Signing Clay Buchholz to Long-Term Extension Would Put Cherry on Top of Red Sox' Outstanding Offseason Adrian Gonzalez says he's ready to swing a bat, Carl Crawford is ready to race Jacoby Ellsbury around the base paths, Josh Beckett is looking for 100 wins and there's not anyone within a 100-mile radius of Fort Myers, Fla., who has uttered the words "bridge year."

Suffice it to say that things are going rather well down at Red Sox camp.

Yet, while the team could theoretically make no moves between now and October and still potentially make a run at the World Series, there is one order of business they could take care of that would benefit the ballclub in the long term. That business would be locking up Clay Buchholz to a multiyear contract.

The man who finished sixth in Cy Young voting last year made just $443,000 doing so. His 17 wins were just three fewer than Josh Beckett and John Lackey combined, who together made $33.75 million last year — or in simpler terms, roughly 76 times more money than Buchholz. His 2.33 ERA was nearly a full run better than Jon Lester's 3.25, and the 26-year-old made the leap the Sox had hoped he'd make for years when they steadfastly refused to ship him out of town.

Now, it's time to reward him while at the same time locking down the team's two best pitchers for years to come.

The Sox need only follow the model they created two years ago when they recognized the importance of Lester and worked feverishly to get him signed to a five-year, $30 million extension before the '09 season began.

Buchholz was honest when asked if he "wouldn't mind" a similar extension, but he told WEEI.com that he doesn't necessarily believe that he's as good as Lester.

Modesty aside, he's actually better than he may think. Fangraphs.com compared in great detail the first two-plus years of MLB work for the two young Sox starters, and the results are strikingly similar:

Lester: 59 starts, 354 2/3 innings, 3.81 ERA, 6.65 K/9, 3.55 BB/9, 0.79 HR/9
Buchholz: 62 starts, 364 1/3 innings, 3.68 ERA, 6.97 K/9, 3.80 BB/9, 0.82 HR/9

Using that as the model, a Lester-like extension seems appropriate for Buchholz. Lester was a little younger (24) and, of course, a lefty, but quality pitching is quality pitching (just ask the 2011 Yankees how valuable that can be).

If the Sox were to sign Buchholz through 2015, that would mean the Sox would have Lester, Buchholz, Beckett and Lackey set to work together for at least the next four seasons. That's four starters with a combined five All-Star selections, four World Series titles and a pair of no-hitters, working together for half a decade. How many teams can make a similar claim?

Admittedly, there is not tremendous urgency for a Buchholz extension to happen this spring. Buchholz is still under team control for the next four years, but with each year that passes, his price tag is almost guaranteed to get bigger. Signing him now would put him on the list with Lester, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia as Sox All-Stars who signed somewhat team-friendly deals in order to establish themselves as the long-term stars of the Red Sox. For Buchholz, that wouldn't be bad company.

Of course, extension or no extension, Buchholz will surely contribute to this team for several years. Whether he signs or not, there won't be any controversy and there are no potential distractions.

Likewise, this year's squad is looking like baseball's most dangerous group in 2011. Still, for a guy who persevered through rough 2008 and '09 seasons to come back and become one of the game's best pitchers, a guy who never cracked as the subject of a handful of trade rumors, it's time to guarantee that he'll be spending the prime of his career in Boston.