What the Buck is going on with the Mets’ catching situation?
John Buck, who was once considered a throw-in player in the blockbuster R.A. Dickey trade, has been on a tear to start the 2013 season, giving the Mets unprecedented production from behind the plate for the first time in almost five years.
After eight games, Buck is hitting .393 with four homeruns and currently boasts a league leading 14 RBIs. While this might just be a hot start to the season, the idea of having better than below-average production behind the dish is tantalizing to say the least.
In the past few seasons, the Mets have been stuck with the likes of Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas and even Omir Santos catching — and subsequently not hitting — as their starting catchers. Buck provides the team with the first legitimate offensive force at the position in recent memory.
Buck has done more than just hit unexpectedly in his time with the Amazins. Many coaches have praised his veteran presence, staff handling and baseball knowledge, and he has given the Mets a perfect player to mentor their up-and-coming catching prospect Travis D’Arnund.
However, this fact presents a bit of a problem: if Buck was supposed to be a stop-gap until D’Arnund ascends into the majors, what happens to the veteran catcher once the Mets decide to promote D’Arnund from AAA Las Vegas?
The answer is not entirely clear. While Buck is not likely to continue his league-leading offensive pace, even if he is producing an average year, it could be difficult to push him to the bench. However, there is no question D’Arnund represents the future of Mets baseball, and it is not likely a player such as Buck would stop that motion.
But, Buck playing at a reasonable level could allow the Mets to keep D’Arnund in the minors just a few months longer — allowing the young catcher to continue developing but also keep his arbitration clock from starting. By doing this, the Mets could potentially have D’Arnund at the league minimum for an extra year — something that the now financially-conscious front office must be considering.
Another option could present itself at the July 31 trade deadline, especially if Buck continues to prove he is an offensive force. A team like the cross-town Yankees could take a chance on Buck for a halfway decent prospect. While not overly likely, the idea could become a reality closer to the summer.
Buck’s start of the season has been a nice bright spot in a mixed Mets start to the season. If he can continue his pace, he could prove to be a hidden gem in a trade that essentially wrote him off as an expensive throw-in.