Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is It Extension Time?

Nope, not talking about Adrian Gonzalez, though I will take this opportunity to reiterate the fact that Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, and Rey Fuentes were traded this offseason for someone who is officially signed through September 28, 2011. I'm talking about Clay Buchholz, whose clock is ticking. Guy's eligible for arbitration for the first time this season and, therefore, will be eligible for free agency after 2014.

Guys the Red Sox really have faith in and really want to retain usually sign long-term extensions like this. Buchholz had been asked about this earlier this offseason and he said he'd be willing to give up some free agent time for a deal like Jon Lester's, Kevin Youkilis's, and Dustin Pedroia's. That's good news.

Real question is - are the Red Sox ready to make that kind of commitment?

Youkilis, Lester, and Pedroia all signed after the 2008 season. At this point, Pedroia was the reigning AL MVP (deserved or not), and was just after his second full major league season. The first was the Rookie of the Year season and the second was the MVP year. He was 25 and I guess while there may have been a bit of a scare toward a market correction of his numbers as opposing pitchers approached his at-bats differently (something we discussed at length here at HYD back then). Youkilis was probably the safest bet, as he already had three full solid major league seasons under his belt. This is probably why he's making the most money of the three. He was third in MVP voting in 2008 and had hit above .300 and more than 25 home runs each for the first time.

The best barometer, however, may be Lester. In 2008, he had just finished his first full major league season, after an 06 season where he couldn't find the plate and an 07 season where the story was more about overcoming cancer and less about how he pitched, but still wasn't quite there yet. In 08, he found the plate and found success. He was less of a question mark, as he had proven he could put together a really good baseball season. Also, he was 24.

Is this where Buchholz is? He's had a stranger trip through it, coming out of the gates hard and throwing a no-hitter in 2007. In 2008, he was lost, got lit up for a while, and finished the season playing pranks (ask me offline) in Portland. In 2009, he spent way too much time in the minors, then threw together a good half major league season. Coming into 2010 as a question mark, he performed well enough for his baseball-reference sponsor blog to describe him as "Ace." His 2010 was similar (and flashier) than Lester's 2008. But due to some of his behavioral stuff, including the laptop-stealing incident, some of the stuff that sabotaged his own 08, you gotta wonder if this guy is more fluke-prone than Lester.

The way I see it, when you're making a deal like this, you have to take some risks. The player's taking a risk by forgoing a year or two of free agency eligibility, jeopardizing some future earnings. The team sometimes has to take a chance that a guy's not mature enough. And seeing the way Buchholz has changed in his demeanor both on and off the field the last year - even from the beginning of the year to the end - it's evident that the kid, now 26, has grown up a little bit. Therefore, I endorse a long-term deal for Clay Buchholz. I don't need to see another season to take this chance, especially seeing that the team can exercise some leverage (and therefore save some money) by saying that they've only seen one good year from Buchholz. I don't see a sophomore slump; we kind of already got past that point. I see nothing but good things. That's why I hope the Red Sox pull the trigger.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

Even if the guy does come into a slump of some sort (which is always a possibility with a guy like him, for all the reasons you mentioned), with the type of contract that Youk/Lester/Pedroia signed, you really aren't in awful shape. Six years and $40-50 million isn't going to break anybody, especially in light of the fact that the Sox spent $103 million on Daisuke over six years. And I think everyone is confident that Buchholz is a better pitcher with a better future than Daisuke.

Still it's a risk. There are always risks in these situations. Buchholz could get hurt or something flukey like that. But those types of contracts don't break anyone and if that's what Buchholz is looking for, then I agree with you--pull the trigger and get it done.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

Thanks for the comment. Forgot that today was a pseudo-holiday. How much do you think JD wants a three-day weekend after working for three days straight?

There is obviously risk involved with a deal like this. But it's considerably less risk than signing a pitcher for $17-18 million a year for five years just to see him show up fat to camp, post an ERA somewhere around four and a half, and say he had a great season. It's one that's worth taking. Both sides are taking a risk that Buchholz will blow out his elbow, you know? But even if the guy is mediocre, he's giving you a better bang for your buck than Lackey, Beckett, or Matsuzaka right now.

And I don't think he'll be mediocre, either.

Anonymous said...

DV

I also think he'll be good. There's a difference between Buchholz and Lackey/Matsuzaka--he's shown he can pitch in the AL East and be a success. Neither Lackey nor Daisuke had shown that before they were signed. From a performance standpoint Buchholz is superior--the AL East is a different world.

As for JD Drew--he has one season left in Boston. If he retires, great. If he doesn't and the Sox bring him back, I won't know what to do.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

It sure was, DV, but I hardly noticed because I did not have the day off and I was at Colby for the last four years. You know, that leading institution for DIVERSITY that did not bother to cancel classes for MLK. Do as I say, not as I rest. Who is your favorite president? I've always admired Cleveland's never-say-die attitude but if I have to pick one, I pick Cleveland.

I'm in the Gunn's boat here, sign the guy because it just will not submarine the team and, to add a bit of spice (or maybe just repackage the same points already made) to the idea, I think if he does tank/slump, he is still a guy who pitches about 4-5 ERA-wise with 10-15 win potential if the Sox maintain their offense. In other words, he is a younger, cheaper version of the type of guy they have been 'forced' to sign out of the FA pool in the past five years. So, the way I calculate the math, I think the early signing is both a plus if he maintains his performance and a plus if he simply is mediocre and keeps the team from throwing more money at a Lackuzaka in a 2014 when Henry's successful yet entirely non-understandable market bets against Christmas lead to the Sox being flush with cash.

Also wanted to share that I have decided THIS is the most pointless US holiday. Anyone remember The Office when Jim tried to celebrate four birthdays at once? President's Day is our answer to that, an attempt to turn two great Americans against each other, and I choose to no longer support it. I am also a bit up on Columbus Day as Columbus, despite having designs on being the first to conduct genocide on this continent, does possess the 'go-getter' spirit of the American dream by just ignoring all human knowledge and sailing faithfully towards the edge of the table. You can't win the money you don't risk, boys.

Can we talk about extending 46 tomorrow (or Wednesday, as I suspect this might stay up an extra day)?

-TimC

the gm at work said...

Tim,

Classes at CHS were canceled between 12-2 on MLK day.

Agree with you on the actual relevant baseball stuff. I'm not sure whether we can get much more conversation about this because it's just so obvious that me, you, and Gunn are right. But if they extend 46 I will jump off the Tobin Bridge.

As for Presidents' Day, it should be moved to February 7th, Reagan's birthday. Enjoy yo day.