There's some bizarre news coming out following the Mariners win, as the team has announced they've DFA'd catcher John Buck. It comes as nothing less than a total shock to most, as even though Buck hasn't hit much, he's one of the only sources of right-handed power on the roster. He also doesn't play very much, and while his defense/framing skills are very much in question -- just short of terrible -- he's still a durable catcher with tons of major league experience to share. But he's an offensive-oriented catcher who didn't really hit.
Buck has floundered at the plate, but he's got less than 92 plate appearances. He'd been getting some run as a designated hitter against LHP, but he failed there as well. The gap in defensive ability between him and Zunino was extremely evident. Low-impact backup catcher, and from all indications, he was extremely well-liked by his teammates. It seems fairly harsh to slap him with a DFA on his birthday right after a Mariners win, but that's exactly what they did. They couldn't have waited until tomorrow, when the corresponding move is announced? This seems like a pretty shitty thing to do right in front of his teammates immediately after a win.
The Mariners wouldn't have done this without a replacement ready to go, and that person remains to be seen. Jesus Sucre seems like he's on way up, but while Sucre has superior defensive skills, he can't even remotely hit, carrying a weak .281/.299/.368 line in Tacoma. Sucre has the potential to be a decently sized downgrade at the plate, and John Buck was really, really bad at hitting this year. If Sucre is the call, I can't believe it's going to be for more than a day or two.
A trade or other acquisition could be in the works, and there's still that weird opening in the rotation for Thursday's game after bumping Felix to Friday. Is it possible that the M's have a deal lined up to answer all these questions? The sequencing of these announcements is off. This isn't adding up.
It's also been suggested that the M's could be replacing Buck with George Kottaras, recently DFA'd by the Indians. Kottaras has hit a little in a backup role over the past two years but has had a very weird year, dominating his 27 MLB plate appearances with a 1.099 OPS in scattered time, but only posting a .386 OPS in AAA over 47 PA. Kottaras is a fairly bad defender himself, but he does have good plate patience and modest pop at the position. It's conceivable that he could be an upgrade.
It's hard to evaluate this move right now simply because we don't understand why it happened, at least not yet. If it's for Jesus Sucre, I don't get it. Sucre would represent an extremely minimal upgrade at best, and whatever was gained in production might be lost in teaching experience and clubhouse popularity, right in the middle of the team's hot streak. I've never been a big believer in clubhouse chemistry, but I don't think somebody like Jesus Sucre is worth testing the validity of that theory.
The Mariners did this same thing last year with Kelly Shoppach, and then they promptly couldn't keep catchers on their roster to save their lives the rest of the year. It's always dangerous to throw away healthy receivers, and no matter what comes of this, they're taking a risk by letting Buck walk out the door. We'll find out soon what's really going on here, but if it is as simple of a swap as it currently appears, count me as a skeptic.