Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz option gives many options


The revolving door of Boston Red Sox right-handed pitcher Clay Buchholz surely stands chief among the many irresistible, though predictable, teases facing Red Sox fans and ownership alike. He comes on and starts slow, builds up a groove until he’s basically the de facto staff ace, then gets injured and is sidelined for the rest of the season. Such consistent inconsistency is doubtless not unique in baseball, but nonetheless provides an unusual conundrum for Boston going forward.

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Obviously not much has changed for Buchholz, he’s still, much akin to Old Faithful, finding himself unable to see in a full season due to the ever-looming spectre of injuries. One difference in the dynamic this year, however, is found behind the park in the form of his contract. Buchholz has a $13 million option for 2016 that needs to be picked up by deadline Wednesday. With so much upside marred by so much downtime, is there a chance the Red Sox could decline to pick it up?

Doubtful. Your grandfather isn’t wrong when he laments the dollar not going as far as it used to, though perhaps for reasons he isn’t aware of.

In reality, $13 million isn’t a lot of money for a pitcher, particularly one with a ceiling of Buchholz. Even only pitching half a season, Buchholz is worth a solid 2 WAR which is more than worth it alone. Certainly, it wets the mouth when considering what he could accomplish over a full season, but for those confounded injuries.

“Buchholz’s name is already rolling off the lips of some mid- to small-market teams who believe they could trade for him

That’s assuming the Red Sox choose to use him if they pick up his option; however, that’s not necessarily a given, either. Writing for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo speculates that Buchholz could be a solid trade chip and indeed he is among a number of Boston hurlers that other GMs have already made inquiries about;

"“Buchholz’s name is already rolling off the lips of some mid- to small-market teams who believe they could trade for him if the Red Sox have bigger fish to fry in pursuit of a true ace who can stay healthy.The $13 million and the fact that Buchholz can provide an ace-like stretch when healthy are certainly part of the thought process. That Buchholz has never made 30 starts or pitched 200 innings appears to be more frustrating to the Red Sox than to other teams who feel that maybe, at some point, that tide could turn and Buchholz will be in the clear from injuries.”"

Buchholz’s upside with the caveat of higher than average, to say the least, risk of being sidelined through injury may cause an increase in alcohol intake in Boston, but for certain, select teams it could be exactly what they need. One example, as Cafardo notes, would be the San Diego Padres who have several pieces such as top reliever Craig Kimbrel that would interest the Red Sox. Buchholz’s half a season of excellence could be exactly the consistently inconsistent performance that the Padres need for comparatively very little money. Not everybody can land David Price, but Buchholz at $13 million can be very useful.

The same, of course, can be said for the Red Sox too. Red Sox Beat Writer for Ian Browne is convinced that Buchholz will be a lock for Boston’s rotation in 2016, as he tweeted earlier today:

Whatever the end result, it’s fairly safe to assume that Buchholz will have his option picked up as he provides too much value whether on the mound or by trade. Buchholz, who has never been with another organization in professional baseball, has expressed on multiple occasions his desire to stay in Boston. He’s a talented, personable, intelligent pitcher and contributor to the club and he has the stuff, if not the stamina, to be among the very best in the Majors, the elite. He has such refined control of his six pitch mix that, when on form, he is all but unhittable. Whether or not he stays will perhaps be decided on that one thing he can’t control, his biggest downfall, his feet of “clay”, his health.