LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Greetings from the Hemisphere Ballroom, which functions as the media work room for the Winter Meetings. The lobby is starting to buzz and the work room is beginning to fill up with reporters, many of whom are finally arriving after having their flights from the great white - and icy - north delayed, postponed or canceled.
I won’t throw the fact that the weather forecaster on the local FOX affiliate told me it was going to be “really, really warm for December” here in Disney today. Hey, it’s the hot stove, right? Seriously, hope the ice back home melts soon and that you’re all safe and sound this morning.
Very early this morning, a baseball source confirmed to me that the Nationals are honing in on a backup catcher, and their first preference is for veteran John Buck to serve as insurance to Wilson Ramos.
Buck is 33 and spent the first six years of his career with the Royals. Recently, he’s bounced around a lot, playing for four teams since 2010 - the Blue Jays, Marlins, Mets and Pirates. Last season, in 110 games between New York and Pittsburgh, he batted .219 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs.
Last year, Buck started out with a bang, slugging nine April homers and spending much of the first month of the season leading the National League in that category. After that, he tailed off and the Mets eventually dealt him to the Pirates with outfielder Marlon Byrd on Aug. 29.
Buck is the kind of experienced hand the Nationals would like in case Ramos has any injury issues in 2014. It’s not a knock on Jhonatan Solano or Sandy Leon, the inexperienced backstops currently next on the depth chart behind Ramos, but a club built to contend doesn’t want to turn its strong rotation over to someone with little major league experience.
A game or two? Yes. But Nationals GM Mike Rizzo doesn’t want to have to search the waiver wire or be forced into an ill-advised trade if Ramos goes down for an extended period.
While he won’t give you much in the way of average and doesn’t possess the strongest of arms, Buck is considered a pitcher’s catcher and a good game-caller. Plus, he’s got some pop.
The Nationals, however, aren’t the only team interested in him. Buck is also drawing overtures from the Twins, who are shifting former All-Star Joe Mauer to first base because he’s been battling concussion problems. Rookie Josmil Pinto may get the lion’s share of the time behind the plate in Minnesota and the Twins, like the Nats, are looking for a veteran backup.