Giving Buchholz Lester’s Extension

Two years ago the Red Sox made a good situation better. They had a young left-hander, Jon Lester, who, after helping the team during its 2007 World Series run, turned in a stellar 2008 campaign. After the season Lester had just two full years of service time, meaning he’d pitch in 2009 for relative peanuts. That is, until the Red Sox stepped in with a five-year, $30 million extension, which included a sixth year option at $13 million. The deal upped Lester’s 2009 salary to $1 million, but more importantly it promised to keep him in Boston for a reasonable price through at least the 2013 season.

Now the Sox have a similar opportunity on the table with right-handed Clay Buchholz. We’re not quite to the two-year anniversary of the Lester extension, but by then the Sox could have another young pitcher locked up for the forseeable future.

Yesterday WEEI’s Alex Speier spoke to Buchholz, who indicated that he’s open to an extension. “I think that would definitely be a base model for it,” said Buchholz, referring to Lester’s contract. “I’m not saying I’m as good as Lester or I deserve what he got, but just from the other guys who signed their deal in the past year or so with the same service, I think that’s definitely a good starting point if there ever was one.”

The other guys to whom Buchholz refers are Ricky Romero and Yovani Gallardo, who both signed extensions during the 2010 season. Gallardo came first, signing his not long after opening day. Romero came later, and while he technically hadn’t finished his second full season in the majors, the extension didn’t kick in until this season. Here’s how Gallardo, Romero, Buchholz, and Lester fared in their first two-plus years of service:

Not only does Buchholz match up favorably with the rest of this crowd, but he appears particularly comparable to Lester. While he’s truthful in saying that he’s not as good as Lester right now, Buchholz appears every bit as good as his teammate at a similar point in their careers. The only difference is that Buchholz is one year older now than Lester was when he signed his extension. Other than that there isn’t much difference at all.

The Red Sox should be as eager as Buchholz to work out an early extension. While there is always risk in signing young pitchers, Buchholz is worth the gamble. He was previously the team’s No. 1 prospect, and last year he started to deliver on that promise. Locking up Buchholz now would ease up the Sox pitching situation a bit, too. In 2014 the team will pay John Lackey, Josh Beckett, and Lester a combined $44 million, while, if the terms of the contract reflect Lester’s, Buchholz will make just under $8 million.

If Buchholz truly is ready to sign an extension, a deal should come together easily enough. There is enough precedent that a five-year, $30 million deal with a $13 million team option would work for both sides. It would provide Buchholz with enough money to last the rest of his life, and it provides the Sox with a cost-controlled potential ace for the next five or six years. It might take some times, as it did in the cases of Lester and Gallardo, but at this point it might be surprising if the Sox make it through the spring without signing Buchholz long-term.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


30 Responses to “Giving Buchholz Lester’s Extension”

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  1. DonCoburleone says:

    Man look at that freaking K-rate for Gallardo… If he can ever get his walks down under 3 and keep the strikeouts he’d win the Cy Young.

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  2. superhans says:

    Interesting. As a sox fan, I think I need to see one more season of Buchholz before locking him up like that. I think there’s enough of a chance that he isn’t worth it to risk the extra money you’ll have to give him later if he IS worth it. If that makes sense. Basically, I am skeptical. If nothing else because Clay seems to lack composure on the mound. He seems so easily distracted.

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    • divakar says:

      really?

      I think he has made incredible strides in the “focus” department. I really enjoyed watching him keep his game plan together during each outing, even if it hit a bump in the road.

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    • B N says:

      As a different Red Sox fan, I don’t need any other seasons. He’s not as good as he was last season, but for 30m/5yr + team option I could really care less- he’s definitely worth more than 6m and even adjusted for arb that is a solid deal. If I’m the front office hearing that, I’d sit him down, say yes, and get the signatures before he changes his mind.

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  3. Seth says:

    It seems there are a few reasons to believe that Buchholz will regress next year, namely a low–when compared to career averages–BABIP and a very low HR/FB ratio. Right now the Red Sox might be buying high on him.

    If they bank on at least a mild a regression, they might save themselves some dollars down the line.

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  4. “Giving Buchholz Lester’s Extension”

    I’m pretty sure Lester would be upset about that.

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    • Dustin says:

      Why exactly? Lester chose the deal he signed and I am sure he was very happy when he signed it to lock up his financial situation for life. When Lester signed, Boston didn’t know that he was going to be this good. Up until this point in their careers, like the chart shows, they are very similar pitchers. So hindsight shouldn’t make Lester mad if Buccholz gets a deal similar to his. They are similar pitchers and both have the same pretty high upside, so locking them up to similar deals should be expected.

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    • marcello says:

      Phrasing.

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  5. CircleChange11 says:

    I don’t get this.

    I remember last year/season when Cb was get some CYA love.

    Here’s what bothers me …

    [1] He threw 172 IP
    [2] 6.2 K9, 3.5 BB9
    [3] 0.47 HR9
    [4] .261 BABIP

    His 6.12 IP/GS is decent, but again … we don’t know how these guys will respond once they get near and even surpass 200 IP. That seems to be a pretty big threshold for some guys to endure.

    The K9 and BB9 rates are unspectacular, but decent.

    The HR9 is going to regress, as is the BABIP, and those tow things combined could have a major effect on what makes him look “promising”, namely his wins total last year and his ERA.

    Regardless, 5/30 should work for the team and pitcher.

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    • Grant says:

      I wouldn’t call them unspectacular and decent. Both rates are poor and the K rate is regressing rather quickly. I’m not sure what’s up with him, but he’ll have to fix it.

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      • alskor says:

        He’s still learning the nuances of being a MLB pitcher and how to get out MLB batters. His minor league track record, stuff and velo portend better K rates in the future. I suppose he could end up a Garza type who never really pitches up to his stuff, but what he is now is pretty damn good (even though not as good as his shiny ERA would lead you to believe at first glance)… and either way that deal would be a bargain. You’d have to be pretty damn skeptical of him to think he won’t be a >1.5 win pitcher in what should be his prime.

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  6. Preston says:

    I was surprised to see the similarity between the two pitchers, because I was really high on Lester and have been fairly skeptical of Buchholz. I would think you would have to put the numbers into context that the reason that Lester didn’t put a full season together until 2008 was because he had cancer. Buchholz didn’t hold a spot because he was to erratic. There was real reason to think that Lester would improve over his 2008, while there is plenty of reason to think Buchholz will regress from his 2010. Ultimately when the Red Sox locked Lester up I’m sure they thought they were getting a talented durable number three, or maybe number two. His strikeout rate soared, he remained durable and became an ace. Buchholz wouldn’t have to do the same to deserve the same money. But the Sox can afford to wait a year.

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    • GregCK says:

      I was surprised too. The old Lester did look a lot like Buchholz, didn’t he? But Lester’s K/9 has jumped nearly 50% since then. That’s stunning. Buchholz has strikeout stuff so he could improve a bit there, but probably not like Lester did. As Nate points out below, Lester was rebuilding his muscles after being treated for cancer.

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      • phoenix2042 says:

        same thought. Lester struck out over 200 last season. 225 i think. that’s just crazy considering his low K rate before.

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  7. Nate says:

    The fact that Lester went thru the cancer health issue, hence he was clearly just trying to get back to his former strength back during part of that two year service time, and is STILL one year younger is a pretty big deal in terms of expected/potential ceiling I would think. The fact that he is also left handed likely adds some value as well. That being said, Clay’s K rates in the minors were high and have dipped at the MLB level much like Lester’s did originally, so there does seem to be some hope of a similar progression. But if memory serves Lester progression is not normal. K rates typically go down as you climb the ladder and don’t usually get back to the same high levels that are reached in the minors. This would seem to point to a lower overall value than Lester. However, contract values seem to have gone up over the last 12-18 months so something in the same overall area would seem to be appropriate. It all hinges on what the Sox self scouting of Clay sees going forward. We all realize he’s due for a regression (in terms of ERA) if he duplicates his performance from last year in the rate stats. But the Red Sox appear to have known something about Lester when they inked him and maybe they know something here too.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Agree.

      The real story in the article is what a freackin bargain Lester is turning out to be.

      I agree that I thought he was a 2-3, but he and Beckett have swapped roles, and for good reasons.

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  8. Mafrth77 says:

    Not mentioned here is Buchholz is pretty good at inducing ground balls, making him a good fit for Fenway. He also posses the raw stuff toi’d defin get more K’s, the unspectacular walk rate is probably here to stay, though. I’d definitely sign him though. The risk is minimal, and the Sox can take the hit if he gets hurt or implodes.

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  9. Michael says:

    Buchholz was among the best pitchers in inducing swings and misses last year and yet had an average K rate.

    I think there’s a real chance his K rate bumps up to close to 8 next year. He’s got the stuff, the track record in the minors and the ability to cause swings and misses and the pros.

    I didn’t do the research myself, but it appeared as if there was a correlation between getting those swings and misses and getting K’s.

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  10. Grant says:

    Check out Buchholz’s swinging strike %, tied with Scherzer and Sabathia and 0.1% above Verlander. He’ll get his K’s in the future.

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  11. Jim says:

    “I think there’s enough of a chance that he isn’t worth it to risk the extra money you’ll have to give him later if he IS worth it.

    Couldn’t have said it better. And I am Buchholz’s biggest fan. He was my first prospect obsession. I’m leery of his lowered K rate combined with a mediocre BB rate. No question he has the stuff to get better, but if this is what he is, he’s no Jon Lester.

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    • alskor says:

      He doesn’t have to be anywhere near Jon Lester to be a value at that deal though!

      Jon Lester is ridiculously, ridiculously underpaid.

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      • B N says:

        This.

        Saying he isn’t worth getting the same money as Lester is like saying that nobody should extend a 3B prospect to something similar to what Longoria got unless they’re as good as Longoria. If you ran a business like that, you would very soon have no players at all (cough cough- MARLINS).

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  12. Jim says:

    I didn’t say that, I simply said he’s no Lester.

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  13. bcp33bosox says:

    JoeP, not sure if someone pointed this out, but wouldn’t a good reason to not sign him during spring training be the same reason for not *announcing* the Gonzo extension which is rumored to be in place, but that waiting until after opening day saves the Sox on the CBT? Though 30M and 154M are pretty big differences in what the tax penalty would actually be, wouldn’t any extension for Buchholz before opening day push them closer to/over/further over the 178M threshold?

    That being said, I would be glad if the Sox sign Buchholz to a team friendly extension, similar to Lester’s deal.

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  14. Joey B says:

    For those referring to the K/W ratios, while not spectacular, you have to remember that he started off slowly. After 5/8, his ERA was 1.95 with a more respectable 95/50. And most of the damage post-5/8 was the game he return from the DL, and the game where he pitched with the extra day’s rest. If, and that’s a bit of a big if, if you ignore those two games, he’d have had 92/43 K/W and a 1.35 ERA.

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  15. pft says:

    Lesters 1st year he had lymphoma, his 2nd year, was a recovery year. Comparing Buchholz to Lesters first 2 years makes no sense.

    Lesters had a breakout year in 2008, then the Red Sox offered him a contract extension in 2009.

    If Buchholz can boost his K rate in 2011, and keep runs off the board, he will get that extension. Bill James is not too keen on pitchers who make their living getting GB outs, amd sometimes the Red Sox listen to him. So Clay has to prove 2010 was not luck. I think he will, but no hurry for the Red Sox to work on an extension until after 2011.

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