By Mike Moritz
Clay Buchholz agreed on a four-year, $30 million contract extension. This new contract will take out Buchholz's remaining years of arbitration and will also take out one year of free agency. The contract will kick in starting in 2012 and also has two club options for 2016 and 2017 that could bring the deal to $57 million. Me being a young advanced-statistics apprentice, I have some beef to express about this new contract. Don't worry, I don't have that much to say.
One reason why I do not like this contract is for the simple reason that he is not as good as he performed last year. His 2.33 ERA and 17 wins are good, yes, but no where near what he should have been. His xFIP last year was 4.07. I could theoretically stop there but I won't. His low and for the most part, unsustainable ERA were fueled by some serious luck with a .261 BABIP and a 79% LOB. His xBABIP was .297 and although I don't have a xLOB calculator (if there even is one), I can say with confidence that his LOB was high as well. His 5.6% HR/FB, also suggesting that he got a little lucky there too. He has almost completely abandoned his curve ball for his slider, which is not necessarily a bad thing but could be a reason why his strike out rate has completely fallen off the cliff from 'good' to 'below average'. And with his walk rates not improving, I can see why it is hard for him to get his K/BB rate over 2.0.
But on the other hand, he has shown a consistent knack for getting ground balls ever since his first extended look at the majors. His career 50.3% ground ball rate should bode very well for him. And considering the Red Sox's great infield defense behind him, it should help his ERA to not get out of hand. So we could see an ERA closer to his FIP of 3.61. But nonetheless, he is going to experience a big regression; he has already given up five this year after just nine last year. That's the beginning.
The second reason why I don't think that this contract is great is that Theo should have waited to see if Buchholz was the "real-deal" since he does not use much advanced statistics (at least I do not think he does). If he did see that he Buchholz was the victim of a shit-load of luck, he probably would have waited after this year to give him an extension, basically meaning that he would be able to pay Buchholz less money and maybe getting him at a better deal than this one is already. I mean, isn't that what baseball is about? Getting talent for a really cheap price? If Theo had waited until after this season, he would see how Buchholz had regressed and sign him to a cheaper contract, simple. So instead of getting paid $3.5 million in the first year of the deal, that might ~$2 million and so on and so forth.
As for Theo being a good GM. I honestly do not think he that great when it comes to contracts and free-agents. He obviously builds a good farm system and and is clearly is smart when trading players. But just think of the questionable contracts in the recent years: John Lackey, Johnathon Papelbon, and personally, I am not that big of a fan of the J.D. Drew contract. And most notably, the Carl Crawford contract. Does Theo really think that Crawford can keep up his speed (which is where most of his value comes from) for all seven years? Watch that contract come back to haunt Theo. What happens when Crawford starts to lose his speed? He already does not walk enough and I would say that he, at the age of 29, is already at the very latter part of his speed prime. Not to mention that his defensive value gets somewhat taken away being that he is playing in a small left field at Fenway.
Look, I'm not trying to upset anyone at all, I'm not trying to rip on Theo, I think he is a great GM, but he sometimes makes me wonder whether his brain is screwed on right when it comes to players contracts. I am sorry if I offended anyone.
(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com, yardbarker.com)