Josh Tobias (Steven Branscombe)
When it came to trading Clay Buchholz, there were some realities the Red Sox were learning to deal with.
For instance, if a team was going to take on the pitcher’s entire $13.5 million for 2017, the return was not going to be as great as if the Red Sox ate some of the money. In other words, the Phillies weren’t going to trade their top prospect, J.P. Crawford, straight up for the starting pitcher.
So once it was determined that this was the dynamic the Red Sox would be dealing with when it came to a potential trade with Philadelphia, a list was made up. Using the feedback of the international, professional and amateur scouting departments, about 10 names were surfaced to president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to work from.
One of those names belonged to a 24-year-old named Josh Tobias.
“He’s definitely not just another body,” said Red Sox director of professional scouting Gus Quattlebaum. “We see him as having potential as a versatile, switch-hitting guy with make-up and a feel to hit. Whenever you can find someone who can hit that guy is going to standout.”
Tobias, who didn’t start switch-hitting until the tail end of his career at the University of Florida, was by no means one of the Phillies’ top prospects. There were some doubts about the second baseman’s ability to play his position long-term, with a perceived lack of athleticism serving as one of the reasons he slid to the 10th round of the 2015 draft.
But the Red Sox had enough of Tobias’ back-story that they saw him in a positive light.
Quattlebaum, for one, had seen Tobias a few times throughout the 2016 season, having been responsible for scouting the Phillies’ system. And his reports matched up with longtime scout (and former Tigers and Cardinals general manager) Joe McDonald, who was working the Florida State League for the Red Sox.
And, finally, a phone call was made to Red Sox’ first base coach Ruben Amaro, who was serving as general manager of the Phillies when Philadelphia selected Tobias.
“What stood out is he was always on time at the plate,” said Quattlebaum of Tobias, who combined to hit .294 with a .784 OPS and nine home runs between two Single-A clubs in 2016. “I was impressed by the fearlessness and the confidence he pursued some stuff tough pop-ups near the stands, and I liked his actions near the second base bag. I do think he can bounce around the field. Some scouts have seen him play a little bit of left field.
“At the end of his college career began switch-hit. Definitely more pop from the right side. He just has a simple approach where he was on time a lot, and squared put the ball. He was someone our scouts had liked, and our analytics group liked, so whenever you can find multiple likes on a player that’s a good thing.”
If all breaks right in spring training, Tobias will most likely start at Single-A Salem. And while the priority in this deal will always be perceived as using Buchholz’s contract to get under the luxury tax threshold, the Red Sox believe the other piece of the puzzle bears watching.
“We like him a lot,” Quattlebaum said.