According to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com “the Red Sox are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of free-agent catcher John Buck” if Victor Martinez signs elsewhere.
On one hand that makes sense, as both Martinez and Jason Varitek are free agents and Buck is generally considered the second-best catcher on the market this offseason.
On the other hand, Buck hardly seems like a typical Red Sox target. Boston’s lineup has ranked among the league’s top three in walks drawn every year since 2003 because the front office places a premium on players with good plate discipline and high on-base percentages. Not only doesn’t Buck fit those bills, he’s among the least-disciplined hitters in baseball.
This season he drew a grand total of just 16 walks and struck out 111 times in 437 plate appearances. His strikeout-to-walk ratio ranked dead last in baseball among the 205 players who batted at least 400 times and his walk rate was third-worst ahead of only Pedro Feliz and A.J. Pierzynski.
And while Buck was able to succeed despite a horrible 111/16 K/BB ratio this season, hitting .281 with 20 homers and an .802 OPS, his previous track record is far less impressive. Prior to this season he hit .235 with a .298 on-base percentage and .407 slugging percentage in 584 career games, averaging 31 walks and 103 strikeouts per 437 plate appearances.
Buck is coming off a career-year and has always had good power for a catcher, but I’d be surprised if the Red Sox are truly prepared to get into any bidding wars over someone with a .301 career on-base percentage.
Even while injured, Miguel Cabrera is a force to be reckoned with. The 33-year-old slugger has been playing with a contusion on his knee since Wednesday, according to postgame comments made by Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus.
That didn’t stop him from whacking a 410-foot home run against Atlanta right-hander Matt Wisler on Friday night, skirting the center field fence to put the Tigers up 3-0 in the first inning. In the third, he lead off the inning with another long drive off of Wisler, targeting his changeup for a 421-foot shot, his 38th home run of the season:
It’s Cabrera’s sixth two-run homer game since the start of the season, and his first against the Braves since 2005. He needs just two more home runs to keep an even 40 on the year, which would return him to the kind of league-leading levels that accentuated his MVP case in 2012 and 2013. If he can do it by the end of this Tigers-Braves game (unlikely, but not unheard of), he’ll be the 15th major leaguer to hit four home runs in a single game.
The Reds will roll with manager Bryan Price for at least one more season. Per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, Price has been extended through the 2017 season with a club option for 2018. He won’t be the only familiar face leading the team, as the Reds have reportedly asked the entire coaching staff to return as well.
This is Price’s second consecutive season with 90+ losses since Cincinnati signed him to a three-year contract back in 2014. While he hasn’t been able to replicate the same kind of success that former skipper Dusty Baker found in 2012 and 2013, he’s been saddled with a team that’s still in the throes of rebuilding, not one that looks on the cusp of playoff contention. It is, after all, the same team that has not seen a healthy season from Homer Bailey since Price’s arrival, one that unloaded Jay Bruce for a pair of prospects earlier this year and one whose pitching staff set a single-season record for most home runs given up by a major league team.
Justifying Price’s extension requires a different kind of yardstick, one that measures player development and individual success over the cumulative win-loss record. Here, Price has overseen solid performances from contributors like Adam Duvall, who is batting .244/.297/.506 with 2.9 fWAR in his first full major-league season, as well as young arms like Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen, among others.
From comments made by Reds’ CFO Bob Castellini, Price’s success within a rough rebuilding process appears to have cemented his place within the club, at least for the time being.
I like the young, aggressive team Walt and Dick have put together with players from within our system and from recent trades. […] Bryan has been here seven seasons now. He’s comfortable with the direction we are heading with our young players, and we are comfortable with him leading us in that direction.