Thursday, September 9, 2010

The case for keeping John Buck

When the Jays signed John Buck, it elicited barely more than a shrug. (The trade was made in the midst of the Halladay Trade Hoedown that overshadowed much of the offseason, which might explain some of the indifference, but still.)

Oddly enough, we still get the impression that many if not most Jays fans are perfectly comfortable with the notion of him heading into the sunset after this season. Between the fact that many fans hadn't given much consideration to Buck before this season, that he will likely qualify as a Type B free agent (compensatory pick!) and the fact that PCL MVP JPA is waiting in the wings, we're getting the sense that there isn't much of a demand for his return in 2011. This, in spite of the gawdy counting stats he's piled up (leading AL full-time catchers in HRs), and his All-Star selection this season.

(Okay, those are meaningless accolades. But we're building up to something here. Come along for the ride.)

Still, Buck has posted a more than respectable 2.3 WAR this season, which puts him in a class with Matt Wieters (2.4) and not far behind the backstops of our AL East competition in Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez (both at 2.8). That should be impressive, especially considering how his performance has outstripped that of dreamboats like Chris Ianetta (0.5), Ryan Doumit (1.2) or Yadier Molina (2.0).

And speaking of dreamboats, we know that there is ludicrous piles of love for J.P. Arencibia, but setting him up to be a premium offensive catcher while handling a young pitching staff is going to be a tall order. Having one season to serve as an understudy to a veteran or at least sharing the load wouldn't kill the youngster. Also, we love the concept of the Battery Committee Meetings that Buck and José Molina have undertaken this year, and the idea of including Arencibia in those for a year before he needs to run them himself would seem to make sense to us.

Plus, Buck will still only be 30 years old next year, and - this is going to sound like an oxymoron, we know - with a couple of partial seasons missed due to injury, we're guessing that his body still has some miles on it.

We recognize the downside, of course. Buck is going to cost more after this season. He'll be as likely to fall back as he is to maintain his performance. He's going to cost the Jays a pick that could be used as further fodder for the Eternal Building Process.

Still, the Jays are going to need someone to carry a load of at least 60-odd games behind the plate next year, and given the dearth of interesting catchers after Victor Martinez on the free agent market (Josh Bard, Gerald Laird, David Ross, A.J. Pierzynski), it would seem that an additional year or two with Buck for the sake of continuity wouldn't be the worst choice that the team could make.


Torgen said...

Bringing back Buck only costs the Jays a pick if he regresses severely and isn't type B again. Otherwise it only delays a pick. If he plays this well again he could make type A, at which point it's trading one pick now for two picks later.

MJK said...

if you can get Buck on a contract that allows you to get rid of him after one year then you sign him and commit to a 2/3 - 1/3 arrangement with him and JPA. Buck would be nuts to sign such a deal unless he had no alternatives. So it seems more likely than not that the Jays will allow themselves to be outbid for his services and put JPA either in to the lead role, or in to a platoon situation.

3 points against keeping Buck:

1. after listening to so much nonsense about Varitek and his abilities to handle the staff down here i'm inclined to write that intangible off almost completely.

2. as has been pointed out by others, JPA caught most of these guys on the way up.

3. there's room for improvement defensively over Buck, so that might compensate for whatever losses you incur with his replacement in the batter's box.

Tao of Stieb said...

I'm glad you cleared that up, because I have only a tenuous grasp on how compensation works.

Darren Priest said...

Can't hurt to keep him. JPA and Buck are better than what we had this year. Like a few other Alex Ant pick-ups, it feels like the team is playing with house money (I carefully avoided the use of 'we" there).

Right now, I am holding onto the faint hope finishing 5th in the AL, but I am 4 fifths erect over the coming hot stove season.

(Four-fifths is about the best I can do these days, btw.)

Ty said...

I don't feel like the Jays really have much choice in the matter. Buck will get a multi-year deal, and he's said he wants to be somebody's starting catcher. Even if the Jays let him start in 2011, any multi-year contract from them would have to come with the stipulation that he'll almost undoubtedly be a back-up catcher by the end of it, which would probably deter him from signing here if AA even makes an offer at all.

Ian Hunter said...

Sure, why not? Molina has a $1 million dollar option for 2010, but maybe that money would be better served going towards keeping Buck around.

I'm sure AA would also be willing to listen to offers at the 2011 deadline as well if the price/offer is right.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought, why not sign Buck to a one year deal, have him be the primary catcher with JPA backing him up. Move Lind to 1st full time so JPA can DH and still get in lots of AB's while learning from Buck. Snider in LF, Wells CF, Bausista at RF, 3B ... not too sure, Escobar SS, Hill 2B.

Ty said...

Anon, that would probably be best for the Jays, but I'd imagine that Buck could find something better than a one-year deal elsewhere. I think that's a fair assumption considering he was an All Star this year, but if there's a chance he can be had for just one season, I'd love to see him back.

Tony Viner said...


Buck will only return if I can convince him to sign a team-friendly contract with several un-obtainable performance-based incentives attached, and cheap team options on 2012 and 2013 will act as as insurance.

I will also be working on signing Jose Bautista to an extension, without committing much in terms of (actual) funds, as i have swindled him before, and will do so again.

My team has indeed shocked the world, and my stated goal of 85+ wins this season will become a reality. "Why?", you ask. The answer is simple: I am a brilliant business strategist, and a formidable basebal mind. The combination of beauty and brains has never been as prominent as it has been in my case.

Grant me your loyalty and honor my name, as I am the answer to your problems, and the tycoon that will deliver your wildest dreams. Consider a metaphor describing my business savvy, which has been stated by my allies and enemies alike: I can turn water into wine (look at my sexy move that brought you a top five shortstop!).

Sure, the word is that I'll be "retiring", but take solace in the fact that my bloody hands will continue to reach into pockets around the world, aiding me in my rise to becoming the world's ultimate business magnate. My personal power will only grow with a successful professional sports franchise on my resume, and I will stop at nothing, and go to any lengths to bring glory to my team. Trust me.

Sincerely, your magnanamous leader,

Handsome Tony Viner

Mark said...

It's never a good idea to sign a guy coming off a career year. Buck's been great for the Jays this year but there's no reason to expect him to play this well again. And if he doesn't hit like he did this year, he'll probably lose the type B status and the Jays won't get the pick.

It's a better idea to take the guaranteed pick now and not risk losing it in the future. Let someone else overpay for Buck.

Gil Fisher said...

I wouldn't sign him to a multi year deal, and he won't sign a one year deal (or tender), so I think it's kind of moot.

It's a deep draft next year and that pick will be gold. We can sign the next Buck that comes on the market and turn him into another pick in 2012.

MK Piatkowski said...

Funny, I was just having this discussion at the bar tonight. My friend made a good case for keeping Buck around for a year. He pointed out how a young staff with a rookie catcher always seems to struggle (Texas until Molina took over, Baltimore), while with a veteran staff you can bring in a young catcher. He felt that since the rotation is still learning, we need a veteran catcher with JPA as the backup next year and since Buck wants to stay here, why not? He's done a fantastic job handling the staff this year.

Mark said...

Texas' pitching wasn't struggling until Molina got there and if anything he's made the team worse both offensively and from a helping the pitchers standpoint. 2 out of the 3 worst months for the pitchers have come on Molina's watch. Not that I believe for a second that the catcher has that much influence on a game anyways.

Likewise you could make the argument that rookie C's like Santana and Posey had a huge impact and made their respective teams better. So having a young catcher lead the staff isn't a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Buck would be great for 2011. However, as some have pointed out (and as others have failed to grasp), Buck is not available for one year.

Tao of Stieb said...

I guess I didn't write it in the post, but it was in my mind that Buck will want more than one year. I figured the Zaunie Special two-year contract would be the most favoured approach here.

Gil Fisher said...

Yes then I think I would be against a two-year special.

At some point before that contract was up, I'd want JPA getting the lion's share and I don't think that would sit well with Buck. A trade in year two would not yield the same quality of player that the supplemental pick in June would.

There'll be other one-year options available out there like there was last year. They might not have a Bucktastic year, but Buck might not either.

Anonymous said...

Gotta go with the not retaining Buck side on this one. Deep draft this year + no assurance that Buck would fetch a pick next year or thereafter + not willing to commit longish-term to Buck + Buck probably insisting on a multi-year contract = no deal.

Buck wants to be "the guy" not the mentor to "the new guy" it'll probably mean Molina get's more starts next year then this year (although he's been a pleasent surprise this year too), But Molina knows his role and won't expect more.

Really thou, I'd prefer AA spend his time searching for improvements at 3B.

William J. Tasker said...

Buck is in a perfect marketing position. He's combined a good year with his free agency and a myriad of need for his services. The Rangers, the Mariners and the Dodgers are just a few of the teams that could use a guy like Buck and would be willing to give him a multi-year deal to get him.

It's time to wrap your mind around another year of Molina and the emergence of the kid.

Gil Fisher said...

I'd let Molina walk too, especially if he's a type B free agent (I recall he was on the cusp). There's plenty of mediocre catcher talent available on the cheap each year.

Anonymous said...

Keeping Buck also makes sense if you consider that:

1 - most contending teams have great continuity between pitchers and catchers. The catchers know their pitchers so well that they can help them through the game. While JP has caught alot of these guys on the way and knows them, he does not know them over the last few years and they are different pitchers
2 - with Overbay leaving (Thank God), move JP over to first where he seems perfectly suited. Big guy, power hitter. JP can still learn the pitchers and this provides us with added safety of have 3 catchers on the 24 man roster (with JP playing 1st). You could also let JP DH next year and get the same benefit. In this scenario, he gets to focus on hitting and learning the league/ our pitchers.
3 - Buck at 30 has many more years left. give him a 2 year plus an option or 3 year contract and he should still be able to produce at a reasonable level for the term of the deal.
4 - we will have a very different bullpen in 2011. Gone are: Tallet (please,please,please), Downs & Fraser. We will likely see some young arms like Purcey, Roenicke not to mention the just picked up Buckholtz. You need a veteran behind the plate to guide these kids and Gregg to close out games.