Blue Jays: Can’t believe I’m saying this, but re-sign Clay Buchholz

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 12: Clay Buchholz #36 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the first inning during a MLB game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on September 12, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 12: Clay Buchholz #36 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the first inning during a MLB game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on September 12, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

I didn’t think I’d be saying this after a tough 2019 season, but after his recent return and impact on the team, I hope the Blue Jays re-sign Clay Buchholz for the 2020 season.

When the Blue Jays brought in both Clayton Richard and Clay Buchholz last offseason, the hope was that the veterans could provide some guidance for a young staff while eating some innings in a rebuilding year.

Neither were really able to do the latter, but even during short stays in the big leagues it sounds like both veterans made an impact on their young teammates and a positive impression in the clubhouse. When it comes to Buchholz in particular, it seems like that’s all he’s done lately since he returned to the Blue Jays’ active roster.

The 35-year-old has gone 1-4 with a 5.31 ERA in just eight starts around a few different injuries this season, but it appears as though he’s had a bigger impact off of the mound than on it, and that’s an important role for a veteran on a rebuilding team.

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We heard Trent Thornton sing his praises earlier this week after five no-hit innings against the Red Sox, crediting the veteran for teaching him two new grips for his pitches, and giving him some solid general guidance throughout the year when they’ve been able to spend time together. The hope is that the veterans can put up some numbers as well, but providing mentorship is another important way to bring value to your team, even if the box scores aren’t all that pretty.

Buchholz was at it again on Thursday night, setting a great example as a veteran leader, and also showing the young men in the dugout what it means to be a good teammate at the highest level. It’s one thing to talk the talk, but Buchholz taught Billy McKinney an important lesson after a ball got away from him in the series finale against Boston. Shi Davidhi of Sportsnet had Buchholz’s fantastic quote:

"“Billy came up to me and tried to apologize two or three times and I told him, ‘You don’t ever have to apologize to me. I know you’re not out there trying to do something to cause me runs.’ That’s not what the game is about,” said Buchholz. “They feel bad but if I make a better pitch in that scenario, the ball doesn’t even get hit there so I can take the blame for all that. Everybody is out there grinding. Everybody wants to win every game. It doesn’t happen that way. You’ve got to go through a learning phase and this is a learning phase for this club right now.”"

Because we’ve had a chance to see this side of Buchholz in a Blue Jay uniform, I think there are good reasons to explore bringing him back to Toronto next season, if he’s interested in giving it another go. For what it’s worth, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe published a report yesterday saying that Buchholz intends to pitch again next season, as long he can find himself in the right situation. That situation would be either a major league contract, or at least a “legitimate opportunity” to make a team next spring, but he won’t pitch in Triple-A in order to earn his way back to the big leagues.

The Blue Jays could likely provide one or both of those conditions for him, depending on how the front office decides to approach things this winter. There are plenty of reasons that Ross Atkins and company need to address their starting rotation, and a guy like Buchholz could be of use, provided he can have a healthier year. The Blue Jays will have a young group that will return Trent Thornton, Ryan Borucki (if healthy), Jacob Waguespack, and Anthony Kay, and they technically still have control of Matt Shoemaker‘s contract for 2020 as well.

However, the nice thing about all of the names above (except for Shoemaker) is that they all have minor league options. That means that if the Blue Jays went out and signed a more established starter like a Zack Wheeler or a Jake Odorizzi, they could still make plenty of room for someone like Buchholz if he was healthy and deserving of a spot in the rotation. Sure, the Blue Jays will want to give opportunities to their younger arms, and Nate Pearson could push for a spot at some point in 2020, but we’ve witnessed this year how many pitchers it takes to get through a 162 game season.

Next. Blue Jays release Clayton Richard. dark

The Blue Jays are more than likely going to bring in a veteran like Buchholz this winter, just like they did last off-season with him, Richard, and even Shoemaker. Even though the results were disappointing in 2019, I’d be up for another shot with the soft-tossing veteran in Toronto. Based on what we’ve been hearing about his mentorship and leadership skills, he may be worth a small, one-year deal on that alone.