John Buck has not been a secret for the last few wee..."/> John Buck has not been a secret for the last few wee..."/>

Is Buck Catching On in Boston?


The Red Sox ownership’s interest in John Buck has not been a secret for the last few weeks, but according to Gordon Edes of, the Red Sox are going to be aggressive in their pursuit of the former Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals catcher. Without a doubt, Victor Martinez is still #1 on their list, but with the likely event another handful of teams will gladly overpay for the Venezuelan backstop, the Sox are preparing themselves with alternatives. Theo Epstein knows that the Sox will not go above a certain threshold to bring back V-Mart, limiting their catching options dramatically. Besides V-Mart, the legitimate catching options in the free agent market consist of the afore mentioned Buck, who I will get into in a second, Yorvit Torrealba, Miguel OlivoGregg Zaun and our old friend, Jason Varitek. Not exactly an exciting list of options.

Immediately off the bat, Jason Varitek can come off the list. Unless the Red Sox want Jarrod Saltalamacchia to be the starter and ‘Tek the back-up all season and think that is a recipe for success, it’s not happening. Consider it a plan C or D. Then looking at Yorvit Torrealba, my concern is the fact he hasn’t caught more than 113 games in a season in his career, only catching 90+ in 2 of his 10 seasons in the league. It makes him a strong back-up or split duty guy, but not much more, which doesn’t particularly help the Sox. Both Miguel Olivo and Gregg Zaun are decent catchers, hitting mid-.200s with a little pop, but the Florida Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays are likely landing spots for them respectively. They both have ties to their old organizations and feel comfortable with those clubs, leaving the Red Sox on the outside looking in, even if they wanted to try and land them. The final name on the list is the much talked about John Buck. Where do I begin…?

Given the absolute wasteland of free agent catchers this off-season (and in general), John Buck may actually be the best option available. I caution though, that if he joins the Red Sox, the fans can’t expect much. Buck had his best season in the bigs (by far) in 2010, hitting .280 with 20 home runs and 66 rbis for the Toronto Blue Jays. As a comparison, he has a career average of just .243 and like many of the other catching options mentioned above, has never caught more than 120 games a season, raising question marks about durability. Buck has just a .301 OBP for his career, which is much lower that the Sox would like in a catcher and his 16 BB to 111 K’s last season is a staggeringly poor ratio. The chances Buck reaches the .280 average again in 2011 is slim to none given his approach at the plate, so we can likely expect a return to the .250 range. The Sox management usually likes patient hitters who pick their spots and make the opponent pay for mistakes. Buck will make you pay for a mistake, but will not grind out at-bats and draw a free pass on a consistent basis.

My guess is that the Red Sox are going to bring in Buck and use him as the starter who plays about 2/3 of the time, making room for a fairly frequent start by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Salty still has promise and the Sox are hoping he can stay healthy and turn into a high quality player that can contribute consistently. There are a lot of issues he still needs to overcome to be successful, but it can’t hurt that he will likely begin the season in the majors and will have his opportunities to prove his worth. He lost all confidence after being shipped to AAA at the beginning of last season before being acquired by the Sox and began to settle in Boston before going down with a season-ending thumb injury. He never had the chance to really get comfortable and get into a routine with his new coaches. Salty doesn’t have the same potential he did when he was traded for Mark Teixiera a few years back, but his ceiling is as high or higher than any of the other guys available in the market today.

No matter how you look at it, the next Boston Red Sox catcher (assuming it isn’t V-Mart) will have gigantic, unrealistic shoes to fill. Whether it is one of the guys mentioned above or someone else all together, the Sox are going to take a big hit (no pun intended) in their offensive production out of the catchers slot in 2011. It raises the urgency level for Theo to bring in a guy like Carl Crawford and re-sign Adrian Beltre, because in a power-packed AL East with Toronto gaining on the big 3 teams daily, a weaker offense is not going to get the job done. These are the decisions that make or break a season and they rest squarely on the shoulders of Theo Epstein. That’s why he gets paid the big ‘Bucks’…