Published on May 4th, 2013 | by Josh Chapdelaine3
Should John Buck Be Traded?
When the New York Mets sent R.A Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays in a deal focused on top prospect Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck was almost an afterthought. The reactions of the media and press made it evident that Buck was a necessary part of the deal because Toronto wasn’t financially fit to commit to Buck’s $6M salary coming off of a season in which he hit only .192/.297/.347. So when Buck blasted off a home run on Opening Day against the San Diego Padres, it was no surprise that the jokes began to pour in about the Mets having bested the Blue Jays early on in the trade. The surprise has been that Buck hasn’t stopped hitting home runs since, and the Mets find themselves in the enviable position of having sufficient catching depth.
Buck, at 32-years-old, has been a defensive-minded starting catcher with home run power throughout his career. He has started over 100 games in seven of his nine completed seasons and has hit double digit home runs seven times. Last night, Buck helped power the Mets to victory with his 10th home run of the year and is now leading the National League in RBI (29). To put Buck’s start into perspective, Mike Piazza had never hit more than nine home runs through May3rd with the club during his tenure.
Should the Mets trade John Buck upon the arrival of Travis d’Arnaud? Absolutely not.
The questions surrounding Buck’s trade eligibility derived from Travis d’Arnaud’s impending major league debut and walk year status, but as d’Arnaud’s fractured foot keeps him on the sidelines for the foreseeable future the rumors have all but halted. Buck has simply become too valuable of a commodity for the Mets to surrender even if his offensive prowess doesn’t continue. If anything, d’Arnaud’s injury should serve as a fruitful reminder that catching depth is extremely important and finding veterans who can both control a pitching staff and produce at the plate are imperative to the club’s success.
When examining the Mets future payroll, they’ll find the club to be in an extremely flexible position. The 2014 Mets only have $33.5M on the books in David Wright ($20M), Jon Niese ($5M), Johan Santana (Buyout, $5.5M), and Jason Bay ($3M), and have financial flexibility according to CEO Fred WIlpon. When taking account commitments to arbitration eligible players (Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Dillon Gee, Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, and Bobby Parnell), the projected payroll should rest somewhere around $50M. This number should effectively give the Mets leeway to spend safely on free agents, take on money in trades, and build around core talent.
What would be a fair extension to give a 33-year-old catcher? Buck’s three-year, $18M contract that he signed with the Miami Marlins after a 2010 season in which he posted a 2.7 fWAR seems to be a fair average annual value, but the question would then turn to Buck being content with a back-up job when he could seek more playing time elsewhere. The Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees and are two teams that could easily swoop in and promise Buck more money and playing time if his success continues.
Even so, Buck has seemed to take comfort in the leadership role that he has assumed in the clubhouse. He’s comfortable in New York, and to mortgage a future contributor for a player who has yet to make his debut would be ill-advised. A two or three-year commitment to Buck would, at the very least, bridge the gap to Kevin Plawecki arriving in the big leagues to take over a back-up position if d’Arnaud can assume the full time job without difficulty.
Instead of the trade rumors swirling, the extension rumors should pick up mid-season. A two-year, $18M deal (even if it’s an overpay) could pay off long term if Buck can help lead this club (and d’Arnaud’s transition) back to respectability.
Photo Credit: Michael Baron