Red Sox, Porcello Deal: What it means for Buchholz


The Red Sox extension of Rick Porcello‘s contract through the 2019 before he has even thrown a pitch for the team was something of a shock. The team will provide stability for the future as Porcello was slated to be a free agent after 2017. This leaves only Justin Masterson (on a one year deal to raise his value for another run at free agency after a down year) and the enigmatic Clay Buchholz as the only ones in the last year of their current deal. Since Masterson is very likely a “one and done” proposition, and the rest of the rotation is under team control until at least 2018, what will the Red Sox do with Clay Buchholz?

The up and down nature of Buchholz’ career makes the view of the five year $30.5 million contract signed after his tremendous 2010 season (17-7, 2.33, All-Star, sixth in Cy Young voting), an evolving one. When Buchholz was limited to 14 starts in 2011, the thought was, “is he durable enough?” When his ERA ballooned to 4.56 in 2012, fans were wondering, “was this contract a good idea?” In 2013, when he got off to that incredible start, people thought “those options are a bargain.” After his injury and tentative return and horrible 2014 (5.34 ERA), some might have thought “this is going to be an easy option to turn down.”

Yesterday, Buchholz reminded the team and fans about why the Red Sox made him a very wealthy man. He allowed just three hits in seven innings against a Phillies team that may be one of the worst in baseball. He seemed to be on his way to becoming the ace of the staff. If the ace is a leader, he certainly has that role filled, getting the team those “I’m the Ace” and “He’s the Ace” shirts he unveiled in Spring Training. The huge extension signed by Porcello, though, changes the game. Porcello will be far and away the best paid pitcher on the team, thus the ace by default.

Just like any job situation, the amount of money people make will invariably create a hierarchy. Performance does too, though. The Red Sox have made a strong statement that they believe in Porcello’s future. At the end of his contract in October of 2019, Porcello will still only be 30 years old which is about the same age, Buchholz is right now. The Red Sox hold two option years for Buchholz, $13M for 2016 and $13.5M for 2017. He is essentially in a walk year right now, pitching to persuade the Red Sox pick up those options.

More from Red Sox News

Buchholz needs to have a strong year to get the Red Sox to pick up the option at least for 2016. He needs to pitch at least as well as Porcello. Another factor in the equation is that Buchholz already has two rings and Porcello has yet to prove himself in the postseason, not recording an out in his last two postseasons. Porcello has only two postseason starts, both in 2011. An ailing Buchholz shut down the Cardinals for four innings in the 2013 World Series. This should be considered in Buchholz’ favor.

What the Red Sox do with Buchholz in 2016 also depends on how the young pitchers develop and if there is a viable replacement out there if Buchholz’ option is declined. Porcello’s $20M-plus salary over the next four seasons shows the team is willing to pay for a durable upper echelon starter. If Buchholz can be his old self or somewhere comparable to Porcello, he should be able to earn that option year for 2016, and then perhaps for 2017 down the road.

Since he is past 30, and has not shown consistency or durability throughout his career, the Red Sox are not likely to give Buchholz a Porcello-type extension. Porcello is being rewarded for what the Red Sox think he can do over the next four years. For Buchholz, extending his stay in Boston would be  about compensating him for past performance as much as current or future production.   His previous production should be a factor in whether they pick up his option.  This Porcello deal seems to negate the possibility of Cole Hamels bringing his services to Fenway via trade. The Red Sox aren’t going to want two $20M per year starting pitchers, especially if they have to give up premium prospects to bring him to Boston as the Phillies seem to want.

Can Buchholz step up and be that Hamels-type ace this year and in 2016? Even if he isn’t making the most money, Red Sox fans hope this contract year and Porcello’s option, make him that ace that can lead them to another World Series title.

More from BoSox Injection