So last night, I had this whole article written up about David Price, Masahiro Tanaka, and Mike Zunino that all went to hell when SB Nation broke. What was it going to be? Well, it was all going to follow a Jon Heyman article updating everyone with the latest on the David Price front (spoiler: terribly, incredibly exciting news) which I read right around the same time that news broke that Tanaka wouldn't be posted.
I don't want to sum up Heyman's article, but there were essentially three interesting claims I took from the whole thing in regards to whatever the Mariners were planning to do going forward. First:
The Rays, a veritable assembly line of good-to-great starting pitchers, always have been able to deal starters...(y)et somewhat surprisingly, so far they seem wholly unimpressed by what they've heard from the "five or six" teams said to be serious in pursuit of the 2012 Cy Young winner.
If Ratuken denies Tanaka the opportunity to post, as some reports are now suggesting is likely, Price may stand as the only bona fide No. 1 pitcher on the market.
and lastly, in regard to Taijuan Walker being included in a deal for Price,
(A) person familiar with the Mariners' thinking told CBSSports.com on Thursday, "Taijuan Walker will be on our roster come Opening Day."
All of this, in concert with the then-likely assumption that Tanaka wasn’t going to be posted, seemed to suggest that the teams waiting on Tanaka were probably more likely to jump in on Price, or open their pocketbooks for a Santana or Jimenez, knowing their first target was going to remain in Japan.
And for the Mariners, it meant that shit was about to get real if they were serious about getting their coveted second ace, be it Price or a free agent. Jack’s somewhat misread comments about money didn’t mean the Mariners were done spending, but they certainly meant they weren’t going to stand on top of Safeco’s retractable roof and freely toss hundred dollar bills to the world waiting below. So with a trade seeming possible, and with Price being the only pitcher so far that connected to the M’s, and with the Rays apparently unhappy with the Mariners’ offer sans-Taijuan, I was going to look at what would have happened had the Mariners included Mike Zunino. You know, their only real catcher on the roster, and probably the most attractive trade chip for the Rays after maybe James Paxton. Yikes.
But then, thankfully, the universe spared you all a borderline rosterbation post with news that no decision had actually been made on Tanaka: his posting was still possible, and this whole nightmare scenario I had invented for myself wasn’t really an issue yet.
And then of course, after all this happened, the Twins signed Kurt Suzuki, leaving the available free agent catcher market to be comprised of John Buck, four Q-Tips and a couple of empty cheetos bags. Wait, how did this happen so fast? Getting excited about John Buck? Yes. It’s only December and I’m fantasizing about having John Buck on the Seattle Mariners.
At first glance, John Buck is exactly the kind of backup catcher the Mariners seem to be infatuated with. He’s 33 years old, hit .222/.288/.365 last year, and is known as a pretty decent defensive backstop with an 8.8 Def rating on Fangraphs, but only having thrown out 16 of 55 runners last year. He’s not terrible by any means, and he’s also not the kind of guy who is going to either take away at bats from Zunino, or be too much of a liability when he is trotted out every couple of days. Ideally, the M’s could stash Sucre in AAA and break with Zunino and Buck, getting Zunino that defensively-minded veteran backup mentor they so value.
But John Buck is also coming off a 3 year, $18 million dollar contract, and while that doesn’t mean he is going to get that kind of money again, Rob Johnson and Taylor Teagarden as alternatives probably mean he’s going to get something solid. With Suzuki off the market, Buck is the most attractive option left, and the Mariners aren’t the only team out fishing. Buck has been connected to the Nationals, and apparently the Twins were talking to him before signing Kurt Suzuki. So he’s certainly on the radar. That, or the idea of carrying a catcher who can’t play defense or hit above .200 seems like a startling development to every team across the league who needs a backup catcher. I hope the Mariners are afraid of that too. Picking up John Buck would be a bit of a holy crap we need to do this right now thing and less of a...oh...I don't know what was that quote?
"At this moment, we are where we are, and we're trying to make things work with what we have."
Hellllllo Humberto Quintero.
That said, who knows what conversations they are actually having right now. Probably something about the snow. Maybe Jack Z is practicing his Jay Z story that will make the holiday rounds next week. But you would hope it would be a conversation about baseball, and maybe what the next step should be, regardless of whether or not the rest of the baseball universe is salivating over Tanaka and waiting to sign any of the available pitchers in his wake.
If John Buck gets picked up soon, I suppose the Mariners could still get their second catcher in a trade, but who on earth are they going to be able to trade for a backup catcher? It sounds like Montero is going to have to earn his way back onto the club, and while desperation makes for strange bedfellows, I highly doubt Montero is breaking camp in Seattle. Both of these options seem rather silly. Leave Arizona with Sucre? Not impossible, but boy, that doesn't sound like the kind of club that has Robinson Cano on it.
So now we are left with this: The Mariners probably need a backup catcher, and the only one worth more than nickels is going to be off the market sooner rather than later. The Mariners are also in the midst of talking about David Price, and seem unwilling to give up what the Rays want for him: Taijuan Walker, and hopefully, assuredly, they won’t be giving up Mike Zunino in the process which would create an even larger black hole.
As fun as this whole Tanaka business has been, it shouldn’t be the only focus at the moment, and I’m sure it isn’t. I just hope to see some news on another front sooner rather than later. Well, that’s what I hope, anyway. Humberto Quintero is probably hoping for exactly the opposite, as he drives to the dry cleaners to pick up last year's still-fresh Mariners uniform.