According to this Jordan Bastain tweet, the Indians signed Travis Buck to a minor league contract today with an invite to Big League camp
I know what you’re thinking: Who?
But I actually like this deal quite a bit for reasons I’ll delve into below, even though it probably won’t end up meaning all that much in the long-run. Let’s explore.
First though, I should be clear: Travis Buck hasn’t been very good in professional baseball so far, and that’s not even accounting for the multiple injuries with which he’s struggled. Throughout parts of the last four seasons, Buck has put up a .250/.330/.424 line (.331 wOBA/.754 OPS) as a corner OF for the Oakland A’s. During that time, he’s bounced around the minor leagues and the DL, resulting in only 669 Major League plate appearances–about as many as Matt LaPorta has. He’s struggled so much recently that Oakland refused to call him up last September and decided to non-tender him this off-season, allowing the Indians to offer him a minor league contract.
OK. Enough with the Debbie-Downer spiel. Here’s why I like the deal:
- It’s a minor league contract, meaning not only does it not cost the team much money, but it doesn’t cost us a roster spot. This is crucial for a team like the Indians who must be judicious in apportioning major league plate appearances in 2011 (so that we can find out about guys like Brantley and Donald).
- Travis Buck has been good. He was drafted in the first round out of Arizona State and made it to the majors in less than two years. In his rookie season, he put up a .288/.377/.474 line (.850 OPS).
- He’s still fairly young, at only 27. For comparison’s sake, Casey Blake had played in exactly 40 MLB games TOTAL by the time he finished his age-27 season; since he turned 30 he’s averaged over 135 games per season. In other words, there’s still time for Buck to develop into a viable major leaguer.
- It allowed me to write a funny sounding title.
- Yes, I’m an optimist. But consider this: Buck has better numbers than Matt LaPorta, and is not that much older. The likelihood of Buck “figuring things out” and living up to his draft pedigree isn’t all that much lower than LaPorta developing into a viable offensive threat. I’m all for giving these guys chances–especially when the pricetag is so low.
- I know you don’t want to think about it (or maybe you do?), but we’re not going to have our current outfield forever: at least one, and maybe two of these guys won’t be here in a few years. As Mike Holmgren would say, there’s nothing wrong with adding to “the pile.”
All in all, I love this deal. No risk, high reward. And even if Buck never makes it to the majors again, I’ll still believe it was a good move.