167.2 1104 565 514 116 417 899 109 4.04 1.303 8.5 0.9 3.2 6.9 2.16
ARI ARI ARI 7 2 2.01 16 16 1 0 98.1 80 25 22 9 22 81 215 3.47 1.037 7.3 0.8 2.0 7.4 3.68
PHI PHI PHI 0 1 12.27 2 2 0 0 7.1 16 10 10 1 3 5 37 4.79 2.591 19.6 1.2 3.7 6.1 1.67
AL ( AL ( AL ( 81 61 3.96 206 188 9 6 1167.2 1104 565 514 116 417 899 109 4.04 1.303 8.5 0.9 3.2 6.9 2.16
NL ( NL ( NL ( 7 3 2.73 18 18 1 0 105.2 96 35 32 10 25 86 159 3.56 1.145 8.2 0.9 2.1 7.3 3.44
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/28/2019.

 

As it averages out, he’s, well…average. Over 1273 career innings, he’s managed a surprisingly good 3.86 ERA and 16.1 fWAR, spanning 12 seasons, mostly with the division rival Boston Red Sox. While his ERA never really stands out as good or bad, his ERA+ numbers are a bit more telling. In those 12 seasons he’s fallen as low as 75 over  170 innings (2014) and as high as 215 over 98 innings (last season). So he’s inconsistently good.

Diving into his StatCast numbers, and there’s not much there, either. He doesn’t throw hard anymore (6th percentile) but his curveball plays well (84th percentile in spin rate), and he doesn’t get barreled up very often (5% in 2018). It is a bit odd that his best season came in 2018 at the age of 33, though.

Essentially, Clay Buchholz is pretty okay, and there’s been no reports out that he malevolently hazes young players, so that’s a plus. But does he fit on the 2019 Blue Jays?

 

 

2019 Outlook

 

Well, probably. Ryan Borucki was thoroughly mashed by half of the Philadelphia Phillies this afternoon, which is mostly meaningless in Spring Training, but the Blue Jays said that they’ll look to add to the major league rotation. Now, Borucki has done nothing to lose his spot in the rotation, but the team has made it clear that he’s not guaranteed a spot, so maybe the move will act as a bit of motivation for the young lefty – or they’re just looking at fielding the best possible team in Buffalo instead of Toronto. Their motivations this season have been unclear.

Based on his 2018 season, though, Buchholz certainly looks like a viable option in the rotation, or perhaps the team is looking at him as a relief option. He’s been a starter for the vast majority of his career, but 16 of his 37 appearances in 2016 came out of the bullpen, where he had a 5.32 xFIP and 94 ERA+ over 139 innings. That being said, his strange success in 2018 came solely as a starter for the Diamondbacks.

It seems likely that he’ll compete for and win a rotation spot out of Spring Training, pushing he battle for the No. 5 spot in the rotation to Ryan Borucki and Matt Shoemaker, should Clayton Richard make the team but doing so in the bullpen.

It’s another unexciting move for an uninspired team, and it’s almost certainly intended as a deadline flip, which is fine, but it means you’re again cheapening the experience for many of the young starters wasting away their time in Triple-A Buffalo for four months of development time.

 

 

 

 

 

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Roy-Z

Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.