The Red Sox have picked up Clay Buchholz' option for the 2016 season, ensuring he will remain with the team for at least one more year.
Where once this would have seemed an absolute given, Buchholz' up-and-down performance and injury history, combined with the arrival of an uncertain element in Dave Dombrowski, made it at least a bit of a question whether the Sox would pick up Buchholz' $13 million team option. Now, though, not 48 hours removed from the end of the World Series, the Sox have locked in their sometimes-ace.
And, by all accounts, it's a bargain, at least for a one-year deal. At his best, Buchholz is worth more than twice what the Red Sox will be paying him. In 2013, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball while he was on the mound and off the DL. Of course, he's not always at his best, and at his worst, he can look like someone who never should have risen higher than Double-A.
For all that, though, if Buchholz is a coin flip, well, he's being paid like a coin flip. And, importantly, the Red Sox have a specific need for the player Buchholz can be. They will almost certainly try to add another, more reliable front-line pitcher--that's priority number one for the offseason--but what the Red Sox have is bodies, and what they need is quality. If Buchholz is at his best, then he's something that the Red Sox could not have afforded at $13 million otherwise. If Buchholz is at his worst? Stick him on the disabled list and fill his spot with one of the aforementioned bodies. No, that player might not be as good as the average $13 million starter, but the 50% chance of another ace-like pitcher is a much bigger upgrade over that sixth man than the 80% chance of a #3/4 would be.
And if Buchholz performs well, the Red Sox are also buying the chance to pick up his 2017 option as well when 2016 comes to an end. That probably doesn't factor into the equation enough to shift the decision unless it was pretty much right on the line, but it's a nice bonus to an already good idea all-the-same.
Speaking of bodies, with Buchholz signed on, these are the ones currently
- Rick Porcello
- Clay Buchholz
- Eduardo Rodriguez
- Wade Miley
- Henry Owens
- Brian Johnson
- Joe Kelly (maybe)