After being demoted to the bullpen and doing quite well in relief, Clay Buchholz might still avoid free agency at the end of this season, with the Boston Red Sox more and more likely to pick up his option for 2017.
Buchholz, who has been with the Red Sox since 2007, and pitched for them in the 2013 postseason en route to winning the world series, has a $13.5 million team option for next season, which increases to $14 million if Buchholz finishes either first or second in Cy Young voting during the contract. The closest he’s gotten was 6th in the voting, but that was back in 2010. The two-time All-Star, who posted a 1.74 ERA in 2013, has a 5.13 ERA in 2016, and seemed to be on his way out of the team before coming back to life out of the bullpen.
Through his first 10 starts this season, Buchholz posted a 6.35 ERA, giving up 12 home runs and allowing a .826 OPS, while the Red Sox went 3-7. He moved to the bullpen just before May ended, and has since made six starts, including three times this month, posting a 2.70 ERA through 16.2 innings, not allowing a single home run, with a .577 OPS against him. The change came in late July, and in 28 innings for work since July 21, including three starts, he hasn’t given up a single home run, pitching 28 innings with a 2.89 ERA and a .543 OPS.
While it may be cheaper for the Red Sox to go out and get someone new for their rotation next season, be it from their own system or through free agency, and paying $13.5 million for a swingman on the mound is a bit steep, perhaps keeping someone they more or less trust, and especially know his limitations, is preferable, not looking to make some massive overhaul during the offseason. Maybe most importantly: They’re one of the few teams that can afford holding on to someone like Buchholz in this role.