Despite a 1-7 start and two poor outings by Clay Buchholz, the Red Sox have announced a four-year contract extension for Buchholz with two option seasons. The total value of the four guaranteed seasons is $28.7 million.
"Very happy for Clay and happy for the ballclub," said Sox GM Theo Epstein. "We see Clay as homegown, a core member of this ballclub. This is similar to deals we did Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis and we expect Clay to be here for a long time and be a part of winning clubs. This allows him to go out and focus on the mound and do what he does best. It gives Clay and his family great security and gives the club cost control and control deeper in Clay's career that arbitration would have afforded."
Epstein said the deal was negotiated by assistant GM Ben Cherington and Buchholz' agent and that most of the talks took place in spring training and finished up the first couple of days of the season. The deal starts in 2012 and goes through the 2015 season. The club options go through the 2017 season.
Buchholz' salaries go from $3.5 to $5.5 to $7.7 and then to $12 million. The option years are $13 million and $13.5 million
Buchholz, who went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA last season, has started out 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA. He said the reason he went for the deal is security. He had his baby daughter and wife with him during the press conference this afternoon.
"I think that's what every players wants (security). Being drafted by the Red Sox it's the only place I've been. It's been a pleasure working with the front office. My family has been supportive of everything. Going forward security is a big thing for us," Buchholz said.
Epstein said the two option years were important because "With Clay being 26 the contract guarantees salaries through age 30. We expect Clay to be pitching well at that point and we expect him to be here at ages 31 and 32. It seemed to make sense."
Asked whether he considered going year-by-year as Jonathan Papelbon has elected to do, Buchholz said, "I gave it a lot of thought. It was a difficult decision in that aspect of it. You play this game to be secure and make money because you cant play baseball forever. If it was me, and I didn't have a wife or kid, it might have been a decision we would have thought about more. I knew what my heart was telling me and what my family wanted."
He added, "I owed a lot to the Red Sox. They drafted me. They gave me an opportunity to come up through the system. This game is not near as easy as people make it seem as times. It took its toll. Thought I was better than I was. They stuck with me through hard situations."
Buchholz said he was influenced by the decisions made by Lester, Youkilis and Pedroia, to go with this type of contract.
"Those guys are top tier athletes in this game and being a part of that group and being announced with those guys' names, it just says something to me about what they think about me. It makes me more confident to go out and play this game as hard as I can and pitch every fifth day and help this team win. Definitely a pat on the back from these guys," Buchholz said.
Epstein was asked about the risk/reward of the deal.
"There's always the risk of injury in this game even with young pitching. I think what made it worth while for the club is getting a free-agent year guaranteed and getting an option on two free agent years. That's the reward for the club. We all know the cost of free-agent pitching. If we can put off the decision the better it is. While it's a lot of money, compared to what it cost to bring in a free agent pitcher on a long term contract, it's not that much money, so it made the risk-reward worth it form our perspective. Without the option years and flexibility, it gets a little less comfortable from the clubs standpoint. That, and Clay has certainly earned our trust. He's developed a tremendous amount as a player and a person since he signed here out of junior college. I don't think Clay would argue with me that in his first year he probably wasn't the most compliant guy in the world with our shoulder program and now he's the star pupil on the shoulder program. He gets his work in everyday. He's really settled in with his family life and on the field and he's become a trusted guy in this organization. He's somebody we feel good about. We feel good about these homegrown guys because we know them. We knew Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia and Youkilis and we feel we know Clay Buchholz and the person he is now. There's no guarantees in this game, but you want to bet on the right people," Epstein said..
Epstein said it's important to have two young pitchers under cost control in Lester and Buchholz.
"It's really important. Free agent pitching is a tough way to go and we've dipped into those waters and if you can build your organization to not have to go into the free-agent market that's a good thing. It's inevitable in a big market. Develop home grown pitching and control them and control them into free-agency, that's a very valuable thing. We had a lot of pitching contracts up in 2014, so this extends it one year and we believe two or three years after that as well," Epstein said.
Buchholz said he's come "a long way" since he was drafted.
"Had to grow up a lot in a short span of time to earn some trust in this organization. I think just being drafted and follow the rules and learn the life of professional baseball is a little bit more difficult then going to school and playing baseball. So it was two different lives that I had to learn pretty quickly. Its an honor. This is where I envisioned myself 10 years ago. This is what I wanted to do. I couldn't be a part of a better organization than I am right now. With this extension, it allows me to be here a little bit longer."