The Boston Red Sox must make a decision on Clay Buchholz’s club option for the 2017 season. The veteran’s time in Boston may be running out.
The 2016 season is over for the Boston Red Sox. 93 wins have come and gone and decisions must be made in free agency. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already outlined his club’s needs: designated hitter and filling bullpen holes.
Then there’s Clay Buchholz. The veteran starter-reliever poses a difficult decision for Dombrowski. Buchholz was ultimately kept around after last year on a club option similar to the one he faces heading into next season. However, the aging veteran has less going for him this time around.
Buchholz came off a 7-7 2015 campaign with a 3.26 ERA and a career-best 4.65 K/BB ratio. His option was picked up in anticipation that the right-hander would continue his success as a third or fourth starter behind David Price and Rick Porcello.
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Unfortunately, Buchholz struggled mightily in 2016. His ERA hovered above 5.00 from April until September and he found himself shuffled between the starting rotation and bullpen all season. Buchholz finally pulled it together down the regular season stretch with three quality starts to end the year. These improved performances proved he deserved his spot in the postseason rotation.
Down 2-0 in the series heading to Fenway, Buchholz was handed the steep task of pulling the Red Sox out of a deep hole. The 32-year old’s leash was strikingly short in the series-clinching ALDS Game 3. Manager John Farrell was clear that he would manage his pitching staff with the urgency that an elimination game deserved.
Buchholz threw only four innings, surrendering two runs on six hits. Losing 2-0 heading into the fifth, Farrell preferred lefty Drew Pomeranz. The former Padre would give up a two-run home run to seal the win for the Indians in the sixth. With the Game 3 loss, the Red Sox exited the postseason winless.
The starting rotation situation is similar to last season’s. Porcello and Price will once again lead the front of the rotation. The emergence of Steven Wright is new to Boston, which leaves two open spots.
Buchholz will be in the mix with Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez. Pomeranz is arbitration-eligible for next season, and Rodriguez is another promising young lefty who fared better than Buchholz in 2016.
Realistically, it doesn’t make sense to bring Buchholz back. His career has been up and down at best. With younger pitchers like Pomeranz, Rodriguez, and Henry Owens looking to challenge for rotational spots over the next few years, Buchholz’s time in Boston seems limited. It’s best to turn down the 32-year old’s $13.5 M team option and focus funds to more pressing issues. However, with his history in Boston, Dombrowski may have trouble cutting lose the long-time Red Sox starter.