From what I know of Buck, I think he has aspirations to manage. Think guiding Zunino, Walker, Paxton, Ramirez, et al to successful seasons might punch some tickets? Bet you JackZ sold him on exactly that.
Tsunami of Bench Strength
Well, a very pleasant lapping of saltwater around our ankles, at least. John Buick is a legitimate starting catcher in the major leagues, and here we are deploying him as our 30-game backup scrubeenie.
A little perspective ... here are the WAR totals for various Mariner catchers, last FOUR (4) years aggregate. Following those are Buick's totals:
|1. Jaso, 2010-2013||2.6|
|2. Shoppach, 2010-13||0.4|
|3. Quintero, 2010-13||0.3|
|4. Gimenez, 2010-13||0.2|
|5. Olivo, 2010-13 (830 PA's)||0.1|
|6. Rob Johnson, 2010-13||0.0|
|7-10. Four guys incl. Zunino, 2010-13||0.0 each|
|11. Sucre, 2010-13||-0.1|
|13. Blanco, 2010-13||-0.3|
|14. Montero, 2010-13||-0.8|
|15. Adam Moore, 2010-13||-1.1|
|ALL MARINER CATCHERS, 2010-13||+1.2 WAR accumulated|
|John Buick, 2010||+2.7|
|BUICK, 2010-13||+6.8 WAR accumulated|
Fifteen catchers in four years, slap me silly. Suppose the Seahawks had run through nine quarterbacks in four seasons?
So here's Buick, coming in to back up ... that's not unlike Philip Rivers signing on to back up for the Seahawks, back when they were shuffling between Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson.
Shop(pach)ing for a Role Player
As you might recall, Kelly Shoppach was unamused when Mike Zunino arrived from Tacoma. He expressed his displeasure by throwing Eric Wedge onto a piece of luggage in the stairwell, and was summarily released the next day.
Shoppach wouldn't have minded a jobshare - he had done that before - but what he couldn't stomach was the gifting of "Prime Time Number One" status to a kid who should, rightfully, have been accepting hot feet from Shoppach during his hazing period. MLB(TM) vets are very, very big on Pecking Orders. Shoppach just couldn't abide the humiliation, even at the possible expense of his baseball career.
Why John Buick would sign on with the MARINERS, specifically, to play so few games, to play behind THIS kid, in THIS corner of the country ... somebody smarter than me will have to explain it. Until then, Dr. D will file this as another nice little achievement by Jack Zduriencik.
Buick hits .235 with real power ... in April of 2013 he blasted 9 homers (!!) though only 5 the rest of the way. He's a hacker, with a capital H, but can change the scoreboard.
Zduriencik didn't select him because he's "right hand power." Zunino is right hand power. Zduriencik selected him because he's a number one catcher, willing to take 30 games in 2014. The batting template is an accident.
Buick's LH/RH splits are not important. He is a dead red hitter -- weak against ALL types of offspeed, but can turn around a hot fastball. Earl Weaver used to run platoons based on things like this, fastball hitters vs curve ball hitters.
Mike Zunino is, relatively speaking, a hitter who stays back well, so if McClendon gives Buick the games against Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Holland, then Buick (fresh and physically bouncy) could have an UP year for him ... and, of course, have people arguing that Buick should be the starting catcher.
It so happens that Buick is a hot starter; his best month, lifetime, is April. He's got a .441 SLG in that month. Last year it was .575. He could help with some of the slow starts that many of the M's feed us in the rainy months.
That's my own mission for McClendon at the catcher slot: have the peanut gallery calling for Buick by May.
Lizards in the Cellar
The rap on Buick is his pitch framing. Here is a superb article from Amazin' Avenue. The .gifs will send you screaming into the night.
Where's Earl when you need him? He'd platoon Buick into those games that were Ump'ed by refs with high ERA's...
As opposed to that, Buick's defensive stats are superb. His passed balls, throwing arm, jumping out onto bunts, all that stuff, he has a lot to teach Zunino...
The 116-win M's had almost eerie contributions from the bench, and the deep bullpen. So did the recent Oakland A's.
John Buck, as a 30-game backup catcher, slap me silly. That's quite a score.
Possibly Zduriencik talked up the possiblity of a job in the org after he's done. Officer thinking, mate.
Funny thing: how many big huge players became managers? *Seems* to be rare, the coach/manager who is physically intimidating. Or not.
Isn't very small --- Buck is not that much bigger. Joe Torre is also a pretty big guy.
Both those guys are gentle to a fault... but ya, good suggestions amigo.
Nothing's absolute, but I'd wonder whether org's would unconsciously steer clear of Buck as *manager* simply because of his presence. Catcher coach, sure...
I don't think I've ever thought of Scioscia as "gentle" - but...
On the other hand, anyone wanting to be thought of as managerial timber, whether A.J. Pierzynski (another large guy), or Willie Bloomquist, or Buck, has to get thought of as a guy that ought to be listened to - and then as a guy with ideas that are worth listening to. One without the other doesn't work. Wakamatsu may have been really sharp, but didn't demand attention. Wedge demanded attention, but didn't get the most out of the people he was given, and, in my opinion, screwed up a couple.
JackZ now seems to be gathering a group of veteran players, to add to his young phenoms, who will lead - Cano (who I agree seemed different during the WBC than on the Yankees); Corey Hart, who is known as a no-nonsense type; Willie, the epitome of grit, hustle and doing more with what you got; and now Buck. But none of these guys seems like an insecure leader who can't handle others around him also doing their part --- more that they, like Cano, for example, tend to fade back when they're not needed, but aren't afraid to step up when they are. And they seem like the types that will let Miller and Zunino grow into their roles as team leaders as they establish their MLB(tm) bona fides.
Maybe this was the plan all along -- to limp through until the drafted core was ready and then add the frosting. It was probably far more ad hoc. But I'm getting intrigued by what is going on and really looking forward to Spring Training. One more power bat, even if not at the level of Kemp or Stanton, would solidify this group. I'm in favor of Van Slyke because I see the parallel to a Buhner-type bat and the chance to get him at a reasonable cost since he's blocked in LA. Other people have their favorites. But I'm hopeful that maybe something can get going in ST that can continue (this time) into the season.
I hope we hear in the next few weeks of some experienced bullpen arms coming aboard, and the issue of the #3 starter can be settled without settling for a Joe Saunders filler arm. Tanaka and Balfour and Van Slyke would be just dandy (I know Christmas is over, but Boras says it continues to March if you want it to). Make it happen, Z!
players who are managers... catchers?
ALL former catchers! Seems very reasonable that Buck would be thinking about what to do after playing and reasonable that he would see managing as a next profession.
while more of his MLB(tm) time was spent at 1B or in the OF, McClendon came up as a catcher (as did Wakamatsu and John McLaren as well as Bob Melvin, whom you list).