By now I'm sure everyone has seen the latest reports that the Red Sox are aggressively pursuing a trade for Roy Halladay. Not surprisingly, the rumors always start with Clay Buchholz. But if you're asking, my advice: do not give up Clay for Halladay, even if it is one for one. It is simply not worth it.
Let's look at the values of both players.
Halladay WAR last five years: 4.4, 5.6, 5.7, 7.4, 7.3.
In 6 of his 8 seasons in the majors, he has pitched at least 220 innings, including the last four seasons.
I am not here to disparage Roy Halladay. There is no mistaking that he is a truly elite pitcher, arguably the best in baseball. He is getting older (turns 33 next season), but I am fairly confident he will continue to be worth around 5 WAR for at least four more seasons.
We all are very familiar with the Clay Buchholz saga; top prospect pitches no-no then sucks in the majors, dominates AAA again and now looks to be finally breaking through, having pitched very well at the end of last season. Bill James projects Clay to pitch 161 innings at a FIP of 3.94. Given that projection, and the ability for growth, 3 WAR average over the next 4 seasons seems reasonable. Those are very good numbers, but certainly not in Halliday's class. So why should we hold on to Clay? Simply, because of the money.
Roy Halladay will make $15M next season, the last year of his contract. In order to keep him past this season, we will need to negotiate a Santana-like extension for another 5 years at $20Mish per season. Given my entriely unscientific estimate of 5 WAR per year over that period, he will be paid $115Mish for 30 WAR. That comes out to $3.8 per WAR, actually a very good value.
Clay Buchholz will make at most $15M total over the next four seasons. And only that much if he becomes a very good starter. Like any young, good pitcher, he will be an incredible value, one of the better deals in baseball. We would only be paying something like $1.2M per WAR, without any kind of long-term commitment.
So, we can assume the Sox have a definite budget. Any money spent on one guy, is money that could be spent on someone else. What else can we get with the difference in money, basically $14M next year and more for the years following? A lot. We could sign John Lackey, or Jason Bay, or Matt Holliday. We could make a run at Joe Mauer next season. We could extend Josh Beckett.
Given a choice between the expensive Roy Halladay or the cheap Clay Buchholz, I will take four years of Clay.