When it comes to baseball, Philadelphia and Boston are at different spots. The Phillies are doing their best to get to where the Red Sox are in the realm of Major League Baseball; the playoffs. Generally, it's the teams that are in good shape coming into a season that look to add that final piece to the rotation, but the Red Sox found that there were too many pieces to fit into their rotation.
After acquiring Chris Sale at the Winter Meetings earlier this month, Boston was overloaded on starters, which would have likely meant they would pay Clay Buchholz $13.5-million to be a reliever. Possibly, a long reliever. He also would have served as some insurance in case the Sox needed another arm at some point in the season, but basically, he was, at best, a spare tire. In fact, even without Sale, Buchholz was somewhat on the outside looking in at a shiny Boston rotation.
While they weren't looking to add the final piece to a team that is playoff bound, the Phillies were looking to add another veteran starter to a very young rotation. Granted, they have enough young arms that they could have filled a rotation even without Buchholz and their other veteran starter, Jeremy Hellickson, who surprisingly accepted the Phillies qualifying offer to return to the team on a one-year deal.
With Vincent Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin and a healthy Aaron Nola, the Phillies could have run a collection of kids to the mound. The addition of Hellickson, and now, Buchholz, allows the Phillies to not push Thompson and Eflin and to guarantee that Nola is nothing short of 100-percent to start the season. It also sets them up for a situation where, in a perfect world, everybody stays healthy and pitches well and at the trade deadline, Hellickson and/or Buchholz can be shopped around, with other arms ready to step in.
Meanwhile, in Boston, the Sox shipped a pricey, unnecessary pitcher to the Phillies to take a good chunk of change off of their payroll. Buchholz is worth the $13.5-million to the Phillies, because they needed that extra veteran arm, and because money isn't an issue right now, since Ryan Howard's contract is officially off the books.
Don't think that the Phillies necessarily stole Buchholz though. Josh Tobias, the young second base prospect that the Phillies sacrificed in the deal, isn't at all a bad prospect. Tobias was drafted in the 10th round of the 2015 Draft and has shown a penchant for swinging the bat. The Phillies had him start at Williamsport after he signed in 2015 and last season had him at both Lakewood and Clearwater. He was especially impressive at Lakewood (7-55-.304/.375/.444) in his 93 games with the BlueClaws and held his own at Clearwater (2-14-.254/.324/.357), at age 24. Defensively, he showed some improvement in 2016, but he does still have some work to do at second base.
He's a switch-hitter, which always helps, and has the ability to make contact from both sides of the plate. While he's never going to be a pure home run hitter, Tobias can turn on a pitch and could reach the area of 10-15 home runs per year and still make solid contact. He's got good speed and should be able to swipe a few bags.
When you talk about his defense, keep in mind, that Tobias only became a second baseman when he was drafted by the Phillies. At the University of Florida, Tobias was a third baseman, but it was thought that he wouldn't hit enough to stick at that position, so the Phillies were proactive in moving him to second base. With Tobias willing to put in the time at second, he could develop into an average defensive second baseman before too long. The Phillies had him play a handful of games in left field and he appeared relatively comfortable there for a guy who had played in the infield throughout high school and college. Worst case scenario may be that Tobias becomes a utility player who can play third, short and a little outfield. Throw in the fact that he's got a little speed and is a switch-hitter and he could be a valuable utility player, at the very least.
So why did the Phillies give up Tobias? Plenty of reasons.
First, they needed a veteran starter and Buchholz isn't a bad option. Secondly, Tobias isn't at the top of the Phillies minor league depth chart at second base. That spot belongs to Scott Kingery, who reached Double-A Reading last season and has the skills to be an everyday major league player in the not too distant future. Tobias was always a step behind Kingery, with his move to Clearwater only coming when the Phillies bumped Kingery up to Reading.
The bottom line is that Boston gets a decent prospect for a guy who was going to cost them pretty much money and was generally just a spare part, who by the way, has some injury issues in his not too distant past. The salary relief can be put to good use and they don't miss a beat with their pitching staff. In Philly, their rotation is now stocked at a price that they could afford, and they didn't have to disrupt the upper portion of their prospect list to do that. They also have a couple of potential trade pieces in Hellickson and Buchholz, who have contracts expiring at the end of the 2017 season and could be quality rentals for a team in pursuit of a playoff spot, which would net the Phillies a couple of younger prospects. Either way, between the two, another $30-million comes off the books after the season if neither is worth re-signing, allowing the Phillies to keep the payroll flexibility that they have now.null