Since the trade of R.A. Dickey earlier this off season, the buzz has been about sensational prospect Travis d’Arnaud. And why not? His potential is agreed to be limitless. Even to the point of being compared to a young Johnny Bench. While time will tell, the forgotten man in all of this is John Buck. Insiders have even stated that he could be traded when D’Arnaud is promoted to the majors.
When seeing this report, one can understand the logic. After all, Buck’s $6 million contract would be easy to move as long as the Mets are willing to eat most of it in exchange for higher prospects. But when you think about it, while it could make sense, one has to ask why he should be dealt. Buck most certainly would still be valuable to the team as the backup than as trade bait. There are at least three reasons why: his experience, his rapport with Shaun Marcum and his impact on Johan Santana.
First is his experience. The remaining backup would be Anthony Recker, a 29 year old career minor-leaguer with some upside but no real experience. Buck, on the other hand, is 32 and has been a starting MLB catcher for most of his career. While he has a career .235 AVG, he does have a little pop in his bat with 118 home runs. Much more reliable and proven than Recker. What better option to give D’Arnaud rest once in a while?
Next, is his experience with Shaun Marcum. Marcum has been teammates with Buck in the past with Toronto. That friendship goes a long way. When deciding on the Mets last month, Marcum called Buck to ask his opinion. Buck sold him on Queens and Marcum signed. They are comfortable with one another. With Buck behind the plate, Marcum hurled a 3.64 ERA in 195.1 innings on his way to a 13-8 record with the Blue Jays in 2010. It was his best year in Toronto. The duo could build off of that success together. Even when D’Arnaud is promoted, the Mets could use Buck as Marcum’s catcher.
Finally, Buck has established credibility with Mets’ ace Johan Santana. Earlier this month, Buck informed Santana that he had been tipping his pitches. Buck later said the issue has been addressed. If Santana has a dominant year, one can accredit it to Buck. This may give way to Santana trusting Buck even more than the other catching options. That friendship could blossom into Santana returning to form.
In closing, think about all Buck has done as a Met already. He hasn’t even started a game yet. He has brought experience to a clubhouse that desperately needed it. He has helped the Mets sign their fifth starter. He has been instrumental in assisting the Mets’ ace. All this in just a month or two. How many other players can say that? If this is a sign of the type of person and player Buck is, then he needs to be considered a long-term answer to the catching depth of the Mets and not just a two or three month stay-and-trade option.