Pirates Interested in Clay Buchholz, But What is He Worth?

Nick Cafardo has a report on Clay Buchholz today, noting that there are teams interested in the Red Sox right hander, and that the Pirates are one of them. Cafardo said that the Pirates recently had a scout watching Buchholz, and that they need a pitcher. They could improve on their fifth starting spot over Jeff Locke, but the fact that they’re looking at a pitcher doesn’t guarantee anything. Last year they looked at a lot of pitchers, and even made some offers at the deadline, but were shut out from adding a starter. Part of this was due to teams looking for MLB-talent while they were offering prospects.

With that disclaimer out of the way, Buchholz would make sense for the Pirates. He has been a very inconsistent pitcher over the last few years. At his best, he looks like a three win pitcher. At his worst, he’s worth barely a win. This year he is having a career year, so that might impact his value a bit, if teams believe that this is the pitcher they’ll get going forward. The thing about the Pirates is that they have a good track record of getting the best version of a pitcher, so it’s possible they’d have success keeping Buchholz consistent.

But what would Buchholz be worth in a trade with those inconsistent performances? He’s making $12 M this year, so he’d have about $6 M remaining if dealt on July 1st. From there he has $13 M and $13.5 M options respectively the next two years. Those are both very affordable for the Pirates if Buchholz pitches to his best. That’s what they are currently paying Francisco Liriano. They’ll also see A.J. Burnett leaving next year, which means they’re shedding $8.5 M from the rotation, and needing a replacement.

There are a few scenarios here. First would be the best case scenario for the Red Sox — someone buys in to his current success and pays for the best version of him the last few years, which would be a three win pitcher. At $6 M per win, that would give Buchholz a trade value of $13.1 M, plus a little extra if you think he could get a draft pick at the end of the process. That would be worth a top 51-100 ranked hitting prospect, plus a Grade C pitcher. Or maybe two top 51-100/Grade B pitching prospects.

If Buchholz was valued at the mid-point of his production the last few years, then you’re likely looking at a very low value. At two wins per year, his option years wouldn’t be worth picking up, which means he’d be worth about a Grade C pitcher. I can’t see him getting that value on this market, especially with how he has pitched this year. I could see teams paying for this year, but not giving much for the option years due to the uncertainty. Basically it would make him the equivalent of a one-year rental, meaning he’d be worth about a Grade B hitter or a top 51-100 pitcher.

The range for Buchholz would be one Grade B hitter/top 51-100 pitcher on the low end, to a pair of those players, or a top 51-100 hitter and a Grade C pitcher on the high end. And with not many sellers on the market, and Buchholz pitching well, I could see this being closer to the high end.

I don’t think this would be a bad risk to take for the Pirates, especially with their track record of having success with pitchers like Buchholz (good strikeout rate, high ground ball rate). Buchholz might cost a decent return, but he doesn’t look like a guy who would cost someone like Tyler Glasnow or Josh Bell. The Pirates could deal one or two of their other top prospects, sending out guys that have value but they wouldn’t miss in the short or long term. It would be a gamble, based on the inconsistent history. But it would ultimately be just a more expensive gamble of the risk the Pirates have taken on guys like Liriano, Burnett, and others in the past.

Of course, there’s no guarantee the Red Sox deal him, as Cafardo notes. So all of this interest might be for nothing.

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joe s

reading some of your comments it seems we are very desperate to win now. Lets protect 3 guys and let them pick 4 or 5 prospects so Boston can use them to win way before the new Buc will Holts us to the championship.

joe s

Lets stand pat. He isn’t going to put the Bucs in the playoffs and why give up anything for him. I would rather see Sampson get a chance instead of him.


I currently live in Boston and he despised and for good reasons. He quits on his team, he is injury prone, streaky, and can be flat out awful. That being said as noted he has put together a nice season. I have to keep in mind this would be a 5th starter so who cares about all that noise. However it is a 5th starter and even though it won’t be a lot it’s still pricey for a number 5 guy. I would say pass.

Adam Y

I don’t give up Hanson. Buccos do well with pitchers they have time to fix. That time isn’t in the middle of a playoff race. Not saying Buchholz needs fixing, but he’s far from perfect. I don’t give up Ramirez either because I feel like he could get us more in 1-2 years. I’m more in the Mathison realm, and I’m fine with the Sox wanting and not getting more. Just not a fan of the pitcher.


We need a pitcher not a belly itcher, bring on buc…hholz.


Nothing like trade speculation to bring out the Tradeniks. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

(btw, count ME as one, too).

Scott H

A bit off-topic, but while we’re discussing trades between the Red Sox and Pirates, has anyone realized that the Joel Hanrahan trade from 2012 has pretty much just turned out to be Brock Holt for Mark Melancon, which I would say has worked out pretty well for both teams?


Those are the best kinds of trades.


Brock Holt was the piece that I really did not want to give up at the time…and it’s interesting because his bat profiles very similar to our first round pick this year.


Where would Holt be playing for the Pirates currently ?

Luke S

Actually, a better question would be “what would Josh Harrison be doing right now” because i highly doubt its playing most days and having a contract extension.

Someone mentioned how it would have been easy for PIT to find playing time for both if we kept Holt. And i dont see that at all. Its entirely plausible that Holt would have filled that role and PIT would have never largely increased Harrison’s playing time.


A super-utility, bench role…with a better bat than multiple bench pieces of ours. He’s played OF, 1B, SS, 2B, and 3B this year for the Red Sox.


Yeah, you convinced me. I’d much rather have Brock Holt than Sean Rodriguez.


Brock Holt would be great but Melancon has been the best reliever in the majors arguably for 2.5 years. I am happy with that.

Andy S

Tim- Since MLB-ready guys were all the rage last year in deals, is there an equivalent when we’re talking about potential trades? As in, he’s worth a top 51-100 hitter… but what if the Red Sox would only want a Major League ready guy right now? How does that play in to this – because it’s not like it’s apples to apples… Jordy Mercer is in the majors, but he doesn’t have the value of a top prospect, I would think.


Pedro! The red Sox want to win now, I’m sure the would love major league talent. Bucholz and Napoli for Pedro and maybe a grade C pitcher.


Heh heh……in the days before social media, Huntingdon made that offer the next thing he would have heard is a solid ” click ” on the hang up.

J Nader

Pedro is the 3rd best player in that deal, why in the world would the Red Sox upgrade our 1B situation AND through in Bucholz for a grade C prospect


Money. Napoli is a expensive rental and Bucholz is still owed over 30M. Pedro is a cost-effective major leaguers for 1.5 yrs + qualifying offer. Bucholz as mentioned had between a rollercoaster.


This is the Red Sox we are talking about, not the Rays.

Luke S

Pedro is really only cost effective at DH, and only for a few more seasons at most. Making 7-8 million next year most likely, with no defensive value. But roster construction wise, thats an issue because Sandoval is likely a future DH. Pedro seems like a very imperfect option at 1B, and a less than optimal DH.


a less than optimal DH

I used to call him a LH Mark Reynolds, but at least Reynolds is an above avg fielder at 1b (last I checked).


Platoon DH…better than garbage…but not a whole lot. Mitch Moreland comes to mind. Pedro is slightly better (Maybe) than Mitch moreland. That is a tough perspective.


I’d love to see Pedro go. The defense is just awful and really he’s about 5% better offensively right now than last year…when I hated him. His OPS+ is only 3 points higher. He has only hit into one double play and his K rate has improved very slightly over last years improvements if you want to find some positives. I think the difference between the Ike Davis platoon and Pedro/Hart this year is minimal. It’s a coin flipper that I don’t even want to get into analyzing. There are no more breakouts for Pedro. He is what he is: a spare part that can help when used in a very specific role. Not what you want in the middle of your lineup and handling the ball 10-12 plays a game.

Luke S

Its possible the market sets up similar to last year, but i dont think we can assume it’ll be the same. May not be as heavily dependent on ML ready players as last year.


I would think Hanson would qualify, honestly, and is also a top 51-100 hitter. I think Hanson+Sampson+another might do it, honestly, from a value standpoint. I know the Red Sox love Bell…but he would, I think, be too much to give up, although he’s really struggled at 1B


That’s a middle infielder they don’t need and a pitcher they wouldn’t want.

Absolutely fair value, but absolutely nothing that would interest them.

Very tough trading partner.


I agree, completely. I think the value I stated is right, but the matchup wrong. Unless you could get someone else involved. Kingham would have also been an option before his injury.

Kyle K

Tim, what specific players could the Pirates send in a fair package for Bucholz?

Andrew Rothstein

Tim – what do you think Cueto’s trade value is? Of course assuming he is healthy… Thanks!

Andy S

Taillon and Bell and a couple of A ball guys. It’s Johnny Cueto. Oh, and a bag of balls with Stickum.


Really, for half a year of Cueto?

Andy S

I’m only saying that because premium starting pitching at the deadline= insane deals. I think Jared might be right. We’ll find out when the Dodgers make the announcement.

Arik Florimonte

They are not always insane. Last year 1.5 years of David Price cost Austin Jackson, Willy Adames, and Drew Smyly. I think that was a pretty good deal for the Tigers.


So was the offseason deal for Doug Fister…but, unfortunately, those deals seem more uncommon and rare.


Now, if the deal were to include Todd Frazier…I would be more than happy to include Taillon, Bell, and more. But then again we would then be stuck with a 3 year window.


I think its more like one of those guys, another top 10 prospect, and a couple of lower level high-upside players. I was thinking it would probably take more like Taillon, Ramirez, and two A-Ball pitchers.


Too much for half a year of a pitcher who currently has a sore elbow.

Luke S

His contract situation would seem to make him even more enticing for PIT, as the buyout is relatively low and his overall price tag isnt deadly. Interesting to see where Boston places his value if/when he gets moved.


Buchholz seems to be the prototypical Pirate pitcher target, and I’m frankly surprised the club didn’t pounce when his value was lower.

Mechanics have always been the root of his inconsistencies. You can find dozens of articles bearing that out with a simple Google search.

Sounds familiar, right?

Arik Florimonte

I don’t like Buchholz for the Pirates.
1) You shoudn’t trade for projects, you should sign them when their value is low.

2) He Missed significant time in 2011 and 2013.

3) His career FIP of 3.93

He doesn’t do anything especially well. His K/9 is all over the place, his GB rate is average, his HR/9 is generally around 1.0, with an exception here and there. With 1 good full season in his career, he’s a slot machine, and I don’t think you want to pay for the chance to play, unless the price is very low.


Remind me again how AJ Burnett became a Pirate?

Nevermind, I Google’d it.

Luke S

Inconsistency=/= project. He’s semi affordable prospect wise because of his up and down nature, but his good is very good while his bad can, at times, still be useful. Career FIP shows the past, but omits the clear value he holds.

Its also different because he IS having a good year this year and if they fear its not sustainable, they have the opt out option. Not a terrible move.


I like Buchholz for the Pirates. I would be more than willing to move Hanson to make the deal. I wouldn’t move Glasnow, Bell, or Meadows but most others would be available.


red sox have no need for a middle if. Give them a couple young righties


Why would the Red Sox want Hanson ? They have already moved Betts to the OF due to Pedroia’s prescence, and Betts was a higher rated prospect than Hanson.


Apparently, you didn’t see my response to NMR who raised a similar, although more thorough, correct issue. I never said they’d jump at the deal…I believe I said that I would move Hanson and that I think there would be some equivalent value there. But that’s irrelevant because we aren’t great trade partners with Boston, although Boston has been known to covet Bell.

Luke S

I’d consider moving Meadows if its not a pure 1-1 move. Moving Hanson makes me question our middle IF depth, with Pedro/Walker likely moving on soon.


Except for Moroff, Kang, Mercer, Harrison…but its hard for Harrison to get off of 3B because we do not have any 3B prospects. The honest truth is that for such a great farm system, we lack much on the offensive side of the ball at all. Bell and Meadows and then…..?

Luke S

Your list is 4, with 1 guy at least a few years away and does still have some developing to do. So thats 3 guys for 3 spots, meaning most depth comes from outside.

I dont agree we lack offensive talent. Hansen is a legit offensive talent, Bell is fine, Meadows has the ability, Diaz has put up fine offensive numbers for a few years, and then a list of young options with offensive potential like McGuire and Tucker.


I guess I have a more negative opinion of McGuire’s bat profile. I like Ramirez as well, if he can stay healthy. But, similar to what you mentioned about the middle infield depth, a lot of those pieces have some developing to do and are years away.


And this is exactly why the Red Sox are a difficult trading partner, just as we saw with the pursuit of Mike Carp. They often simply don’t have any need for the return the player the Pirates target is worth.

Honestly, what in the hell would the Red Sox do with Alen Hanson? They have four middle infielders on their *active* roster who are clearly better, and at least a couple more prospects within sight.


They might have use for Taillon…the problem is that giving up Taillon for Buccholz is that that seems like too much value. The only other player that Boston would want, and we KNOW that they want him, is Josh Bell. The question is whether Bell is worth it since we have NO other legitimate hitting prospects…especially at the corners.


Same here.


Scott Kazmir seems like the best fit, being a lefty, but Buchholz might be number two on that list as another starter who profiles well for Pittsburgh and is effectively a rental. And with the depth of the Pirates’ system in the outfield and on the mound, they seem well-equipped to make that deal.

He really has been all over the place for his career, though. Strikeout rate and walk rate in massive flux, but PNC is friendlier to pitchers than Fenway, so there’s a decent chance between that and Searage’s genius that we get something closer to the good version.


Ds42: Kazmir is more like something we need, because our cupboard is full of young, strong RHSP’s. Kaz would be available, and possibly for less than expected. However, why not just go the full route and go after Cole Hamels? He has flourished in a bandbox, and a move to PNC could be just what every pitcher should want to do, and especially for a team with a chance to make the playoffs. His GB rate would play very well for the Pirates, and AJ might be the best salesman of the benefits of pitching in a pitcher’s park.


I like Kazmir and like our potential to also potentially bring him back another year. However, someone like Buccholz has years of control left and that, to me, is worth a lot. Our pitching depth has been decimated this year and who replaces Burnett? Locke?

Luke S

Health will/could replace a ton of depth. You have Cumpton/Kingham as depth options at some point next year, Sadler and Sampson likely still around. Taillon slides into the rotation at some point. Add in a cheap FA like on a minor league deal and depth wouldnt be awful

You’d have Cole-Liriano-Morton-Locke right now. Taillon at some point, so a FA (typical of PIT) to fill the 4 spot and Taillon ends the Locke days once Super 2 and service time issues end. Also not crazy to use a Worley type in place of Locke is they feel he is a better option.


Buccholz would also be an upgrade over, likely, those options I would imagine. But at what price and are we the right fit for Boston (no)?

Luke S

Right, but you spoke of depth and that goes beyond the first 5. A reason we wont feel pressured to make any move is the depth we will have going into next year. We will need 1 FA/trade pitcher for the rotation, but PIT never seems worried about finding a back end buy low candidate.

Its gotta be the right fit at the right price, and personally i dont see BOS finding what it wants from us for something we will be willing to give up.

Daniel F

Hi Tim, what do you mean by “three win pitcher”? Do you mean WAR of 3?

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