By Tommy Rancel //
Jose Bautista and his 54 home runs grabbed the headlines as leader of a powerful Toronto Blue Jays lineup that smashed 257 home runs. Counting Bautista, seven Jays hit at least 20 home runs. This doesn’t include Alex Gonzalez‘s 17 home runs in 85 games with Toronto and the six he added with the Braves. On the other hand, this does include catcher John Buck who hit a career-high 20 home runs.
After his power-filled season north of the border, it is being reported that Buck is close to signing a three-year deal with the Florida Marlins worth between $16-18 million. Before we get into the fantasy aspect, let’s look at the deal.
Like most teams, the Marlins were looking to upgrade their catcher situation. Ronny Paulino served as the teams’ primary catcher before being suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Whatever he took didn’t work as he hit just .259/.311/.384 in 91 games. From there names like John Baker, Brad Davis, and Brett Hayes received playing time, but none did anything to warrant more.
In Buck, the Marlins are getting a player whose profile is easy to project. Despite his .281 batting average this past season (inflated by a batting average on balls in play of .335 compared to a .289 career average), Buck is more of a .250 hitter. He does not show much patience at the plate (6.5% career walk rate) and is a hacker. In addition to striking out more than 26% of the time, he swings at nearly 30% of pitches outside of the strike zone. In the last two seasons, he whiffed at more than 16% of the pitches thrown to him.
The one positive in Buck’s game is his power. That said, he is not Mike Piazza in his prime. As mentioned, he hit a career-best 20 home runs this past season. His previous high came in 2007 when he belted 18 bombs as a member of the Royals.
Like a lot of Blue Jays, he enjoyed a home-run friendly Rogers Centre. The former Sky Dome had a home run park factor of 116 for right-handed batters (average is 100). The park he now calls home had a park factor of 95 for right-handed batters. The good news is he hit 10 home runs on the road.
With a similar player in Ramon Hernandez signing a one-year, $3 million deal on Monday, this looks like a gross overpay by the Marlins. In terms of fantasy impact, Buck was not a top 10 catcher going into 2011, but he was a decent backup option in the right situation. When you consider him leaving the confines of Toronto as well as the potential for regression in batting average, he is now closer to the bottom 10 than the top.
He should still hit for decent power numbers in Miami – sacrificing some home runs for doubles – and could give you some value in a deep league, but do not take the bait and overpay like the Marlins.
For more on John Buck and the Florida Marlins, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.