A little under a month-and-a-half ago, we discussed the possibility of Clay Buchholz signing an extension with Boston, and what that would mean both in terms of the Red Sox’s future and whether or not Buchholz was worth the cost. It seemed a necessary move for Boston, given the rotation has just the one team-friendly contract (Jon Lester) and not a single arm signed with the club through 2015, and it made a lot of sense for Buchholz, who would have a guaranteed contract that would set him up for life, regardless of his performance over the next few seasons.
The Red Sox took the framework of Lester’s $30 million extension, one that bought out his arbitration years and attached a club option to his second year of free agency, and added another option year–this new deal was signed by Buchholz yesterday, keeping him in Boston through at least 2015 rather than 2014 as planned, and two team-friendly club options for 2016 ($13 million) and 2017 ($13.5 million) that buy out Buchholz’s second and third years of free agency could keep him around even longer.
If the proposed deal discussed in March was considered a win-win situation for Buchholz and the Red Sox, the real thing may have tipped the scales slightly in Boston’s favor. Buchholz still gets paid well if the Sox pick up both of his option years–that would give him a total of $56.5 million over the life of the deal–but at an AAV ($9.4M) that the Red Sox have to love, especially as they pay John Lackey (4 years, $64.5M) and Josh Beckett (4 years, $68M) more money than they may be worth (we have already seen two of the three Josh Becketts this year–the frustrating one that racks up high pitch counts but squeaks out a decent start, and the one that dominates the opposition and appears unhittable; let’s hope that the Beckett that can’t get through the fourth inning never rears its head again).
With Lester and Buchholz both locked up at deals that give the Red Sox flexibility in their budget, you can excuse the Lackey/Beckett deals, but only because there is now room for those mistakes. At the same time, it’s not like Boston is going to miss out on anyone because of those contracts–take a peek at the lists of free agents for the next few years, and you might get an idea of why Boston was so willing to acquire and pay dearly for Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez this past winter.
Back to the right-hander in question. Buchholz has had a rough start to the 2011 season, but most of that came from homers–something that isn’t regularly an issue for him–and against two of the top offenses in the majors. If his velocity or movement was off, that would be one thing, but he’s just had two rough starts. Lester had himself a series of problem starts late in 2010, and he was arguably one of the most valuable Cy Young candidates in the league–these things happen, and we wouldn’t notice as much if Buchholz had struggled in June or July, rather than in his first two starts of the season.
PECOTA loves Buchholz–and that is saying something, given how much PECOTA regresses BABIP–projecting him for 4.4 wins above replacement at his weighted mean thanks to an ERA of 3.59. At his 10th percentile, PECOTA sees Buchholz with an ERA of 4.04–the worst-case scenario projection has him as better than league average and worth just over three wins. He is going to be great, and, recognizing that fact, Boston has now locked him up to terms that satisfy both parties. Let’s hope that by his next start we can watch him dominate and reflect on how wonderful this extension will be.