Clay Buchholz likely to miss rest of 2017, further complicating his free agency

There is no doubt the Philadelphia Phillies are still in the process of rebuilding. They have a strong farm system and promising young big league players like Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco, among others, though contention is still a year or two away.

Over the winter general manager Matt Klentak, in an effort to add trade chips and be respectable on the field, acquired several low cost veterans on short-term contracts. Michael Saunders and Joaquin Benoit were signed as free agents, plus Klentak went out and acquired Howie Kendrick and Pat Neshek in salary dump trades as well.

The Phillies also imported right-hander Clay Buchholz in a salary dump trade with the Boston Red Sox. Buchholz, 32, will earn $13.5 million this year before becoming a free agent. Unfortunately for him and the Phillies, his season is already over. Buchholz has undergone elbow surgery and will miss 4-6 months, effectively the rest of 2017.

Buchholz made only two regular season starts with the Phillies and they did not go well. He allowed four runs in five innings his first time out, then, last week, he was charged with six runs in 2 1/3 innings before exiting with an injury. That's the injury that led to the surgery.

For the Phillies, the $13.5 million in salary is no big deal. They have tons of money. They were presumably hoping Buchholz would pitch well enough to net some prospects at the trade deadline, or at least be a qualifying offer candidate after the season a la Jeremy Hellickson last year. That is now off the table completely.

For Buchholz, the injury further complicates his upcoming free agency. He is undeniably talented, though his career has been dogged by injuries and ineffectiveness. Only three times in parts of 11 MLB seasons did Buchholz throw as many as 140 innings. Only twice in the last six years has he had a league average or better ERA.

Back in 2013 Buchholz had a 1.74 ERA (237 ERA+) and was a 4.3 WAR pitcher in 108 1/3 innings. The very next season he had a 5.34 ERA (75 ERA+) and was a negative-1.6 WAR pitcher in 170 1/3 innings. That's the Clay Buchholz story in a nutshell. Occasionally brilliant, occasionally dreadful, occasionally injured.

usatsi-10006700.jpg
Elbow surgery has ended Clay Buchholz's season. USATSI

Buchholz will go into free agency as a reclamation project, and this past offseason was tough on free agent reclamation project pitchers. Brett Anderson ($3.5 million), Jered Weaver ($3 million), Tyson Ross ($6 million), and Derek Holland ($6 million) all signed relatively small one-year contracts. Others like Doug Fister and Tim Lincecum remain unsigned.

Right now Buchholz has to focus on his rehab and getting healthy. Once that happens, I'm sure we'll hear about him throwing for scouts in the offseason to show he's ready to go. His free agency was always going to be tricky given his career to date. Now the injury adds another complicating factor.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories
    Dodgers NLCS Champs Gear