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Buchholz Trade Makes Garcia Take Look Better

For those critical of the St. Louis Cardinals for not getting more for one year of left-handed pitcher’s Jaime Garcia’s services, check out the Tuesday trade between the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies.

buchholz-usa-200Like the Cards, the BoSox had a glut of starting pitchers and also like the Cards, they moved one of their lower-rung, most inconsistent starters who has one year remaining on his contract. Veteran righty Clay Buchholz was sent to the Phillies.

That was not the most interesting fact, in my opinion. It is the comparable return.

The Sox receive a former 10th rounder who hit .300 at high-A and Class-A last season, a young second baseman named Josh Tobias. I don’t know him, but in a quick read, he appears to be an ok hitter with defensive questions and is unranked by the major national prospect watchers.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like new Cardinal Luke Dykstra, who was just one of three players who joined St. Louis from Atlanta in return for Garcia? Dykstra is also a .300-hitting second baseman who played at Class-A last season. The former seventh-round draft pick is also not considered a top prospect.

The difference is that St. Louis also received two pitchers in the Garcia trade, one with MLB experience in John Gant. Some like the other new Cardinals right-hander, Chris Ellis, even more. Though he has yet to debut in the bigs, Ellis reached Triple-A last season.

In fact, MLB Pipeline ranks Ellis 23rd in the rich Cardinals farm system and Gant at #26.

As you can see in the stats below, the two MLB veteran pitchers Garcia and Buchholz have very similar career profiles. Both are coming off disappointing seasons with Garcia’s 2016 ERA at 4.67 and Buchholz at 4.78, hence their availability on the trade market.

Career Age Yrs W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER
Garcia 30 8 62 45 0.579 3.57 158 147 4 4 4 896.0 889 409 355
Buchholz 32 10 81 61 0.570 3.96 206 188 7 9 6 1167.2 1104 565 514
Garcia 79 261 723 109 3.56 1.283 8.9 0.8 2.6 7.3 2.77
Buchholz 116 417 899 109 4.04 1.303 8.5 0.9 3.2 6.9 2.16

Contracts are basically a wash in this case, with Buchholz’ $13.5 million commitment moving with him to Philadelphia, as did Garcia’s $12 million salary for 2017 now on Atlanta’s books.

Even if Tobias is a better prospect than Dykstra, it seems pretty clear that the Cardinals extracted considerably more for a year of Garcia’s services than the Sox generated for a comparable talent in Buchholz.

Footnote: I have been reminded on Twitter that Boston was motivated to dump Buchholz for salary cap reasons, a problem of their own creation. I understand that, but it does not change the fact that the Cardinals got a considerably better return, in part because they moved faster. St. Louis took a risk exercising Garcia’s option for 2017 despite it being clear that he did not have a job, so did not wait around until Christmas to unload him.

For example, I bet if Boston had offered Buchholz to the Braves six weeks ago, they could have gotten more for him than just Dykstra. Along with Garcia, the Braves picked up age 40-something retreads Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey early in the off-season for their 2017 rotation.

Maybe the Sox now felt they were up against the wall and had to take whatever they could get just to rid themselves of Buchholz’ contract. If so, they got what they deserved by waiting.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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