John Buck, 32, has started the season with blinders on. He is focused and locked into every pitch the second it releases a pitcher’s hand and it’s almost as if it heads to the plate in super slow motion for him.
He’s kept criticism at bay and been one of the bigger surprises for the Mets in the early part of this season. Buck continued his hot streak with another home run in yesterday’s loss to the Phillies 3-7. He’s is batting .375/.371/.875, has five home runs, 15 RBIs and a savvy veteran demeanor in the dugout.
As the season progresses, one can only guess what lies ahead for the journeyman catcher. I can’t help but point out what looms in the minds of Mets fans: if Buck keeps playing like this, he could be a valuable trade chip at the deadline.
The two sides of me—the Mets fan and the rational thinker—have gone back and forth with the concept for the last couple days. The Mets fan says:
“Buck has been great and will compliment Travis d’Arnaud when d’Arnaud is ready to come up.”
Then the rational thinker chimes in and says:
“You know the Mets won’t keep him if he keeps playing like this. He’s 32. He’s not part of the rebuilding process. D’Arnaud is the Mets future backstop. If Alderson is willing to stick to his guns and trade Dickey, you think he’s not going to try and move Buck to a contender needing a catcher for more young pitching?”
Who could blame him if he did? It would make perfect sense. Terry Collins can say whatever he wants about competing this year. That’s his job. That’s what he’s paid to do. He’s going to do so even more knowing that teams are watching him as he comes off contract.
But my inner Mets fan keeps screaming in my ear saying:
“Dan, you idiot, the Mets can’t just trade Buck if they have a good record by the deadline. You don’t just throw away a potential winning season.”
To which the rational thinker rebuts:
“Yeah, you do. It’s called having a long-term strategy. Doesn’t that scenario seem familiar? A team with a good record by the All-Star break doesn’t mean its playoff bound. I don’t care if Buck has 30 home runs and 80 RBIs by then. If Alderson can make another worthwhile trade with Buck as the centerpiece, he’s probably going to do it.”
Even if Buck is an NL MVP candidate, he’s still a stopgap player. You unload stopgap players at the trade deadline A) so you don’t have to pay their full freight and B) so you can get some young talent for a player you weren’t going to keep anyway.
Of course, none of this matter unless Buck continues to produce at a high level. Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t Time will tell. Here I am, nine games into the season, talking about what’s going to happen at the trade deadline. It’s still incredibly early, but don’t be naive and think that this won’t be a topic of discussion down the line if Buck holds up.
What do you think about Buck and the Mets?