Unless the Boston Red Sox announce before July 31 that Clay Buchholz isn’t going to be able to pitch for the remainder of the season, there’s no sense in giving up a bunch of talent in order to acquire a pitcher like Chicago Cubs righty Matt Garza.
According to Jim Bowden of ESPN (subscription required), Boston is one of three teams interested in Garza. The Sox would be wise to refrain from such a move.
Buchholz got off to a tremendous start to the 2013 season. Through 12 starts, he was 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA. His year looked promising, considering he went 11-8 and posted a 4.56 ERA in 2012.
But the problem for Buchholz is that he hasn’t taken the mound for more than a month due to a neck injury.
The right-hander has been testing it out, but he still has soreness and stiffness when he follows through with his delivery, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. Here’s what Buchholz told Cafardo on his current situation:
It’s muscular where that inflammation is. There was nothing there except inflammation and there’s only two places to go, one is up your neck or down your arm. [The soreness] is the aftereffects of treatments and throwing before I should have picked up a ball.
It’s not something that kills me to do. I don’t know what it would lead to if I kept throwing, throwing, throwing on it. It’s like picking a scab. I don’t want to keep messing with this forever. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but regardless of how long it takes, I want it to be done and not going out there for a couple of starts and then have a setback. That’s my mind-set.
Buchholz is the ace of the staff, and his absence from the starting rotation has been apparent at times. But most of the starters have managed to pick up the slack and have been having great years.
Take John Lackey, for example. The guy was basically hated by Boston fans but is now putting together a fantastic season (7-6, 2.78 ERA).
Boston’s problem has been finding the right guy to fill in for Buchholz every fifth day. Allen Webster has started six games for the Red Sox this season, but he has allowed 28 earned runs in 26.1 innings. Alfredo Aceves has made six starts too, but Boston recently outrighted him to the minors, per MLB.com.
Brandon Workman may be the solution. He got the start against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday afternoon and pitched pretty well. He allowed a pair of runs in 6.1 innings of work while walking one and striking out five. It’s much too early to deem him the No. 5 guy, though.
So instead of putting a different guy out there every fifth day to see who can “replace” Buchholz, the Red Sox have been looking into acquiring a starting pitcher. Garza seems to be the guy they’re pursuing the hardest, per Bowden's report.
Garza missed a chunk of the first half with a shoulder injury, and he has made only 11 starts this season. He’s 6-1 in those starts, with a 3.17 ERA. He’s averaging 7.86 strikeouts and 2.54 walks per nine innings.
While those numbers are good, he isn’t worth giving up top prospects for.
The Red Sox are set up perfectly for the future in terms of pitching. They have Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby De La Rosa, Webster and Drake Britton, among others. Boston has to hang onto these guys, because you never know what’s going to happen with the incumbents in the second half or in 2014.
A lot of those guys could end up contributing in the second half if Buchholz is unable to take the mound for another month or so. But if Buchholz does throw another bullpen and feels good in the days after, Boston will be fine for the rest of the season. He might not go undefeated all year long, but he’ll definitely make a positive impact.
The Red Sox enter the second half of the season in first place by 2.5 games. They’ve stayed in first place despite Buchholz not having pitched since June 8.
Boston is in good shape right now, and there’s no reason to panic. Dealing prospects to acquire Garza would show that Boston is afraid that it doesn’t have enough starting pitching talent to make the postseason.
For the time being, it makes more sense to stick with in-house arms than to make a deal for someone who may not stay healthy for the rest of 2013.