John Buck and the Nationals: A Perfect Fit Even if they Haven't Realized it
The Washington Nationals would like Wilson Ramos to play 120 games. He may very well do that and if he did it would be a big boast to the Nationals chances to contend for a division title, but most signs point to it being a long shot. Wilson Ramos has dealt with a variety of leg injuries over the last couple seasons and has combined for 103 games in 2012 and 2013. The only season Wilson Ramos played at least 120 games was in 2008 in the Florida State League. Beyond Wilson Ramos' history with injuries playing 120 games is rare for a major league catcher. Of NL catchers only Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, Jonathon Lucroy, and Russel Martin started over 120 games at catcher.
With all that laid on the table the fact remains that the Nationals could use a veteran back-up catcher. As of right now Jhonatan Solano, Sandy Leon, and Chris Snyder are set to battle it out in Spring Training for the Nationals back-up role. None of them have impressive major league stats over the last couple seasons and while back-up catcher is primarily a defensive position the injury risk that comes with Wilson Ramos means the Nationals could use a catcher with a bit of offensive firepower, and that is where John Buck comes in.
Early on in the offseason it was reported that the Nationals and Twins were interested in John Buck. Those rumors just sort of faded to the background with the Nationals saying they are comfortable with the in-house candidates and the Twins signing Kurt Suzuki. The likelihood is that John Buck was seeking too many years and too much money for either team and the Twins went in another direction while Mike Rizzo decided to wait out John Buck, and as of yet Buck remains unsigned.
The question for John Buck is going to be does he believe enough in a team like the White Sox's upside over the possibility of not being guaranteed a starting role in Washington. The money is going to be similar no matter what team Buck signs with and it is doubtful that he will get much more than a two year $7 million offer. The real decision for him will be if he is ready to be a back-up on a contending team or if he thinks he is the missing piece for an up and coming team with a lot of young talent.
Looking at the history of catchers in the NL and Wilson Ramos' personal injury history there is playing time in Washington, and aside from simply starting at catcher John Buck's career .400 SLG means he has enough pop to be a viable right handed pinch hitter off the bench. Buck is not only a decent enough offensive catcher to sit on the border of starter vs. back-up he is also an excellent defensive catcher with a defensive WAR of 7.9, 9.5, 8.8 over the last three seasons. He can call a good game, frame pitches, and handle a pitching staff.
John Buck and handle to primarily defensive role of a back-up catcher and his career .234/.301/.400 slash line compares favorably to the average NL catcher of .245/.308/.379. Buck is both an above average defensive catcher and slightly above average offensively. There are starting jobs out there for someone with his resume, but if he wants a chance at winning a World Series his best bet is to come to a team like the Nationals and serve as a back-up to Wilson Ramos. It is a perfect fit for all sides even if they haven't realized it yet.