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John Buck Rumors
Buck, a client of ACES, was designated for assignment and eventually released by the Mariners earlier this month when after hitting .226/.293/.286 in 27 games (92 plate appearances). The 34-year-old will provide some veteran catching depth for the Halos, who have been using a productive combination of Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger behind the dish this season.
In parts of 11 big league seasons between the Royals, Marlins, Mets, Pirates and Mariners, Buck is a .234/.301/.398 hitter with 134 home runs. He’s gunned down 25 percent of opposing base-stealers in his career and was at 21 percent in 2014 with Seattle.
Here are today’s minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…
- The Dodgers have outrighted first baseman Clint Robinson after designating him on Thursday, according to the PCL transactions page. In the midst of a highly productive minor league campaign (.309/.402/.523 with 14 home runs), the 29-year-old was able to pick up his first three big league hits during a brief stint with the big club.
- Catcher John Buck was released today by the Mariners, the club announced. Buck was recently designated for assignment after struggling to a .226/.293/.286 line in his first 92 plate appearances with Seattle. He signed a one-year, $1MM deal to join the club over the offseason.
- The Giants announced that Brandon Hicks has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Fresno. Hicks was designated for assignment upon Marco Scutaro‘s activation from the DL. While he hit just .162 in 242 trips to the plate, Hicks showed plate discipline (13.2 percent walk rate) and some pop (eight homers) in his time with the Major League club.
The Mariners have designated veteran catcher John Buck for assignment, according to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (Twitter link). He notes in a followup tweet that it seems likely the Mariners will recall Jesus Sucre from Triple-A Tacoma.
Buck, who turned 34 years old Monday, inked a one-year, $1MM contract with the Mariners to serve as the backup to young catcher Mike Zunino. He’s struggled to get on base and hit for average in recent years, but he’d shown good pop until this season with Seattle. In 27 games (92 plate appearances), Buck was hitting just .226/.293/.286 with one home run.
Divish notes that the move likely won’t go over well in the Mariners’ locker room, as Buck was popular among his teammates. He adds, however, that there had been growing concern from the Mariners’ decision-makers over Buck’s receiving and blocking skills with the staff — particularly the team’s harder-throwing pitchers. Indeed, Buck grades out poorly in terms of pitch-framing metrics (per StatCorner.com’s Matthew Carruth and per Baseball Prospectus), although that’s hardly a new trend. Buck had one passed ball on the season and had been behind the dish for 11 wild pitches in just 164 innings, so the Mariners likely felt that some of those could have been blocked.
A veteran of 11 Major League seasons between the Royals, Blue Jays, Marlins, Mets, Pirates and Mariners, Buck is a lifetime .234/.301/.398 hitter.
Twins prospect Eddie Rosario‘s 50-game suspension will be over at the end of the week, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff tells Wolfson that Rosario will open his season at Class-A Advanced to shake off some rust, despite a solid showing in 70 Double-A games last season. Rosario has been ranked on several Top 100 Prospect lists – including the 2014 editions of Baseball Prospectus (60) and ESPN’s Keith Law (49) – but his stock took a hit when he tested positive for “a drug of abuse” for the second time this offseason. A few more links on the Twins…
- Mariners catcher John Buck told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press this weekend that he was “extremely close” to signing in Minnesota this offseason. According to Buck, his agent (Seth Levinson of ACES) told him there was a very good chance they’d finalize a deal, but Kurt Suzuki jumped in at the last minute and landed a spot with the Twins. “The way Kurt is swinging, they didn’t choose wrong, I guess,” Buck told Berardino. “He’s doing great.” Suzuki has been a surprisingly strong force this season, slashing .312/.378/.416 with the Twins.
- La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune spoke with Twins scouting director Deron Johnson about the upcoming draft, who spoke to the tricky nature of this year’s draft without a clear-cut No. 1 overall pick. Neal writes that the Twins are doing the most due diligence on LSU right-hander Aaron Nola and NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon on the college side of things. As far as prep players go, righty Tyler Kolek, left-hander Brady Aiken, shortstop Nick Gordon and catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson are all in play.
- The 2014 Twins have an alarmingly dangerous mix of low-strikeout pitchers and poor defensive players, writes Mike Petriello in an ESPN Insider piece. Petriello looks at the Twins’ poor outfield defense, in particular, noting what he describes as a “spring decision that backfired terribly.” The Twins elected to keep infielder Jason Bartlett as a utility player/backup outfielder — a decision that resulted in the loss of Alex Presley on waivers. When Bartlett abruptly retired, the Twins were forced to designate outfielder Darin Mastroianni for assignment, and they lost him to Toronto on waivers. In other words, as Petriello writes, “by keeping Bartlett, the Twins received zero production and lost two decent outfielders.”
The Mariners announced today that they've added to their catching depth by inking veteran backstop John Buck to a one-year contract. Buck's contract is a Major League deal that is reportedly worth $1MM and should make him the favorite to serve as Seattle's backup catcher. The 33-year-old is a client of the ACES agency.
Buck, an All-Star back in 2010, got off to a hot start last season for the Mets. He ended April with a .844 OPS and 9 home runs, but faded over the course of the year. Buck ended up with a composite .219/.285/.362 line in 431 plate appearances for the year, though he did swat 15 home runs. His overall numbers line up with the figures he posted over the previous two seasons, falling well shy of his two best seasons: 2009 (.247/.299/.484) and 2010 (.281/.314/.489, 20 home runs).
Buck has appeared in at least 100 games in eight of the last nine seasons, making him a durable option. He has rated positively in terms of blocking pitches in the dirt, but has been ranked among the worst pitch framers in the game. Indeed, according to StatCorner (hat tip to Dave Cameron of Fangraphs), Buck came in dead last among all catchers in framing last year, costing the Mets over 20 runs.
Buck inked a three-year, $18MM contract with the Marlins after those big 2009-10 campaigns, but — depending upon how one values catchers, in particular — never quite lived up to the deal. Fangraphs figures his value at 4.1 WAR over the life of the deal, while Baseball Reference pegs it at just 1.1. And further downward adjustment could be warranted to account for Buck's poor framing metrics. He was ultimately dealt three times over the life of the contract: first to the Blue Jays, then to the Mets, and then to the Pirates. Hitting the open market for a third time, Buck ultimately settled for a relatively modest guarantee this time around.
Young catcher Mike Zunino figures to be the Seattle's primary catching option for 2014 (and beyond), but Buck will presumably leapfrog 25-year-old Jesus Sucre and veteran Humberto Quintero on the depth chart. As MLBTR's Aaron Steen has noted, the unseasoned Zunino could probably stand to spend more time in the minors or in a reduced role. With Buck's long history as a starter, however, he is a plausible candidate to see significant time behind the big league dish.
Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
TUESDAY, 4:20pm: Seattle is expected to give Buck a major league contract, Morosi tweets.
The backstop played out the last year of a three-year, $18MM contract last season. After originally signing that deal with the Marlins, Buck was dealt from the Blue Jays to the Mets, and then to the Pirates. Buck raced out to a hot start in 2013 — he had a .844 OPS and 9 home runs in April — but faded over the course of the year. He saw only 24 plate appearances in his late-season stint in Pittsburgh, and ultimately ended the 2013 campaign with a .219/.285/.362 line and 15 home runs over 431 plate appearances. Buck has appeared in at least 100 games in eight of the last nine seasons and has a lifetime .701 OPS.
As things stand for Seattle, young catcher Mike Zunino figures to be the club's primary catching option for 2014 (and beyond), with 25-year-old Jesus Sucre and veteran Humberto Quintero also in the mix. At first glance, Buck would presumably fit in as Zunino's backup if a deal is consummated. On the other hand, as MLBTR's Aaron Steen has noted, the unseasoned Zunino could probably stand to spend more time in the minors or in a reduced role, and Buck's long history as a starter makes him a plausible candidate to see significant time behind the big league dish.
With Winter Storm Ion pummeling the eastern half of the United States, let's warm ourselves on the Hot Stove with the latest National League news and notes:
- The Mets expect to begin Spring Training next month with Ike Davis still in the fold, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. The Brewers and Pirates have been the clubs most linked to Davis and the Mets are willing to re-engage in trade talks with them or any other team. The Orioles have also shown interest in the 26-year-old first baseman, but they turned down the Mets' request of pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez and are notably not mentioned in Rubin's article.
- The Mets are open to adding more depth at catcher, but have no interest in a reunion with John Buck, tweets the New York Post's Mike Puma.
- International free agency has been key to the Cardinals' having the game's best farm system, according to Derrick Goold of the St.Louis Post-Dispatch. The club's top position and pitching prospects (Oscar Taveras and Carlos Martinez, respectively) were both signed as international free agents, Goold notes.
Here's the latest news from both the NL and AL Central divisions…
- The Brandon Phillips trade rumors may have temporarily stopped, though Reds president/CEO Bob Castellini left the door slightly open when talking to reporters today (including MLB.com's Mark Sheldon and the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay). "Brandon is part of the team, boys," Castellini said. "Walt [GM Walt Jocketty] was just exploring. You have to understand what he's up against. He's got to look around. Brandon Phillips is an integral part of this franchise….But you never say never."
- The Cubs and John Axford share a mutual interest in each other, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports. Axford would get a chance to compete for the Cubs' closing job, though the right-hander seemingly has plenty of opportunities around the league, with a reported 14 teams checking in following his non-tender from the Cardinals.
- The Cubs and Royals are two of the teams who have shown interest in Joba Chamberlain, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweets. No signing seems to be imminent for either team, however. Chamberlain is another relief arm who has drawn significant attention on the open market, as he may be seen as a reclamation candidate after some tough seasons with the Yankees.
- The Twins have spoken to John Buck's agent, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, and a source tells Berardino that Buck is Minnesota's top target amongst available catchers. It isn't clear how interested in the Twins are, however, given that Josmil Pinto is still the club's preferred choice to take over the everyday catching job now that Joe Mauer has been moved to first base.
- Carl Pavano talked with Berardino about his comeback attempt from a freak snow-shoveling accident that left him with a ruptured spleen and sidelined the veteran righty for the entire 2013 season. Pavano said the Twins haven't contacted him about a return: "I haven't really talked to them. I don't know if that would be a good fit anyway. I think we're in different places. They need those younger guys in their rotation."
Justin Morneau sounded certain in stating that he will one day return to the Twins in some capacity but acknowledged that it's not likely to be in 2014, writes Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Said Morneau: "There’s no saying I won’t be back in the future. You never know what the opportunity is going to be, whether it’s as a player, later, or as a coach, or someone who comes down to spring training. Whatever it is, it’s a different chapter, but [Minnesota] is something that will stick with me forever." Morneau made his first Twin Cities public appearance since being traded over the weekend, signing autographs and thanking fans for donating to a drive that raised more than 3,000 coats for the Salvation Army. Morneau told Miller that he's spoken recently with longtime teammate and friend Michael Cuddyer, who put in a good word for the Rockies. More on the Twins…
- The Twins have asked their newest acquisition, Ricky Nolasco, about his former catcher John Buck, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Twins have reportedly moved on from the Jarrod Saltalamacchia sweepstakes and will deploy Josmil Pinto as their primary catcher in 2014.
- Though Minnesota had just three arbitration eligible players this offseason (all of whom were tendered contracts), they could have as many as nine next winter, writes Berardino. Berardino looks at the potential arbitration classes for the next three offseasons, noting of course that not every player included on his lists will accumulate the necessary service time to reach arbitration.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted yesterday that age was a big factor for the Twins in signing Phil Hughes to a surprising three-year, $24MM contract. The Twins are hopeful that they can fix Hughes up and thereby make him an important piece of improved teams in 2015-16 while he's still in his prime years.
- The Twins were "a close second" in the bidding for A.J. Pierzynski, according to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (on Twitter). Pierzynski agreed to a one-year, $8.25MM contract with the Red Sox earlier today.
Here's the latest from the City of Brotherly Love…
- The Phillies intend to avoid more expensive free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann in favor of "mid-level" free agents, CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury reports. The Phillies are wary of how much it would cost to sign Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran or Curtis Granderson even though they like all three players.
- Also from Salisbury, the Phillies have discussed signing Franklin Gutierrez, Marlon Byrd, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Smith and Bronson Arroyo.
- GM Ruben Amaro told reporters (including Salisbury) that the team could wait to see what kind of a market there is for Roy Halladay's services before deciding whether or not to pursue the former Cy Young Award winner. “We’re keeping our eyes open on him. We’re not sure how the market is going to develop for him. But we haven’t ruled out bringing him back," Amaro said.
- The Phillies have "long-standing interest" in Mike Morse and see Morse as "a potential Jayson Werth-like late bloomer," CSNPhilly.com's Corey Seidman writes. Despite this interest, Morse could just be a backup plan for the Phillies if they can't sign a more higher-profile hitter.
- Carlos Ruiz could make a decision about his next contract soon, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter link). We heard earlier this week that the Phillies wanted a quick decision from Ruiz so they could figure out their catching situation.
- If Ruiz doesn't re-sign, Morosi tweets that John Buck could be a more realistic backup plan for the Phillies than A.J. Pierzynski. Not only would Buck be cheaper, Philadelphia is in need of right-handed bats.
- Trading Domonic Brown and bringing back Ryan Madson are two of the topics addressed by MLB.com's Todd Zolecki as part of a Phillies-centric reader mailbag.