The Boston Red Sox should be happy that Clay Buchholz doesn’t want to talk about a new contract, considering what may happen in 2016.
Jason Mastrodonato of The Boston Herald reported from Fort Myers, Florida that “Buchholz said he’s not interested in working out a contract extension with the Red Sox this spring. He said he was thrilled the Red Sox picked up his $13 million option for this season and will take his chances with a $13.5 million club option for 2017.” Buchholz went on to say, “I think if it all goes well through the first half of the season and I’m healthy going into the second half, then maybe [we can discuss an extension]. But I’m not going to press on that aspect of it. I’m going to try to cooperate with everybody and help this team win baseball games.”
That’s a completely different path from the one that starting pitcher Rick Porcello, Buchholz’s teammate, took about a year ago. After being traded in December from the Detroit Tigers to Boston, Porcello signed a new deal through 2019, granting him another $82,5 million with the Red Sox. The 27-year-old righty posted a 9-15 record with a 4.92 ERA and allowed 25 home runs, the most that he’s ever given up in his seven-year career.
At 31 and after numerous injuries, the Red Sox are likely relieved that they won’t have the pressure to make the same move twice with Buchholz.
It was only two years ago when Buchholz posted a 12-1 record with a 1.74 ERA to help the Red Sox win the World Series. However, after a disappointing 2014, where nothing seemed to go up for Buchholz except his 5.34 ERA, he continued to have inconsistent starts in 2015. He posted a 7-7 record with a 3.26 ERA before being injured just as the All-Star Break was to commence. Buchholz never returned to action, as the team preferred that he rest and heal properly, instead of re-injuring himself on an already lost season.
It’s worth noting that even though 2015 didn’t seem much better, there was a glimmer of hope for Buchholz before the injury. At the All-Star break, Buchholz’s ERA was one of the lowest in the American League, with only top names like Sonny Gray (2.04), David Price (2.38), Chris Archer (2.74), Felix Hernandez (2.84), and Kyle Gibson (2.85) having a lower ERA in 18 starts or more.
That’s what makes 2016 so much more important for Buchholz. His words yesterday were not of a confident pitcher, expecting his team to crawl on hands and knees to beg him to stay with the club. If anything, he’s the one praying that the Red Sox pick up his option in 2017. If he is even going to be offered a new contract, by anyone, Buchholz will need to show that he’s still got what it takes to be even a possibility for an ace job on the mound.
According to FanGraphs.com, Buchholz used his fastball almost half as much as he used the rest of his pitches for his entire career. However, that number has significantly dropped from using the hot pitch 54% of the time in 2010 to 49% in 2013 to only 43% in 2015. The velocity of his fastball has remained pretty much the same, showing no weakness in his arm, throwing it at 92-93 mph. Yet, the switch from the four-seamer to using the two-seamer from the World Series year to now suggests that Buchholz feels the need to tinker with his grip and strategy. Logical? Desperation?
Either way, Buchholz is right to think that he needs to play nice with the Red Sox brass this season. He needs to prove that he belongs in a Red Sox uniform, or else trade rumors will become trade talks. At least one team must want to see if he can regain his 2013 form, but that team may not be in Boston if Buchholz can’t regain it past April, and stay healthy to boot.