Phillies

Phillies acquire RHP Clay Buchholz from Red Sox for 2B Josh Tobias

usa-clay-buchholz-redsox.png
USA Today Images

Phillies acquire RHP Clay Buchholz from Red Sox for 2B Josh Tobias

The Phillies made another buy-low trade on Tuesday, acquiring right-handed starting pitcher Clay Buchholz from the Red Sox in exchange for minor-league 2B Josh Tobias.

Buchholz, 32, spent 10 seasons with Boston and made the AL All-Star team in 2010 and 2013. He's had some dominant years — 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in '10; 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in an injury-shortened '13 — but he's never been the same pitcher from one season to the next.

Buchholz makes $13.5 million in 2017, the final season of his contract.

"Clay had a very productive tenure with the Red Sox, and we look forward to seeing what he can do in a Phillies uniform," GM Matt Klentak said in a statement. "He is a welcome addition to our young starting rotation."

To make room on the 40-man roster for Buchholz, the Phillies designated third baseman Richie Shaffer for assignment.

The Buchholz trade is similar to last year's acquisition of Jeremy Hellickson. Both were once highly-touted young right-handers, both started their careers fast and both experienced growing pains.

As with Hellickson, the Phillies are buying low on Buchholz. He went 8-10 with a 4.78 ERA last season, pitching some of his games in relief for the first time since 2008. The Red Sox's rotation was crowded even before Chris Sale arrived and Buchholz was the odd man out. Buchholz did finish strong though, allowing just three runs in 19 innings in his last three starts.

It's hard to imagine the Phillies paying Buchholz $13.5 million to do anything but start, so their projected rotation (barring injury) would include Hellickson, Buchholz, Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez. Aaron Nola is coming off an elbow injury and will have to show he's healthy enough to crack the opening day staff. Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin are also candidates.

The Phillies are gambling that the Buchholz they'll get is closer to the 2015 version. Just two seasons ago, he had a 3.26 ERA with 107 strikeouts and 23 walks in 113 1/3 innings before his year was cut short by an elbow injury.

Injuries have been common throughout Buchholz's career. In an eight-season span from 2008-15, he made seven trips to the disabled list for a right fingernail tear, a left hamstring strain, a stress fracture in his lower back, esophagitis, right shoulder bursits, a left knee hyperextension and the aforementioned elbow injury.

Buchholz's fastball has averaged about 92 mph since 2012, two ticks below where he was in 2010, his best year. He's changed his approach through the years to incorporate more cutters and fewer fastballs.

At his peak, Buchholz generated ground balls at better than a 50 percent rate. But his ground ball rate last season was just 41.2 percent, nearly seven percent below his career average.

With the Phils, Buchholz will get a chance to reestablish his value, a la Hellickson, as he heads into free agency. If he pitches well, perhaps he sticks.

If he fails, all it'll cost the Phillies is money they had available to spend and a minor leaguer at a position of depth.

Tobias was the Phillies' 10th-round pick in 2015 out of the University of Florida. He's hit .301 with an .801 OPS in two minor-league seasons, but his batting average dropped by 50 points as he made the jump from Single A Lakewood to High A Clearwater. 

The Phillies are not hurting for middle infielders. They have Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis at the major-league level, top prospect J.P. Crawford at Triple A, and second basemen Scott Kingery and Jesmuel Valentin rising through their system.

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

ap-gabe-kapler.jpg
AP Images

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

stanton_altuve.jpg
USA Today Images

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.