By Joe Barron
In a trade market that seems to be either full of available starting pitching or lacking it entirely, one must consider the value of a player in terms of his age, position, career stats, contract amount, and contract length, especially within a fluctuating market. With Jon Lester at the top of GM wish lists and old buddy Jake Peavy already out the door, one must consider where Clay Buchholz fits in all this mess. Buchholz originally signed a team friendly contract back in 2011 with a steady yearly increase base salary.
Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe originally reported on April 11, 2011:
2011: $550,000. Plus $1 million bonus for signing new deal
2012: $3.5 million
2013: $5.5 million
2014: $7.7 million
2015: $12 million
2016: $13 million team option (or $245,000 buyout)
2017: $13.5 million team option (or $500,000 buyout)
In 2010, Buchholz had the best full-season of his 7 year Red Sox career and he was rewarded for it. He started 28 games, posting a 17-7 record, a 2.33 ERA. Since then, he has played one full season, had one lights out first half, and started four playoff games (all no decisions). This season, Buchholz has been having one of worst of his career and is set to make a fine $4 million dollar raise next year. Despite all the media coverage this season, I still don't understand why he hasn't been mentioned very much at all for part of this team's dramatic fall. I think it's impossible to point fingers at anybody, but for someone who has had almost the same career length as Jon Lester and played on the same championship teams, I am shocked there is still so much heat and pressure to trade Lester. Sure, he's clearly the dominant player of the two, but looking forward to the future, wouldn't you rather have Lester than Buchholz?
Lester is a model of consistency. He has yet to have a "Pedro year" in terms of Cy Young contention, but since beating cancer and settling in as a starting pitcher of the Boston Red Sox. Jon Lester has done just about anything and everything this team could ask of him. Lester is a stopper who isn't afraid to take the ball during the big game. Players like that don't come along very often. He is special. What Lester means to the fans of Boston goes beyond words. In his 8 years with the Red Sox, Lester has gone 110-63, with a 3.64 ERA, averaging at least 26 starts and over 12 wins per season, including a no-hitter in 2008. He is 6-4 with a 2.11 ERA in the postseason, including an absolutely dominant 2013, where he went 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA.
In 7 years with the Red Sox, Clay Buchholz has also pitched a no-hitter, is 63-39 with a 3.81 ERA, averaging 17 starts and just under 8 wins a per season. He has no record in 5 postseason starts and has a 4.21 ERA. All things considered, who would you rather have pitching for your team?
I still think Clay Buchholz is a good pitcher. The case can be made that he has been more effective this season since returning from the DL. He has gone an encouraging 2-2 with a 3.41 ERA in the month of July. If the Red Sox are taking potential offers for Jon Lester from teams that need starting pitching, why hasn't Buchholz name been brought up? With Lackey's minimal contract next year (don't trade the fiery Texan after he finally won back everyone's respect) and Buchholz's contract potentially off the books (if traded), why wouldn't there be enough money to extend Lester's contract? No amount of stockpiled talent will be able to equate what Jon Lester has accomplished in his career and what he can continue to do.
When David Ortiz is making statements about Jon Lester being a significant part of this team, you should listen. Perhaps some select players from Tampa Bay are jealous that Ortiz is, "bigger than the game," but the guy has had some of the most clutch hits of the modern era and won 3 World Series Championships. He's not stupid.
Trading away Jon Lester and expecting him to re-sign would be like letting your buddy borrow your wife for a few months and then expecting everything to be normal when she comes back. Circumstances can change. Give the guy what he wants and deserves. Even if this year is a wash, don't let this one slip away.