After another injury-plagued season for Clay Buchholz that involved multiple visits to Dr. James Andrews, it seems he’ll be with the Boston Red Sox for at least a little longer. The club announced Tuesday that they’ll exercise his $13-million dollar option for 2016. It’s been a tough relationship between Clay and the Red Sox over the years, as he has struggled with inconsistency and injury issues constantly. But there definitely still seems to be some value in Buchholz’s stock, so if the Red Sox can find a way to profit from that it could go a long way towards the team making some noise again.
In 18 starts this year, the 31-year-old posted a strong 3.26 ERA while attempting to carry a pitching staff that was terrible in the first half. Buchholz’ stuff was electric as he registered an 8.5 K/9 which would end up being his highest mark since 2008. Things seemed to be looking up for Clay early on, especially after coming off a 2014 season that saw him post an ERA well above five. Then on July 10, in a start against the Yankees, he would develop a right elbow injury that would later be diagnosed as a flexor strain. Buchholz would battle to come back before the end of the season, but he just ran out of time. Both sides had no interest in rushing back just to pitch in a game or two at the end of a hopeless season.
Initially, when Clay was first injured, it was thought that Tommy John surgery was a possibility, but luckily that scare was quickly shut down. It seems the status of Clay’s elbow is pretty good at the moment; there isn’t any worry about his ability to pitch again come the start of the 2016 season. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski noted that Clay had passed all of his medical exams a week after the season ended. If everything continues to go accordingly, Buchholz should end up having a pretty regular offseason.
Now that the offseason is here there has been speculation that Clay could be dealt, but there doesn’t seem to be anything intimate. Trade talks have surrounded Buchholz for a few years now, but this time it seems like a deal could actually make sense for both sides. The starting rotation is the biggest focus right now for the Boston Red Sox; it wouldn’t surprise anyone if several moves were made to reshape it. A change seems needed, and maybe dealing the oldest member will freshen things up a bit. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe noted just yesterday that some of the smaller to mid-market teams could be the leading suitors for Clay’s services over the next few months.
Even if Clay does end up sticking around in Boston for another year, it isn’t the end of the world. When he is able to be on that mound while healthy, he can be as good as anyone in the MLB. Getting that for even 15 starts could be very valuable to a team like the Red Sox if they can get some more pitching help. With this team option being picked up, there is only one more left on Buchholz’s current contract. It is worth $13.5 million, with the ability to go up to $14 million if Clay is able to finish either first or second in Cy Young Award voting. Also included in the contract is a $500,000 buyout which would immediately make him a free agent if the Sox chose to go that route.
Many more pieces will begin to fall for the Red Sox in the following months, this is just the first in what it’s likely to be one of the franchise’s most important offseasons in a long time.