The Red Sox have agreed to a four year contract extension with Clay Buchholz per Jon Morosi. The deal is expected to be worth $30 million, and according to Gordon Edes will include two club options. This buys out all of Buchholz' arbitration years, as well as at least one year of free agency.
Even if Buchholz reverts towards the type of pitcher his 2010 peripherals suggest he is, this probably ends up being a deal in the long run of things. His ERA from last season alone would be enough to bring him a significant payday come arbitration. Just look at the salaries that Jonathan Papelbon has been able to attain despite consistently decreasing effectiveness. Add in a year of free agency, and barring either a complete collapse or injury, this seems like a prototypical exchange: the Sox get a good young player locked up relatively cheap, and Clay finds himself financially secure for life. While the club options will likely be fairly hefty, they will at least give the Sox a chance to keep an ace on at a reduced rate for short years should Buchholz develop into the pitcher many expect him to be.
A perhaps unintended side effect of the contract could be the mental effect on Clay. Considered by some to be something of a head case, having all this taken care of for the next four years--not to mention the aforementioned financial security--could help him to take things easier.
The contract shows a number of similarities to Jon Lester's in 2009. From the pitcher fresh off a season with a low ERA and questionable peripherals, to the $30 million price tag (though Lester's included more time). And for those worrying about Buchholz' slow start, well, Lester had his usual slow start after his extension too. If this move ends up being half as successful as Lester's, then the Sox will have no regrets.
Buchholz could first be eligible for free agency at 31-years-old.
(Here's the official press release from the Red Sox)