It's the year of the Mariners making moves we've endorsed, apparently. First it was Corey Hart, then it was bringing back Franklin Gutierrez after the other righty options disappeared, and now it appears the Mariners are locking up their backup catcher with John Buck, who Matt advocated bringing on board last month. I must find some wood to knock on, quickly.
Mariners are making progress on a deal with free agent catcher John Buck. Agreement is "close," one source said.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 14, 2014
Buck hasn't been much of a hitter since 2010 (except for a blistering start to 2013 that quickly flamed out), but he certainly possesses more offensive upside at the plate than Humberto Quintero, and would be a clear upgrade over him or Sucre. Buck, like Zunino, is right-handed, but he has reverse splits. He's consistently hit right-handed pitching better than left-handed over his career, making him a good match with Zunino. He's 33 years old, and he's worn six different jerseys in the past five years (thanks in part to Florida/Miami).
Buck is lauded for his solid defense and ability to handle a staff, so he'd presumably slide into the Henry Blanco role, except you can probably run him out there more often than ol' Hank White could go. If Zunino tanks or the team decides he isn't ready, Buck is a capable option to be an every day-ish type guy until Zunino works his way back up, and while I don't particularly expect the Mariners to push Zunino back down, Buck gives them options. Options are good.
It's all about accumulating depth at catcher, and if this move follows through, the M's have done precisely that in the past week. There's no terms on the money or length, but assuming it's a one-year, major league deal, it's hard not to support this move. It gives them flexibility and a good mentor for Zunino as he continues to learn how to catch at the highest level, and ensures they won't be stuck with scrubs behind the plate again if there's injury problems.
The 40-man roster is full, so somebody would have to be a casualty if the M's reach a deal with Buck.
This off-season has slowed to a crawl as everyone waits on Tanaka, but the Mariners continue to make solid decisions, even though the latest batch have been minor. Can't complain about much yet. It's weird.