The Mariners made the signing of John Buck official on Thursday afternoon. Buck agreed to a one-year contract for a reported $1 million.
“Everybody we talked to about him, I heard nothing but really good things,” said general manager Jack Zduriencik. “He’s a true pro and great teammate.”
Buck will assume the back-up catching duties behind touted prospect Mike Zunino. To make room on the 40-man roster, outfielder Carlos Peguero was designated for assignment. While Zunino is the catcher of the future, there is no guarantee that his path there won’t have bumps or setbacks. He’s played in just 52 major league games and only 83 minor league games. He was fast tracked to the big leagues because of issues with Jesus Montero.
“Everyone knows that Mike has the opportunity to be something really good for this organization,” Zduriencik said. “Obviously, Mike still has to go out and prove some things, he’s young. I thought he showed us some things when he came back from his injury last year.
Buck is good insurance. He is a little more useful than Henry Blanco or even Kelly Shoppach.
“Unlike Henry, John’s been a starting a catcher,” Zduriencik said. “This a different scenario. I’m sure John will come in and work to play. No one is giving anything away. He has history. There are things he brings to the table.”
Buck, 33, played the bulk of last season with the New York Mets. He appeared in 101 games, hitting .215 with 15 home runs and 65 RBI. Defensively, he threw out 16 of 39 attempted base stealers. He was traded along with Marlon Byrd to the Pirates on Aug. 27., and appeared in nine games with Pittsburgh, getting seven hits in 24 at-bats.
A veteran of 10 big league seasons, Buck has played in 993 major league games as a catcher. His best season came in 2010 with the Toronto Blue Jays. He hit .281 with 20 homers and 66 RBI while posting an .802 on-base plus slugging percentage and being named to the American League all-star. That season earned Buck a three-year, $18 million free agent contract from the Marlins.
With Buck as Zunino’s back-up/failure insurance, Humberto Quintero and Jesus Sucre will likely be at Triple A Tacoma, while prospect John Hicks and defensive specialist Brandon Bantz at Double A Jackson. Quintero’s minor league contract may have an out clause if he doesn’t make the big league or if he’s in Triple A by a specific date as well.
“One thing you learn in this game is that you never get through a season with two catchers,” Zduriencik said. “When you can add john’s presence, that helps. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. You have to be in a position to have adjustment available. With the addition of Quintero and Buck, it gives you some depth at a position where you have to have it.”
Peguero’s DFA loomed this offseason. He was out of Triple A options and would have had to make the big league club out of spring training, which seemed unlikely. Peguero’s still has power potential, but still hasn’t quite figured how to use it. There was also the obvious issue of his wife being charged with federal wire fraud for racking up over $150,000 charges on Felix Hernandez’s wife’s credit card. Her case is still pending. The Mariners have 10 days to trade, outright or release Peguero. But it seems highly possible that someone will claim him offer of waivers simply for his ability to hit the ball out of the park.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes to Japan. There was talk that NPB teams were highly interested in him.