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.