Could John Buck ultimately be traded?

John Buck2With Travis d’Arnaud being called up for good, and set to take the reigns as the everyday catcher for the Mets, it also means it could be the end of the road for John Buck–at least with the Mets.

Coming over in the R.A. Dickey trade, Buck was basically a throw in, and he has effectively done what he was brought in to do: hold the torch for d’Arnaud, manage the young staff and hit a few bombs in the process. While he won’t hit for a consistent average, Buck is still nevertheless a valuable commodity—it just may not be for the Mets any longer.

The Mets are clearly planning ahead with their youth movement, as the club has now called up four significant rookies since the start of the year in d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler, Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores. It is imperative that d’Arnaud get comfortable with this staff as quickly as possible and work on his rapport with the pitchers. While he hasn’t set the world on fire and is just 1-11 (although he has drawn 6 walks) in his first five games, d’Arnaud is the future at the position and he has to get his at-bats, as he will be a key cog for the squad for years to come.

That leaves Buck at a crossroads. Some argue that the Mets should keep him and have him be a mentor for d’Arnaud a little bit longer and help foster this developing staff. While there is some merit in that argument, Buck will likely be out the Mets’ reach for a backup catcher next offseason. Unless Buck wants to take a pay cut (he’ll be a free agent after the year), his days with the Mets seem numbered.

Like I said, he’s done his job admirably and does have 15 home runs and 60 RBI’s on the year. His veteran presence has also proved to be a calming influence on the youthful ball club.

However, with the post non-waiver trade deadline approaching, perhaps the Mets could ship Buck off to a contending team and get something, anything, in return.

The following teams could be in the market for a solid, veteran catcher and could be good trade partners with the Mets:

New York Yankees: It would be interesting to see the crosstown rivals make a deal, as the Yankees clearly lack offensive punch from the duo of Austin Romine and Chris Stewart at catcher. Buck could be useful in a surging offensive lineup, and if the Yankees want to go all in, Buck would be an upgrade at catcher.

Tampa Bay Rays: While the Rays have a good defensive catcher in Jose Molina, he does possess a measly .612 OPS. But with Molina doing a bang up job with the Rays’ staff, this may never come to fruition.

Detroit Tigers: Once a potential trading partner when Bobby Parnell’s name came up in trade discussions, perhaps they will be linked again—this time with Buck. With Alex Avila recently suffering a concussion, the catcher position is not that steady for the Tigers. While Avila is expected back soon, maybe they’ll look to Buck as quality insurance. Again, Buck could fit in well with another loaded lineup. Also, the Tigers are in town this weekend. Maybe the Mets could show off Buck.

Oakland A’s: With Derek Norris likely headed to the DL and John Jaso already on the shelf with an injury, this could be an ideal team for Buck to join. The A’s currently are holding down the final wild card spot and are just 2 ½ game back of the Texas Rangers in the AL West. To stay in contention, the A’s should be proactive and make a move to shore up their catching situation.

Now, I’m no expert in post-waiver deals, nor do I know what kind of return the Mets could get in trading Buck, but if Buck is not going to be part of this squad next year, perhaps you should get what you can for him. Besides, teams can feel desperate at this time of year and may tend to overpay. This is where Sandy Alderson’s shrewdness could come in handy.

So, while we should all be appreciative of what Buck has given the Mets, he is not the future and his optimal landing spot should be with a contending team that could use his power and great play calling.

Buck gave the Mets all the bang he could; perhaps it’s time for another team to get the best bang for their Buck.

Ike Davis’ colossal slump masks recent ineffectiveness of Lucas Duda and John Buck

 With each mounting loss, it is becoming incredibly hard to find a silver lining to the Mets’ start to the 2013 season.

With the Mets’ 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday night, the Mets have now dropped six consecutive games. This is the second time this year that the Mets have dropped at least six games in a row. The Mets now have the third worst record (14-23) in the majors.

Ike Davis, who has become every fan’s favorite whipping boy for the Met’s pathetic offensive troubles, is not alone in this fight. Sure, once again Davis has been atrocious to start the season while sporting a pathetic .164/.254/.279 slash line to go with just four home runs and nine RBI’s.

But like I said he is not alone.

After good starts, Lucas Duda and John Buck have come crashing down. Between the two of them, they are a combined 8-66 in their last ten games. Duda, who was getting on base at a great clip early on, is now only sporting a meager .205/.350/.464 slash line. Buck has been great at knocking the ball out of the park (10 home runs-tied for second in the NL) and driving in runs in bunches (30-tied for fourth in the NL), but he now has a measly .232 batting average to go with a scant .290 on base percentage.

Simply put, outside of David Wright, the middle of the order (or for that matter any part of the order) is punchless.

You certainly can lay a lot of blame of the Mets’ failures this year on the pitching (outside of Matt Harvey‘s heroics, no will argue with you there); the offense isn’t doing their part either.

The Mets are second to last in the NL in batting average (.227), third to last in on base percentage (.301) and 12th in slugging percentage (.378). And just think how bad these stats would be if not for the hot starts by Buck and Duda.

Also not helping matters is the funk Daniel Murphy finds himself in. Murphy is also struggling and his batting average has dropped 79 points (he was batting .357 on April 23 and is currently batting .278) in the last month or so. But we have seen enough from Murphy over the years to know he’ll heat up soon enough.

So while Davis needs to shape up or be shipped off to Las Vegas, Duda and Buck should not be exempt from criticism either. For the Mets to have any notion of turning things around, they have to provide Wright with some more protection, and no, Rick Ankiel is not the answer.

It would have been nice if uber-catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud did not have to get hurt and in the process stall his eventual call-up to the big leagues. d’Arnaud will likely begin to rehab soon, but he is probably months away from getting the call. d’Arnaud could have caught while Buck got some time spelling Davis at first base. In any event, we’ll have to keep waiting for d’Arnaud to make his impact.

All these hitters need to collectively get their heads out of their, well, you know what. If not, this season could resemble the 2003 edition of the Mets when the team only finished with 66 wins.

What the heck has gotten into John Buck?

And the streak continues!

For the ninth straight game (hey, maybe I was onto something) to open the season the Mets have hit at least one home run, a streak that is now a new record while besting the 87 squad. Surprisingly leading the charge is the “throw in” in the R.A. Dickey trade, John Buck.

To say that Buck is hot would be a massive understatement. Buck has been everything the Mets hoped for when they got him the Dickey trade and so much more. So far on the season, Buck is sporting a sterling .375/.371/.875 slash line and an astonishing 1.246 OPS. Oh, and Buck has now just happened to hit  a home runs in three consecutive games. Where has this explosion come from?

Buck leads the Mets in batting average, home runs (five-second in the NL), RBI’s (15-first in the NL) and runs (seven-tied with Daniel Murphy).

To think back when he was traded, Buck’s main purpose with the Mets was to be the placeholder for prized catching-prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Well, after his strong start, the Mets can now afford to be patient with d’Arnaud. There is no need to rush d’Arnaud. d’Arnaud could enjoy the extra time in Las Vegas while ironing out the kinks in his game.

Obviously Buck is likely to cool down at some point but he still holds value beyond the ridiculous power numbers he is putting up right now. Buck has a great repertoire with the pitching staff. Buck is as cerebral as it gets, as he loves mentoring and fostering chemistry with the pitching staff. With the start he is off to, Buck’s value has increased tenfold.

I have to admit I did not see this coming. I thought Buck was good for the occasional home run, while calling a solid game-nothing more nothing less. You just have to ride this streak as long as you can and hope Buck can keep it up.

On the flip side, the Mets could be bold and decide to trade him while the iron is hot. With d’Arnaud on the next plane ride away from Las Vegas, this could make sense-especially if the Mets fall from contention in the coming months. (No need to rehash that sentiment since the Mets are off to a decent enough start)

In any event, the presence of Buck has helped boost offensive production from the catching position-something that was clearly lacking last year. In 2012, Mets’ catchers attributed just five home runs in 162 games. Buck has already achieved that feat in nine games. For years the Mets have had an offensive black hole when it came to production from catcher. Between Buck and the impending arrival of d’Arnaud, the Mets should continue to enjoy an offensive renaissance from the catching position.

Buck has become such a fan favorite that he is trending on Twitter and is also the inspiration for a new Mets’ T-shirt.

So in summary, enjoy the ride, stay calm and #BuckUp.

How much is a John Buck worth in 2013?

It would not surprise me if someone had a database of all of the trades in MLB history and they said that it was not all that unusual for a team to make a trade and receive three minor league guys and a major league player. But my guess is that it’s quite uncommon to receive that haul in a trade and for fans to be more excited about all three of the minor league guys than the guy we’ve all seen play. But that’s what we have here with John Buck.

In parts of nine years in the majors, Buck has played in 948 games and accumulated 3,481 PA. He’s likely to be the team’s Opening Day starter behind the plate yet he feels like a throw-in and a glorified afterthought. So, what is a Buck worth these days?

Before we get to that, let’s look at his career. Buck had the great fortune to have a career-year when he became eligible for free agency. In 2010, he posted a .281/.314/.489 line and parlayed that into a three-year, $18 million deal with the Marlins. Of course, that was way too much money for this year’s version of the Fish and he was traded to the Blue Jays earlier in the offseason.

Ironically, it was with Toronto that Buck had his career year and I was all ready to point out that it was due to the friendly confines of Sky Dome. But it turned out that Buck hit better on the road (.841 OPS) than he did at home (.756) so there goes that theory. Instead, it was a fluke BABIP year combined with by far his best year hitting against southpaws that propelled Buck to his big season in 2010.

We get so used to saying that a “normal” BABIP is right around .300 that we ignore that some positions generate higher BABIPs than others. Catchers consistently have the lowest average on balls in play than of any position. Last year MLB backstops posted a .285 BABIP, eight points lower than left fielders. Buck has a lifetime .280 BABIP but in 2010 he posted a career-best .335 mark – 29 points better than his second-best BABIP season.

Also in 2010, Buck notched a .409/.411/.705 line in 90 PA against lefties. In the previous year he posted a .664 OPS (not SLG) against southpaws and in the last two years Buck has not cleared a .600 OPS against portsiders. In 2011 he had a .586 OPS in 132 PA and last year it was a .564 OPS in 125 PA against LHP.

My initial reaction upon hearing that Buck was now a Met was – Well, he’s not very good but maybe he’ll pop some HR against southpaws and help out our woeful performance against lefties. But seeing 2012’s production – just 2 HR in 125 PA against LHP – just kills that theory.

It should be pointed out that Buck did not perform very well in Marlins Park last year. He had just a .600 OPS in his home games compared to a .688 mark in road contests. Additionally, eight of his 12 HR came in road parks. In limited action (49 PA) Buck has not hit well in Citi Field, either. He has a .606 lifetime OPS in his new home park, with just 1 HR in 40 ABs.

Perhaps the Reds should have been the team interested in acquiring Buck. In 27 lifetime PA in Great American Ball Park, Buck has a 1.218 OPS with 5 HR in 26 ABs. Unfortunately, the Mets do not play in Cincinnati until late September and we all hope that Travis d’Arnaud will be the regular catcher by that point.

Buck’s best offensive weapon right now is his ability to take a walk. He had a 12.3 BB% last year, a year after posting a 10.2 mark. Compared to Josh Thole, his ability to reach double-digits in HR will seem like a power surge for the Mets and his .155 ISO is certainly a respectable mark. But barring a repeat of 2010’s luck with BABIP, Buck will struggle not to be a sinkhole in the lineup.

The uncertainty around Thole and his ability to bounce back from last year’s concussion made the acquisition of a catcher a prime focus of the offseason. However, it’s clear that Buck is just a placeholder, a veteran on the last year of his contract and someone who is just keeping the seat warm for the hotshot prospect. Now we just have to see if he can give Mets fans a positive reason to remember his name once d’Arnaud becomes entrenched as the team’s backstop.

Over at Baseball-Reference, Rod Barajas is listed as Buck’s number two most similar batter, with a Similarity Score of 947, which is pretty strong. Barajas was briefly a Met and most fans remember him for his power surge his first 23 games with the club, when he blasted 9 HR in 82 ABs. It’s unlikely that Buck could match that pace but let’s hope he can contribute in other ways while he’s the team’s starting catcher in 2013.

Why it's silly to offer Bengie Molina a multi-year deal

A look at free agent catcher Bengie Molina who seemingly heads the Mets’ shopping list this December. The Mets have identified Molina as one of their top offseason targets. This makes no sense to me. Nevertheless, I will go ahead and identify his strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths: Good home run power for a catcher and the Mets believe he is a good handler of pitchers.

Weaknesses: Everything else.

You may think that is snark but really, there is very little reason to think that Molina is a full-time catcher, much less one deserving of a multi-year contract plus a vesting option, which is what is allegedly being offered to him by New York.

The two most important offensive numbers are OBP and SLG. Molina has a .285 OBP and a .442 SLG mark. Among catchers last year with at least 300 ABs, he placed 26th in OBP and ninth in SLG. Last year Molina hit 12 of his 20 HR at home, not an outlandish split. But if we look at the rest of his splits, we see some really ugly numbers.

H – .309/.324/.532
R – .225/.250/.360

Now, you cannot just assume that a player’s road numbers are his true talent level but how can you look at those road numbers and identify this player as one worthy of having on a roster, much less one to target as a starter, much less one to give a multi-year contract to?

Did I mention that Molina will be 35 next season?

Molina’s 20 HR last year is tied for the sixth-highest mark all time for 34-year-old catchers. Here is the Top 10 along with how many HR they hit as a 34 and 35-year old.

Player 34 35
Terry Steinbach 35 12
Elston Howard 28 15
Lance Parrish 24 19
Jorge Posada 23 20
Sherm Lollar 22 7
Bengie Molina 20 ??
Roy Campanella 20 13
Walker Cooper 20 14
Yogi Berra 19 15
Jeff Reed 17 9

Not one player on this list either exceeded or matched his HR total in the following year. Since most of Molina’s offensive value derives from his HR ability, what happens to him if like Steinbach or Lollar, he hits only one-third as many HR as a 35-year old? It would not be accurate to say his value would crater, as that would imply that it was currently at a worthwhile level. Instead, let’s say that it would cause his value to sink even lower beneath Ramon Castro, the catcher the Mets found so lacking last year they virtually gave him away.

The Mets believe that Molina is an asset behind the plate and would do a better job of handling a pitching staff than Omir Santos did last season. There has never been a study that has proven that catchers have an ability to influence a pitching staff to any great degree. Now, that is not the same thing as saying that no ability exists, but it is pretty close.

With things that we can quantify, we find that the 2009 version of Molina was an awful defensive catcher. Devil Fingers at Driveline Mechanics did a detailed post breaking down catchers and had Molina’s defense last year worth -3.4 runs (newly-signed Henry Blanco was worth 5.7 runs).

But let’s ignore the above evidence for a minute. Instead, let’s assume that Molina was a valuable catcher last year (which he was not), is likely to maintain that value going forward (catchers typically age in dog years) and is a lock to play 130 games next season (only 25 catchers in MLB history have caught 130 or more games at age 35 or above).

Instead, let’s look to see who the Mets’ competition for Molina is. Here are the other 29 teams and their options at catcher for 2010:

PHI – Carlos Ruiz/Brian Schneider
ATL – Brian McCann
WAS – Jesus Flores/I-Rod
FLA – John Baker

STL – Yadier Molina
CHC – Geovany Soto
MIL – Greg Zaun
CIN – Ramon Hernandez
HOU – Quintero/Towles
PIT – Ryan Doumit

LAD – Russell Martin
COL – Chris Iannetta
SF – ?/Buster Posey
SD – Nick Hundley
ARI – Miguel Montero/Chris Snyder

NYY – Jorge Posada/Jesus Montero
BOS – Victor Martinez
BAL – Matt Wieters
TAM – Kelly Shoppach
TOR – ??

MIN – Joe Mauer
CHW – AJ Pierzynski/Tyler Flowers
DET – Gerald Laird
CLV – Carlos Santana
KC – Jason Kendall

LAA – Jeff Mathis/Mike Napoli
TEX – Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Taylor Teagarden
OAK – Kurt Suzuki
SEA – Rob Johnson

Besides the Mets, we have San Francisco and Toronto as the only teams definitely looking for a starting catcher. The Indians and the Mariners might be in the market, perhaps even the Padres. Let’s take a look at each of those teams and see how Molina would fit there.

Giants – They might welcome Molina back on a one-year deal but it seems unlikely.
Blue Jays – They cut ties to Rod Barajas, making them the most likely Molina suitor
Indians – Santana is their future, might be interested in a one-year deal, but might not have money to afford Molina, either.
Mariners – Their GM is too smart to give Molina a contract
Padres – Unlikely to offer Molina anywhere near the dollars he is demanding

Basically, it comes down to Toronto. The Mets and Blue Jays are looking for a starting catcher. So far this offseason Kendall, Rodriguez and Schneider have all received two-year contracts, so conventional wisdom says that Molina will want at least a two and probably a three-year deal.

Wouldn’t a prudent strategy for the Mets in regards to Molina to tell him to get an offer and come back to them? Why should they bid against themselves? Toronto may be in the market for a starting catcher, but this is also the same team that decided to give away Alex Rios for free, just to be rid of his contract. This is not a team rolling around in money to give away to a 35-year-old catcher.

Let’s also forget that Josh Thole is likely to provide more value in 2010 than Molina at around 1/20 of the cost. Instead, let’s say that the Mets have to sign a free agent catcher. In addition to Molina and Barajas, John Buck is also on the market. I will list the stats for those three catchers. Tell me which one you would prefer

Player A — .226/.258/.403
Player B — .247/.299/.484
Player C — .265/.285/.442

Those players are listed in alphabetical order, meaning Molina is Player C. It’s easy to prefer him to Barajas (Player A) but would you really feel cheated if you wound up with Buck instead?

Now let’s take the defensive numbers from Devil Fingers. We already have seen Molina at a whopping -3.4 runs, which ranked 102 out of 114 catchers in the study. Barajas ranked 11th overall at 4.2 runs while Buck did even worse than Molina, finishing at 106 with a -4.8 score.

If we add (subtract) these run totals from the WAR listed at FanGraphs (which currently does not include any adjustment for catchers’ defense) we get the following numbers:

Molina: 1.4
Barajas: 1.2
Buck: 0.4

Now, we have to take into account that Molina will be 35 and wants a multi-year deal. Barajas will be 34 and Buck will be 29 and the latter two have made no multi-year demands, quite probably due to the fact they recognize they will be lucky to get any contract offer at all.

So, even if the Mets tell Molina to shop around and come back to them once he has an offer, and he is so put off by that he ends up signing with Toronto just out of spite, the Mets then sign Barajas to a one-year deal for less money and end up better off because of it.

The Molina fascination by the Mets may be the low point in the tenure of general manager Omar Minaya. But Minaya has been linked to many rumors that had him chasing old, overpriced veterans (remember how he was going to give a huge contract to Sammy Sosa?). So perhaps we need to see Molina actually sign a contract before getting too worked up about things.

But make no mistake – Molina is not very good, he has the real possibility of falling off significantly from what he did manage to produce in 2009 and there is no reason whatsoever to offer him a multi-year deal.