Today happened to be a juicy news day on the rumor front surrounding the Pittsburgh Pirates, so all of the trade rumors couldn’t be held until next week. In a bonus edition of the rumor mill, we break down the Pirates scouting Clay Buchholz and whether other Red Sox players could be had, including Mike Napoli, and we analyze why the Phillies have been scouting the Pirates’ farm system. To kick things off, the reliable Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review send this tweet out this morning:
In a recent story by Nick Cafardo, National Baseball Writer for the Boston Globe, he takes a look at Clay Buchholz and how he has been pitching like an ace this season. On Wednesday night, the Pirates had scouts at Fenway Park to watch Buchholz’s start. Cafardo states that the Pirates are looking for another starter. This makes sense, considering Jeff Locke‘s poor performance this season. In that start, Buchholz pitched seven innings, giving up only one run on eight hits while striking out seven.
Buchholz has been an inconsistent pitcher throughout his career. When he pitches well, he pitches like an ace, like in 2013 when he finished the season 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA and was worth 4.3 wins above replacement (he was injured for most of the year, however, and only pitched 108.1 innings) and helped Boston win the World Series. Or in 2010, when he pitched to a 2.33 ERA and a 5.4 WAR over 173.2 innings. But when he’s off, he’s really off. Just last season, Buchholz had a 5.34 ERA and a -1.6 WAR over 170.1 innings. This season, Bucholz has a 3.68 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and a 1.5 WAR. That ERA includes his second start of the season when he gave up nine earned runs over 3.1 innings pitched. He’s allowed one run total over his last two starts.
Buchholz is making $12 million this season and has club options for 2016 at $13 million ($0.245 million buyout) and 2017 at $13.5 million ($0.5 million buyout). This is a contract that the Pirates could afford, and the cheap buyout options could save the Pirates from being on the hook if Buchholz doesn’t perform well. If he does pitch well and anywhere near the way he did in 2010 or in 2013, he’ll be well worth the money he’s set to make.
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The question is, however, will the Red Sox part with him? Cafardo states that, according to team sources, the Red Sox have no intention of moving him. But that won’t stop the Pirates’ scouting department from doing their due diligence. The Pirates may have to overpay to get him, though, if Boston is hesitant to part with him. But the Pirates may need a replacement for Locke or protection if Charlie Morton or A.J. Burnett regress. Who knows if the Pirates will let Jameson Taillon ascend to the majors this season, and Clayton Richard could always be the rare bust for Ray Searage.
The Red Sox currently sit at the bottom of the AL East at 32-42, and if they continue to fall farther back, they will be sellers once again come July 31st. According to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, the Red Sox could part with first baseman Mike Napoli if they decide to sell. Napoli isn’t having a great year with a .197/.292/.377 line, but he has added power in the form of 10 home runs and has a .351 OBP against lefties (much higher than Pedro Alvarez‘s mark of .167). He’s making $16 million this season and is a free agent at the end of the year, and even for a big market team like the Red Sox, wasting money on a useless player is never a good thing. With Corey Hart now on the disabled list, the Pirates need a right-handed first baseman badly, and they could offer to take Napoli off of Boston’s hands in a deal for Clay Buchholz. After all, he’s better at hitting lefties than Pedro even if he can’t be productive in any other way.
What other Red Sox players could the Pittsburgh Pirates pursue? The Red Sox starting pitching has been awful this season. Justin Masterson has an ERA of 6.37 and Joe Kelly had a 5.67 ERA before recently being demoted to Triple-A. Both might be able to be had for next to nothing, but even if Searage could work his magic with either of them, bringing in a reclamation project is a risky move for a contending team.
Right fielder Alejandro De Aza is another option if the Pirates are looking to bring in outfield depth, but he only has a 0.2 WAR, slightly less than Gregory Polanco‘s WAR of 0.4, and he doesn’t add much more power than Polanco.
In other exciting news, Rob Biertempfel also tweeted this out today:
Now, before everyone either snaps or rejoices while thinking about Cole Hamels and what it would take to get him, all teams will be scouting just about every other team at some point between now and the trade deadline. The Phillies’ scout(s) are just doing their homework, at least, most likely. But if we are to entertain this as something more than just homework, let’s take a look at some of the prospects the Pirates have at Altoona this season.
Of the big names, first baseman Josh Bell stands out. Thought by many to be the future at first base for the Pirates, he would only be included in a deal for a star player. Some other names that could get the attention of other teams include outfielders Mel Rojas Jr. and Stetson Allie, shortstop Gift Ngoepe, and pitchers Steven Brault, John Kuchno, and Chad Kuhl. Outside of Bell, though, there don’t seem to be any future stars at Double-A despite the Curve owning the best record in the Eastern League Western division.
It seems more than likely that the Pirates will make a move at the trade deadline this season. There aren’t as many teams competing for a playoff spot right now in the National League as there are in the American League, and they’ll need to upgrade if they have any hope of catching the Cardinals in the NL Central. Make sure to check out rumbunter.com every Thursday at noon for the latest edition of the Pittsburgh Pirates Rumor Mill, with all your news on the latest rumors, trades, signings, promotions, demotions, and injury updates. There will plenty more juicy rumors as the trade deadline inches closer, so stay tuned!