The Seattle Mariners have reached an agreement with John Buck for one year and $1 million, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Buck figures to provide depth behind top prospect Mike Zunino, who is expected to be the Mariners primary catcher.
Buck, 33, split time between the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013. He got off to a hot start with the Mets, as he managed a .241/.269/.575 line with nine home runs through April. However, he fell off from there, and would finish the season with a .222/.288/.365 line for an 83 wRC+ in 431 plate appearances.
After a strong season with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010 where he hit .281/.314/.489 for a 114 wRC+ and was named an All-Star, Buck’s production has dipped significantly. Since signing a three year, $18 million dollar deal with the Miami Marlins, the backstop has hit just .216/.302/.361 for an 82 wRC+. While he does have 43 home runs in that time frame, he’s managed just a .145 ISO.
Defensively, Buck does a decent job of throwing out would-be base stealers, and grades out as above-average in blocking pitches. However, his pitch-receiving skills are near the bottom of the league. StatCorner has consistently rated him very poorly, and in 2013, he cost his teams 20 runs, worst in the league. Overall, Buck has been nearly 40 runs below average in the last three seasons.
Though you might not give full weight to those numbers, they cut into the 3.9 fWAR he’s produced over the last three seasons. Buck represents a better option than either Humberto Quintero or Jesus Sucre, but if the 22 year-old Zunino requires more seasoning in the minor leagues, the Mariners will not be in an enviable position.
Still, for a team that saw their catchers, led by Kelly Shoppach and Jesus Montero, combine to produce a .194/.267/.309 line for a 60 wRC+ and -0.2 fWAR, even the addition of Buck puts them in a better place for the 2014 season.