Veteran Buchholz may be nearing the end of his playing days, but he has earned a coaching role in the Blue Jays organization.
March 5. The Blue Jays signed free agent pitcher Clay Buchholz to a one year contract. He had his good moments and bad ones with the Jays in 2019. Unfortunately, in terms of his on field performance, it was more bad than good.
The 35 year old 13 year MLB veteran has pitched 1332.1 innings in his big league career. Injuries appear to have taken their toll on him, over the last three seasons he has pitched in a total of 30 games.
In 2019, his first season with Toronto, he pitched in 12 games, all as a starter. MLB defines a quality start as pitching a minimum of 6 innings, giving up 3 or fewer earned runs. By this definition, he had three quality starts.
His overall numbers weren’t pretty. He finished 2019 with a 2-5 record, 6.56 era and 5.62 FIP, which was good for 0.1 fWAR. He had two IL stints, the second one lasting over three months, from May 10-August 25.
Back in late August, I wrote that the Jays should consider re-signing Buchholz, who is eligible for free agency after 2019. It’s no secret that they need pitching help. The thing is, he performed much better in his first start after each of the two IL stints than in most of his other starts.
April 13, his first start of the regular season. 6 innings pitched, 1 ER surrendered, against the Tampa Bay Rays who ended up going as far as the ALDS. August 25, 6 innings, 2 ER vs the Seattle Mariners.
In the other 10 starts he made his ERA was 7.66. It’s as if he can no longer manage the daily grind of a 162 game MLB season, not and perform like the successful MLB pitcher he used to be.
Buchholz may or may not want to end his playing career at this point. Too often, pro athletes who performed at high levels early in their careers continue to have the mental, emotional desire to continue competing even after the body is capable of doing what it used to.
The reality is that even if he still wants to play, he may not have a choice at this point. Given his age, injury history over the last few seasons and sub-par season in 2019, there may be few if any MLB teams willing to take a chance on him.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t still earn a paycheque in the game of baseball.
Even if he no longer has the physical ability to help an MLB team win over a 162 game season, there are other ways to contribute.
In 2019, Jays fans learned that Buchholz has the willingness and ability to be an effective mentor to the younger pitchers. He reportedly made valuable suggestions to young rookie such as Trent Thornton and TJ Zeuch.
Toronto figures to have plenty of young pitchers in 2020, with several high ceiling prospects likely to be MLB ready sometime around 2021-2022. It would be invaluable to have someone like Buchholz to help them maximize their potential.
This is not to say that they should replace Pete Walker with Buchholz. Many managers/coaches start that phase of their career in the minor leagues anyway. They could go this route with Buchholz and if/when Walker is no longer pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays, his replacement could already be in their organization.
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