John Buck Rumors
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.
WEDNESDAY, 5:34pm: Black is in fact the PTBNL in the deal, Rosenthal tweets.
WEDNESDAY, 5:09pm: Triple-A reliever Vic Black is a strong possibility to be the PTBNL heading from the Pirates to the Mets, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Black is currently on waivers, but if he is the PTBNL, the Pirates can just pull him back and send him to the Mets at the end of the season rather than right away (Twitter links). In 46 and 2/3 Triple-A innings this season, Black owns a 2.51 ERA with 63 Ks and 21 BBs.
Baseball America rated Black as the Bucs' 16th best prospect heading into this season. Black, who was drafted 49th overall by the Pirates in 2009, began his pro career as a starter but was plagued by control issues and converted to a reliever in 2011. BA writes that if he can get his walks under control, he has the stuff close in the majors.
8:33am: The Mets also sent the Pirates $250K in the trade, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). That would mean the Pirates are paying just under $1MM -- roughly $980K -- for Byrd and Buck over the remainder of the season.
TUESDAY: The Pirates are likely headed for their first playoff berth since 1992, and they made sure to bolster their roster accordingly by acquiring Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the Mets for minor league second baseman Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later. Both teams have announced the trade.
Earlier today, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reported that in the wake of Matt Harvey's injury, the Mets were exploring trade options and had placed five players on waivers, including Byrd, Buck and Pedro Feliciano. Byrd (pictured on the right) was claimed by an unnamed NL team shortly thereafter, which clearly was the Pirates. It's unclear whether Buck cleared waivers or was also claimed by the Pirates following a season-ending injury to backup catcher Michael McKenry.
Byrd, who turns 36 on Friday, is having a surprising career year despite his age. In 464 plate appearances, he's batting .285/.330/.518. His 21 homers and 136 OPS+ are both career-bests. Byrd is no longer a regular center fielder (just two games there in 2013), but his defense in right field grades out to a solid +6.6 UZR/150, and The Fielding Bible pegs him at nine runs saved. Pirates right fielders have batted just .245/.307/.368 this season, and their right field defense ranks 24th in baseball, according to UZR, so Byrd's bat and solid glove will be welcome additions in the Steel City.
Byrd is also owed just $130K for the remainder of the season before he hits free agency, so he's an affordable upgrade for the Pirates, financially speaking. Given that salary, it's a surprise to see that the Reds didn't place a claim to block the Pirates from acquiring him. Cincinnati is just 3.5 games out of first in the NL Central while the Pirates are a half-game back of the Cardinals. All three NL Central teams would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, but the Reds and Pirates would face each other in the one-game Wild Card playoff.
Buck, 33, has cooled off considerably following a meteoric start that saw him club 10 homers in his first 25 games (23 starts). Since May 1, he's hitting just .206/.290/.302 with six homers, and he's owed $1.1MM. However, with McKenry out for the season following surgery to repair a torn meniscus, his pop and veteran leadership should be welcome additions for Pittsburgh. Buck has also caught a strong 30 percent of potential base-stealers.
Herrera, 19, is having a strong season at Class-A West Virgina. The Colombian infielder is hitting .265/.330/.421 with 11 homers and 11 stolen bases in 479 plate appearances. Herrera ranked as the No. 20 prospect in the Pirates system prior to the season, according to Baseball America, and his solid play in 2013 has him currently ranked 11th among Pirates prospects by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
In their scouting report, BA noted that Herrera has plus speed and surprising power for someone of his size (he's listed as 5'10" and 150 pounds) with the ability to hit the ball to all fields. BA feels that his lack of arm strength will limit him to second base, and Mayo agrees. Mayo adds that Herrera had no problem adjusting to the game after coming to the United States, and he projects an above-average hitter and well-above average runner. Mayo also ranked Herrera as the ninth-best second base prospect in all of minor league baseball.
ESPN's Adam Rubin was the first to report that Byrd and Buck were headed to Pittsburgh (on Twitter), and MLB.com's Anthony DiComo was the first to break that the Pirates were giving up Herrera and a PTBNL (also on Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are a handful of odds and ends from this afternoon's trade between the Mets and Pirates, in which the Bucs received outfielder Marlon Byrd, catcher John Buck and cash in return for second base prospect Dilson Herrera and a PTBNL.
- In addition to putting in a waiver claim on Byrd, the Pirates also claimed Buck before the trade, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes (on Twitter).
- The player to be named the Mets are set to receive will be a "solid" one, and that could make an already-strong trade even better for New York, says ESPN's Keith Law (Insider-only). But Law also calls the trade a "truly all-in move" from the Pirates' perspective, noting that Byrd represents an enormous upgrade over the Bucs' right fielders, who have been dreadful this year.
- Byrd is "a good get" for the Pirates, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan writes. Sullivan notes that, based on what we knew entering the season, it would have been strange to learn that the Pirates were still looking for upgrades in late August, and just as strange that the aging Marlon Byrd would constitute an upgrade.
- In Herrera, the Mets may be getting an "offensive-oriented second baseman," Matt Eddy of Baseball America writes. Eddy also notes that Herrera could hit for decent power to go with a good on-base percentage, and that appears likely to stick at second base.
- They may have just traded him, but the Mets may have interest in pursuing Byrd again when he becomes a free agent this winter, Andy Martino of New York Daily News writes (on Twitter).
- Martino also tweets that the Mets are unlikely to make any more trades this month.
One day after learning that ace Matt Harvey has a torn UCL in his right elbow, ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin reports that the Mets are poised to be active on the trade front in the final days of August. According to Rubin, five players have been placed on revocable trade waivers, and at least one trade is likely in the next 24 to 48 hours.
Marlon Byrd, John Buck and Pedro Feliciano are three of the players to hit waivers, and the Mets have already recalled lefty Robert Carson, catcher Anthony Recker and outfielder Matt den Dekker from Triple-A Las Vegas. Obviously, that trio of minor leaguers could serve as replacements for the three known players on waivers.
Byrd, who turns 36 on Friday, is having a surprising career year despite his age. He drew significant interest prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline, but the Mets opted to hang onto him. In 464 plate appearances, he's batting .285/.330/.518. His 21 homers and 136 OPS+ are both career-bests. Byrd is no longer a regular center fielder (just two games there in 2013), but his defense in right field grades out to a solid +6.6 UZR/150, and The Fielding Bible pegs him at nine runs saved. As Rubin notes, just $130K remains on Byrd's 2013 salary, making him a highly affordable trade chip.
Buck, 33, has cooled off considerably following a meteoric start that saw him club 10 homers in his first 25 games (23 starts). Since May 1, he's hitting just .206/.290/.302 with six homers, limiting his value. However, Travis d'Arnaud is now drawing the majority of the time behind the plate, so the Mets would likely welcome the opportunity to clear the remaining $1.1MM of Buck's salary.
Feliciano, 37, returned to the Majors for the first time since 2010 on Aug. 2 and has allowed a pair of runs in 5 1/3 innings since. His health woes in recent years likely leave him without high trade value, but he'd be a nice alternative to Javier Lopez, whom the Giants reportedly aren't likely to trade even though he's been claimed on waivers. Opposing lefties are just 3-for-17 against Feliciano this season, and all four of his strikeouts have come against left-handed batters.
Rubin also writes that in addition to Byrd, Buck and Feliciano, the Mets are considering dealing Major League talent that is under control beyond the 2013 season.
It's been 731 days since the Mets traded Carlos Beltran to the Giants in exchange for Zack Wheeler, and while that trade looks brilliant now, it also represents the last July trade that involved the Amazin's. Here's more on New York's National League club...
- Tim Byrdak's contract contains a clause that allows him to leave the Mets should another team offer him a Major League roster spot, MLBTR has learned. After being contacted by an interested team, the Mets would have 48 hours to add Byrdak to their own big league roster. If they chose not to do so, Byrdak would be free to join the new team, and the Mets would receive no compensation. The clause is similar to the one that allowed Jason Grilli to leave the Phillies and join the Pirates in 2011. Byrdak currently has a 2.45 ERA and 11-to-3 K/BB ratio in 11 innings at High-A St. Lucie as he works his way back from shoulder and knee surgeries in late 2012.
- A Mets executive told Mike Puma of the New York Post that he would be surprised if manager Terry Collins were replaced after the season. The Mets are happy with the job that Collins has done, and the executive says the team is doing a good job of "sprinting to the finish line" with Collins at the helm (Twitter links). Collins still only under contract through the 2013 season.
- Puma's colleague, Joel Sherman, tweets that left-handed relief is in such high demand, the Mets actually received calls checking in on how Byrdak and Pedro Feliciano were progressing in their rehab.
- Nothing has changed on the Marlon Byrd and Bobby Parnell front, according to Sherman (on Twitter). The Mets have received nibbles on both, but not nearly enough to make a deal likely.
- The Mets are seeking a "Wheeler type" top prospect in exchange for Parnell, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Given that exborbitant price tag, it's no surprise that interest hasn't picked up much.
- Sherman adds that the Mets had hoped to see interest in Daniel Murphy, John Buck and Eric Young Jr., but to this point they haven't received calls on that group. As such, they're likely to simply try to win as many games as they can with the current group in the season's second half.