JOHN BUCK
CATCHER
Born: July 7, 1980
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 230
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Drafted: 7th Round, 212th Overall, 1998 (Astros)
How Acquired: Trade from Mets (with Marlon Byrd for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black)
College: Taylorsville HS (Salt Lake City, UT)
Agent: Doug Rogalski

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

Buck came up through the Astros’ system back when it was considered a good system, and he was one of the team’s top prospects for several years.  He was considered a strong defensive catcher for much of his minor league career, but his defense started slipping when he reached the upper minors.  Since his first few years in the majors he hasn’t done very well at controlling the running game and he’s not considered a good receiver.  As a hitter, he’s consistently hit for low averages, sometimes with good walk rates, and usually with decent power.  He hasn’t had much of a platoon split over his career.

1998
R:  286/362/429, 126 AB, 9 2B, 3 HR, 13 BB, 22 K, 2-4 SB

Buck had a good debut in the GCL.  He threw out a quarter of the runners who tried to steal on him.

1999
A-:  245/328/356, 233 AB, 17 2B, 3 HR, 25 BB, 48 K, 7-8 SB
A:  100/250/200, 10 AB, 1 2B, 2 BB, 3 K

Buck struggled more at the plate in the New York-Penn League, but he did throw out a third of opposing base stealers.

2000
A:  282/374/444, 390 AB, 33 2B, 10 HR, 55 BB, 81 K, 2-6 SB

In low A, Buck had a strong season at the plate, showing improved plate discipline.  He threw out 39% of opposing base stealers.

2001
A:  275/345/483, 443 AB, 24 2B, 1 3B, 22 HR, 37 BB, 84 K, 4-13 SB

The Astros in those days had two low A teams, rather than one in low A and one in high A.  They moved Buck from the Midwest League to the South Atlantic League and he hit for more power, although with a lower walk rate.

2002
AA:  263/314/422, 448 AB, 29 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 31 BB, 93 K, 2-5 SB

Buck moved up to AA, which is a tough jump, but had a decent season at the plate.  He continued to do well throwing out base stealers, at 36%.

2003
AAA:  255/301/358, 274 AB, 18 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 14 BB, 53 K, 1-1 SB

Buck struggled in the first half of the season, then went out with a broken hand.  He wasn’t as good defensively, possibly as a result of bulking up.

2004
AAA (Hou):  300/368/507, 227 AB, 11 2B, 12 HR, 21 BB, 39 K, 0-1 SB
MLB (KC):  235/280/424, 238 AB, 9 2B, 12 HR, 15 BB, 79 K, 1-2 SB

The Astros sent Buck back to AAA and he rebounded with the bat.  At mid-season, though, he was included in the three-team deal that sent Carlos Beltran to Houston.  After years as the Astros’ top catching prospect, Buck made his debut with the Royals, who immediately installed him as their starting catcher.  He hit pretty much the way he would for the rest of his career through his trade to the Pirates, with decent to good power, a low average, and a high K rate, although his walk rate would eventually improve.  Buck threw out 32% of base stealers.

2005
MLB:  242/287/389, 401 AB, 21 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 23 BB, 94 K, 2-4 SB

Buck’s hitting slipped a little, mainly in the form of fewer HRs.  He threw out 34% of base stealers.

2006
MLB:  245/306/396, 371 AB, 21 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 26 BB, 84 K, 0-2 SB

At the plate, Buck had pretty much the same year as the year before.  He also again threw out 34% of base stealers.

2007
MLB:  222/308/429, 414 AB, 17 2B, 8 3B, 10 HR, 36 BB, 92 K, 0-1 SB

Buck again had about the same year at the plate, except for modest increases in HRs and walks.  His CS rate dropped to 21% and has remained below average most of the time since then.

2008
MLB:  224/304/365, 370 AB, 23 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 38 BB, 96 K, 0-3 SB

Buck’s power dropped off, although he did increase his walk rate.  He threw out only 17% of base stealers.

2009
AAA:  259/259/519, 27 AB, 1 2B, 2 HR, 7 K
MLB:  247/299/484, 186 AB, 12 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 13 BB, 55 K, 1-2 SB

Buck was out all of June and part of July with a back injury.  After he returned, he lost playing time to Miguel Olivo, who was having a similar season to Buck’s:  low average, low OBP, good power.  The Royals non-tendered Buck after the season and he signed a one-year contract with Toronto.

2010
AAA:  273/333/818, 11 AB, 2 HR, 1 BB, 3 K
MLB:  281/314/489, 409 AB, 25 2B, 20 HR, 16 BB, 111 K

Playing with the HR-happy Jays, who blasted 257 long balls, Buck had a career year at the plate despite the near-disappearance of his walk rate.  His batting average was 34 points higher than any other he’s had before or since.  Apparently thinking his production was real, the Marlins signed him to a three-year deal worth $18M.

2011
MLB:  227/316/367, 466 AB, 15 2B, 1 3B, 16 HR, 54 BB, 115 K, 0-1 SB

Buck mostly struggled with the Marlins, although he did post a good walk rate.

2012
MLB:  192/297/347, 343 AB, 15 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 49 BB, 103 K

Buck’s hitting dropped off further and, after playing nearly every day in 2011, he started losing playing time to Brett Hayes.  After the season, he was involved in not one, but two blockbuster deals in which the Jays (mostly) traded prospects for veterans.  He ended up with the Mets.

2013
MLB (NYM):  215/285/367, 368 AB, 11 2B, 15 HR, 29 BB, 99 K, 2-3 SB
MLB (Pgh):  292/292/292, 24 AB, 5 K

Buck got off to a huge start, hitting ten HRs in his first 25 games, leaving him with a .905 OPS on May 3.  He slumped badly after that, hitting very little the rest of his time with the Mets.  He became expendable after the Mets called up Travis d’Arnaud, who had come to New York with Buck in the R.A. Dickey trade.  The Mets put him on trade waivers in August and sent him to the Pirates near the end of the month with Marlon Byrd.  Buck alternated with Tony Sanchez as Russell Martin’s backup in September.  Sanchez hit and fielded better, but Buck was placed on the post-season roster.  He didn’t bat in the playoffs.

Buck will be a free agent after the season.  It’s unlikely the Pirates will pursue him, or that he’ll want to stay in Pittsburgh.  He’ll probably look for more playing time and money than the Pirates would want to give him.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MLB.com
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2005: $318,500
2006: 
$349,500
2007: $440,000
2008: $2,200,000
2009: 
$2,900,000
2010: 
$2,000,000
2011: 
$5,000,000
2012: 
$6,000,000
2013: 
$6,000,000
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 1998
MLB Debut: 6/25/2004
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2013
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: November, 2001
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 9.101
TRANSACTIONS
June 2, 1998: Drafted by the Houston Astros in the 7th round, 212th overall pick; signed on June 11.
November, 2001: Contract purchased by the Houston Astros.
June 24, 2004: Traded by the Houston Astros with cash to the Kansas City Royals.  The Oakland Athletics sent Mark Teahen and Mike Wood to the Royals.  The Astros sent Octavio Dotel to the Athletics.  The Royals sent Carlos Beltran to the Astros.
December 11, 2009: Non-tendered by the Kansas City Royals; became a free agent on December 12.
December 13, 2009: Signed as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays.
November 1, 2010: Became a free agent.
November 17, 2010: Signed as a free agent with the Florida Marlins.
November 19, 2012: Traded by the Miami Marlins with Emilio Bonifacio, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and cash to the Toronto Blue Jays for Anthony DeSclafani, Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick and Jeff Mathis.
November 17, 2012: Traded by the Toronto Blue Jays with Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra to the New York Mets for R.A. Dickey, Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole.
August 27, 2013: Traded by the New York Mets with Marlon Byrd and cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.