Mariners bring in Buck to back Zunino

Staff writerJanuary 17, 2014 

baseball

It might be little more than a mention in most places in the transactions column, but the Seattle Mariners ticked another item off their to-do list Thursday by confirming a one-year agreement with free-agent catcher John Buck.

“This guy brings a great veteran presence to our ballclub,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We think he’ll have a calming effect on (Mike) Zunino and help his development.

“And let’s not forget something: He can play. He

can help us in the field.”

Make no mistake, though. The Mariners shelled out $1 million to Buck, a 10-year veteran, to serve as a backup and mentor to Zunino, a 22-year-old they view as a long-term fixture.

Buck, 33, realizes that, too.

“Zunino is their guy,” he said, “but I have a lot to offer. I was thrown into the fire like he has (early in his career in Kansas City). I have a lot to offer to him in that regard.

“When he’s beating himself up, I can say, ‘You’re right where I was. Look at me. You’ll be fine.’ I can be that sounding board. … But I’m still preparing as if I’m going to play (regularly) because that’s all I know how to do.”

The Mariners cleared space for Buck on their 40-man roster by designating outfielder Carlos Peguero for assignment. They now have 10 days to trade, release or send him to the minors on an outright assignment.

Buck was an All-Star in 2010 while playing in Toronto but batted just .222 last season with 15 homers and 62 RBI in 110 games. He spent most of the year with the New York Mets before an Aug. 27 trade sent him to Pittsburgh.

“To bring him in, and have his level of experience,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said, “it’s not only what he offers to the other catchers, but to our young pitchers as well. I thought it was important to go down this road.”

“How much playing time he gets, we’ll find out in spring training. We’ll find out as the season unfolds. No big league club goes through a season with two catchers.”

The Mariners now have three catchers on their 40-man roster — rookie Jesus Sucre, Zunino and Buck. They also recently re-signed veteran Humberto Quintero to a minor league deal.

“We like Sucre,” Zduriencik said. “However, it would be very difficult to go with two rookie catchers. I think it’s important to have a veteran guy, but it’s more important to have a guy of character.

“With John, we were able to accomplish both desires.”

Peguero was a likely DFA candidate because he is out of options and has batted .195 with nine homers and 27 RBI in 65 big league games over the past three years.

His departure also removes a potentially sticky clubhouse situation.

Peguero’s wife, Maria Jacqueline Peguero, was charged in October after allegedly running up $180,000 in unauthorized charges on a debit card belonging to Felix Hernandez’s wife.

Carlos Peguero spent most of last season at Triple-A Tacoma, where he batted .260 with 19 homers and 83 RBI in 118 games.

TAMPA BAY, PRICE AGREE TO $14 MILLION CONTRACT

Now that Tampa Bay’s David Price is slated to earn the biggest single-season salary in Rays history, the three-time All-Star hopes he remains part of the franchise’s plans for 2014.

The team announced that the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $14 million, one-year deal. However, the agreement doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a trade.

“I still have the mindset moving forward that I want to be with the Rays,” said Price, who at the end of last season seemed resigned to the fact that he’d probably be dealt during the offseason.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. bob.dutton@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners

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