Washington Nationals: Clay Buchholz worth a flier

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 06: Clay Buchholz
CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 06: Clay Buchholz /

Although the Washington Nationals will stay in-house for their fifth starter, Clay Buchholz is an intriguing option. Both share the same 2018 mission.

If the Washington Nationals are looking for a cheap veteran to audition for the role of fifth starter, hen look no further than Clay Buchholz.

The former Boston Red Sox hot prospect never found his footing with the Fenway faithful, but circumstances are different in DC. At 33, coming off injury after a trade to Philadelphia, Buchholz has one more shot at salvaging his career.

A quick look at his career numbers and you would never understand how sour his relationship got with Red Sox fan and the team. With an 81-62 overall record and 4.01 ERA, that translates to an ERA+ of 108. Buchholz is slightly above average over his 11-year career.

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A contact pitcher, his 6.9 K/9 rating is low in this high-strikeout era, Buchholz’s 1.311 WHIP and 3.2 BB/9 marks are not getting him into Cooperstown. But, like the curly-haired young girl from poetry fame, when he was good, he was very good.

When he was bad, like her, he was horrid. Despite two All-Star bids, Buchholz pitched with the confidence of a nervous kid on the first day of a new school. In his second big-league start, he no-hit the Los Angeles Angels. Yet in 2014, despite two complete game shutouts, his ERA ballooned to 5.34.

Talk about maddening.

Even with his history, Buchholz is worth a closer look.

Although he never was the imagined ace New England expected, he holds value at the back-end of his career. Buchholz can eat innings while keeping teams in games. That is the definition of a fifth starter.

On paper, he is a better option than West Palm Beach-bound Tommy Milone. He is an older version of A.J. Cole. Whether Buchholz makes the final roster is not as important as having an audition.

If he regains his old form, Buchholz offers stability. Erick Fedde would get the time to develop this year in Syracuse while the Nats decide what role is best for Cole. Buchholz is a one-year stop gap as Joe Ross rehabs his Tommy John surgery.

So, why take a flyer on a veteran with a spotty history?

Buchholz comes into 2018 with the same mission as the Nats. Redemption. Both the player and pitcher have something to prove. The need to silence the doubters.

Next: Examining the 2018 sked

With the off-season marketplace slower than usual, what Buchholz is worth remains undetermined. But, as we get closer to February, a non-roster invite is not hurting anybody.