Clay Buchholz has struggled with his command so far this season, but the Red Sox do not seem too concerned –at least in an implicit manner—, as the two sides have agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $30 million, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
The 26-year-old Buchholz would have qualified for arbitration following this season. Instead, Boston now has cost certainty throughout the arbitration stages of Buchholz’s career while also buying out a free agent year. Gordon Edes suggests the deal includes a pair of club options that would cancel out two more of Buchholz’s free agent years.
At first glance Buchholz's extension looks like a team-friendly deal, as is usually the case with pre-arbitration extensions. The added options are a nice touch and remove some of the inherent risk associated with extending any pitcher. Buchholz is unlikely to replicate his 2010 performance anytime soon, but that goes for any pitcher who throws more than 170 innings with a 2.33 ERA in the American League East who also pitches a good chunk of his games within Fenway Park. Still, there may be upside here.
As Buchholz’s Baseball Prospectus 2011 comment suggests, his stuff is good enough to expect an eventual increase in strikeouts that should lead to better peripherals. Pitchers do not tend to age like hitters, so even at 26 there could be room for growth. Buchholz has all the right weaponry to lead a staff –the velocity, secondary offerings, and history of success– and yet, as good could become, he may never top Jon Lester as the best pitcher in Boston's rotation. That has to be a scary thought for opponents.
In an ideal world, Buchholz would have dominated out of the gate, but two bad starts back-to-back to open the season is not necessarily a harbinger of disappointment. You would expect a front office as good as Boston to recognize that, and they do, hence why this deal got down in spite of a poor start on national television yesterday.