Clay Buchholz gets 4-year extension

Updated: April 10, 2011, 6:36 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- The Red Sox on Sunday announced a contract extension for right-handed pitcher Clay Buchholz on a four-year deal that guarantees him just under $30 million, with two club option years at $13 million apiece that makes the value of the deal potentially worth $56 million, major league sources confirmed Sunday.

"He's a homegrown core member of the ballclub,'' Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said in a press conference announcing the deal. "We expect Clay to be here a long time.

"We see this as a win-win. He is an entrusted, core member of the club.''

Buchholz is at the same point in his career -- just over two years' service time -- that left-hander Jon Lester was when the Red Sox signed Lester to a five-year, $30 million extension in the spring of 2009.

The contract calls for Buchholz to be paid $3.5 million in 2012, $5.5 million in 2013, $7.7 million in 2014, and $12 million in 2015, according to the source. With a modest signing bonus and buyout language, the contract guarantees him $29,945,000, a major league source said. Both option years call for a salary of $13 million, although there is an escalator clause that could push the second option year to $13.5 million.

The first four Red Sox starters in the rotation are now under the team's control through at least the 2014 season. Josh Beckett signed a four-year, $68 million extension last year, John Lackey is in the second year of a five-year, $82.5 million deal, Lester is signed through 2013 with an option for $13 million in 2014, and now Buchholz. The fifth member of the rotation, Daisuke Matsuzaka, is signed through the 2012 season, when he is due to be paid $10 million in the last year of the six-year, $52 million deal he signed with the club entering the 2007 season.

Buchholz's extension fixes his price through his arbitration-eligible years, and the club options give the club the chance to keep him the first two years he would be eligible for free agency.

"That was important to the club,'' Epstein said. "Clay is just 26 years old.''

The deal will take Buchholz through his 30th birthday, Epstein noted, and the club options could keep him with the Red Sox through age 32.

"That gives the club a little more flexibility,'' Epstein said, referring to the cost certainty this gives the club. "It made sense.''

The deal was negotiated by Red Sox vice president Ben Cherington and Buchholz's agent, John Courtright, who was present at the press conference. Also in attendance were Buchholz's wife, Lindsay, and daughter, Colbi.

Buchholz, who is being paid $555,000 this season, said he thought about going year-to-year in arbitration, but opted for security instead.

"It's a honor,'' he said. "This is where I imagined myself to be 10 years ago. I don't think I could be with a better organization.''

Epstein noted how good the Red Sox feel about locking up their homegrown players contractually, which they have also done with Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis.

"Clay certainly has earned our trust and developed a tremendous amount as both a person and a player,'' Epstein said of Buchholz, whose path to professional success was initially sidetracked by revelations that he had stolen laptop computers from a middle school and sold them to other students at McNeese State University, which led to his dismissal from the baseball team.

He later transferred to Angelina (Tex.) Junior College, and the Red Sox, after conducting intense background checks, decided that he was woth expending a first-round sandwich pick on in 2005.

Still, there were a couple other rough moments, most notably in 2007, when Buchholz was left off the team's postseason roster because the club did not think he was doing sufficient work to keep his shoulder strong. Epstein made a reference to that Sunday.

"That first year he was not the most compliant guy in our shoulder program,'' Epstein said. "Now he's a star pupil. He's settled in his family life and a trusted guy in our organization.''

The Red Sox are also expected to finalize a contract extension very soon for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez; an industry source confirmed that the sides "are getting close but nothing official yet." It would seem likely that the extension will be announced before the team leaves on a West Coast trip before next Monday, but a club source said more work needs to be done and that a midweek announcement was highly unlikely.

In one way, the timing of the extension comes at an awkward time for Buchholz. He has lost each of his first two decisions, has a 7.20 ERA, and has allowed five home runs in 10 innings after allowing just nine in 173 2/3 innings last season.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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