Clay Buchholz (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Make no mistake about it, $13.5 million is a lot of money.
But when it comes to weighing the pros and cons of allocating that figure to Clay Buchholz for the 2017 season, it’s not difficult to see why the Red Sox have committed to paying the 32-year-old in 2017.
Usually, when talking about Buchholz the conversation begins and ends with potential. Whether it’s the optimism that he represents, or the frustration which has often times followed. But this time that’s just part of the equation.
What most likely really put the Red Sox over the edge when it came to picking up Buchholz’s option was the market.
This is by far the worse starting pitching free agent market in years. It’s pretty much Rich Hill and then everybody else. Sure, the likes of Bartolo Colon, Doug Fister and Jeremy Hellickson can all serve a purpose. But are any of those starters in the class of what Buchholz showed for the final two months of the season?
Unlike last year, when the Red Sox chose to hold on to Buchholz instead of Wade Miley in the Carson Smith trade, there should be some willingness from Dave Dombrowski to either move on from Buchholz in a trade, or use him as rotation protection while dealing away someone like Eduardo Rodriguez.
David Price, Rick Porcello, and Steven Wright aren’t going anywhere. But if you want to get serious about a deal involving someone like Chris Sale, then Rodriguez or Drew Pomeranz might become interesting chips that you couldn’t afford to include last offseason. Buchholz, even as your fifth starter, is a very palatable starting rotation safety valve.
And what if the Red Sox want to explore taking advantage of starting pitching landscape by dealing Buchholz?
Buchholz went 4-0 with a 2.98 ERA in his last eight regular starts, while managing a 1.93 ERA in eight relief outings. Even with the 5.91 ERA in the first half, he’s the type of pitcher who should have substantial value, potentially getting an even greater haul (because of the market) than last offseason.
If the Red Sox didn’t pick up the $13.5 million option, then you just put an enormous dent in your offseason flexibility. It just wouldn’t have made sense.
As we sit here, it would seem like this financial commitment is money well spent.