The Boston Red Sox begin their offseason by exercising their option on Clay Buchholz & declined picking up their option on Ryan Hanigan.
With the World Series finally ending in dramatic fashion, the offseason began for every MLB team. The Chicago Cubs will likely take their time with any moves, as their celebratory parade is scheduled for later today, but the Red Sox are already well on their way with roster moves.
Two moves in particular seemed inevitable, but they are also suggestive of the direction that the team will take.
Catcher Ryan Hanigan no longer has a contract with the Red Sox, as the team has other plans:
This decision isn’t very shocking. Hanigan was playing as a backup at best, helping the Red Sox until either Christian Vazquez or Blake Swihart stepped up to take the reins. Hanigan hit .171 with one home run and 14 RBIs in only 35 games, thus not being a huge loss offensively by not bringing him back. He did have tendinitis in his left ankle this season which may have contributed to his low production; however, Hanigan only hit .247 for Boston in his first year with the team, which suggests that there isn’t much else he could have provided except for backup defense.
The Red Sox already have that in spades, with Vazquez, Sandy Leon, and Bryan Holaday on the roster. Swihart could also make a comeback as a Red Sox catcher, as he does appear third on the team’s depth chart for the position. That move is yet to be determined until spring training, since Swihart was made into a left fielder before he severely sprained his ankle.
Either way, Hanigan was expendable and allowed the Red Sox to pay the $800 thousand buyout option than having to pay him $3.75 million.
The money became available to be used on more important assets, like Buchholz.
Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe reported that the Red Sox “exercised their 2017 contract option on Clay Buchholz and will retain him for $13.5 million.” Abraham added, “Buchholz was 8-10 with a 4.78 earned run average last season and made 16 appearances in relief. He had a 2.86 ERA in his final 17 games, a revival that led the Sox to keep him for at least one more season.”
Talk about backup, Buchholz had protection of his own in Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox president of baseball operations. When the trade deadline was looming, Buchholz was sitting in the bullpen after being banished from the starting rotation. His 4-9 record and 5.11 ERA at the end of July made many members of Red Sox Nation want to pull out the proverbial pitchforks and run Buchholz out of town. Instead, Dombrowski called Buchholz protection for the starting rotation and did not make a move against him.
The decision paid off. Buchholz found his way back to the starting rotation by pitching incredibly well in relief. The mental breaks that were apparent in his starts the last few seasons seemed to be gone, or at least dormant. He looked much more like the ace pitcher of 2013, when Buchholz helped the Red Sox win the World Series. His .198 opposing batting average in 22.2 innings of relief made him worthy of a chance to be a starter again. All he needed was an opportunity.
The chance came when pitcher Steven Wright went down late in the season with injury. Buchholz helped pick up the slack, as Dombrowski foretold that he would, and he was able to help the team win the American League East division.
Now, with this reward for his efforts, Buchholz has another chance at affirming his place in the Red Sox starting rotation in 2017. Currently, the rotation includes David Price, Wright, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Buchholz as their five top pitchers. Drew Pomeranz and Henry Owens will also have a shot in spring training, as well.
There are some doubts floating around as to whether these seven men can handle defending their division title next year, but it looks like the Red Sox are happy to take that chance. Buchholz’s money could have been used to bring in another big arm, but he was the arm the Red Sox apparently wanted. At least, for now.