Toronto’s Catcher Bonanza: Buck, Castro, Chavez

It’s been a big week for Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopolous. Obviously, I’m referring to the bonanza earlier in the week in which Anthopolous filled out his 2010 catcher corps by signing John Buck for one year and two million dollars moments after he was non-tendered by the Kansas City Royals (all set with Jason Kendall), veteran Ramon Castro for one year and one million dollars, and Raul Chavez to a minor league deal.

[NB: I usually prefer referring to multiple projections, but since I’m discussing more than one player, I’ll keep things simple by sticking with CHONE for both offense and defense. When I averaged various different projections, the overall values I came up with were about the same, anyway.]

On CHONE’s original list of free agents, Ramon Castro rated as the best catcher per 150 games. His projected offensive line is .230/.292/.412, or 10 runs below average per 150 games. His defensive projection is two runs above average. Adding in the positional adjustment, per 150 games Castro projects as a 2.4 WAR catcher. However, Castro also comes cheaply because not only do catchers almost never play 150 games, but the 34-year-old Castro has never played 100 games, and has only played more than 2009’s 57 once, in 2005.

Although I’m personally excited that I might get to see John Buck play in-person, many Royals fans hate him for being part of the return in the 2004 Carlos Beltran trade as much as for his numerous strikeouts and poor defense. The latter is reflected in his -5 defensive projection. As for the former, his offense looks a lot like Castro’s — low average, decent walk rate, above-average power. CHONE projects Buck at .227/.296/.398, or -9/150 for 2010. Together, this puts Buck just below average at 1.8 WAR. Again, catchers typically play much less than that, and Buck spent time on the DL in 2009.

Raul Chavez is a veteran defensive catcher who actually lives up to his reputation with the glove. Offensively, CHONE projects him at .226/.262/.319; -37/150. However, Chavez avoids being replacement level due to his glove (+9). He projects at 0.4 WAR per 150.

The Blue Jays are at the beginning of a rebuild. Before Buck signed, Toronto had zero catchers on their 40-man roster. Someone has to play catcher, and according to CHONE, the only free agent catcher in the same league with Castro and Buck is departing Blue Jay Rod Barajas, who’s seeking a much bigger deal. While neither Buck nor Castro is an iron man, if they each play half of the season, that still projects as around a league average player (2 WAR). Given that the cost of one marginal win on the open market is likely at least four million dollars, the Jays are paying three million for at least eight million dollars worth of (projected) production. Well done by the Jays.

In a way, Chavez’s contract is the most interesting, and not because he’s good. Rather, it’s because Toronto, unlike other clubs this winter, gave a near-replacement level catcher a contract appropriate to his likely contribution rather than six million dollars over two years. It’s a Festivus Miracle!

If you want to enter your own projection for Toronto’s 2010 catchers, click here.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

12 Responses to “Toronto’s Catcher Bonanza: Buck, Castro, Chavez”

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  1. Paul says:

    This may be the saddest thing I’ve read all month:

    “Although I’m personally excited that I might to [sic] get to see John Buck play in-person…”

    Royals fans are not bitter at John Buck about the Beltran deal. (Sure, we send a box full of coal to MIke Wood’s house every holiday season, but that’s unrelated). John Buck is not… good. He has earned himself a Raul Chavez-esque minor league deal, partly by getting hugely fat and giving himself back problems. But he was really bad before that.

    Enjoy the excitement of a three week stretch of decent offensive production from him over the course of the season. May those memories sustain you through the rest of it when he looks so lost at the plate that you wonder how he ever made it out of AA.

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    • Basil Ganglia says:

      And Dayton Moore’s answer after he royally flushed Buck down the toilet was “Jason Kendall!!”, If “Jason Kendall” is the answer, I think the Royals are in dire need of a better question.

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    • Gopherballs says:

      This kind of proves Matt’s point, huh?

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  2. CircleChange11 says:

    “Although I’m personally excited that I might to get to see John Buck play in-person, many Royals fans hate him for being part of the return for Carlos Beltran in 2004 and for his numerous strikeouts and poor defense.”

    You’re excited to see a high strikeout, poor defense catcher in person? *grin*

    Hey, we all have our favorites. I’m just kidding around.

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  3. Scottwood says:

    Off topic, but why is Damon given a +7 defensive rating on CHONE? That has to be a misprint. That should read -7.

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    • I can’t speak for Sean/Rally (and if he or someone else more knowledgeable about these things is reading feel free to jump in), but TotalZone is sometimes going to differ from UZR significantly, especially in the case of outfield defense. Damon has only seen recently significant time in left starting in 2008, and only full-time in 2009. I don’t know if Rally incorporates other OF position in his projections (I think he has in the past when he did ZR/RZR-based projections), or what the past TotalZone data says. For 2008, TotalZone has Damon’s range at +14 (-2 arm), for 2009 it’s +6 (average arm). Now, the Fans Scouting Report and UZR for those years obviously disagree, and that why one should look at multiple sources.

      Jeff Zimmerman’s UZR-based projections have Damon as -1 in LF — they’re regressed and age-adjusted. One cool thing Jeff (and Rally, I guess) could add would be something like a Marcels relibillity score, it’s pretty easy, when I was messing with defensive projections, I did it.

      Anyway, keep in mind, everyone that this is very different than measuring catcher defense (each has their challenges), and also that (as I understand it) outfield range ratings tend to have larger error bars than for the infield… I haven’t done a study, but just in browsing in the past, I’ve noticed more variance between TotalZone and UZR in the OF than in IF positions. But again, I defer to others.

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      • Brian Cartwright says:

        My Oliver projections have Damon +7 in LF, +3 in CF.

        By year, the last 3 seasons ratings (not projections) are +3, +5, +9 in LF, and from 2006 to 2008 -1, +7, +1 in CF

        In LF, the Marcel weighted mean of the past 3 seasons has Damon allowing 13 fewer hits and 19 fewer TB than expected, 1 fewer hits and 10 fewer TB in CF.

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  4. glassSheets says:

    “I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear about it!”

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  5. Daniel B says:

    I’ve found Anthopoulos’s moves to be interesting if nothing else so far. I liked the Halladay coup especially considering it was for one year. Didn’t so much like the Taylor for Wallace deal, but the Jays have coveted Wallace for a long time.

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  6. Johnny Tuttle says:

    Castro has been convicted of indecent assault, no? I’m having a hard time with that as a fan of the team even if there’d been no C on the 40 this time a week ago.

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