Buck looms as legitimate Sox target

BOSTON -- The Red Sox are expected to be aggressive in their pursuit of free-agent catcher John Buck in the likely event that Victor Martinez signs elsewhere, according to two baseball sources.

The Red Sox, according to one of the sources, expect the Detroit Tigers to make a major push for Martinez, who could share catching duties with second-year man Alex Avila while also sharing first base and DH duties with Miguel Cabrera. The Baltimore Orioles also have significant interest, and the Texas Rangers also are expected to be among the bidders.

Buck, 30, was an All-Star for the first time this past season for Toronto, with whom he signed a one-year, $2 million free-agent deal last winter. Buck hit 20 home runs, tying Martinez for third most among big-league catchers, and he was one of eight catchers (minimum 300 plate appearances) with an .OPS of .800 or better. Buck, who batted .266, walked just 16 times, which hardly fits the Red Sox model.

Behind the plate, he threw out 28 percent of the baserunners attempting to steal on him, and he has a reputation as a conscientious, hard worker. Allard Baird, a top aide to Boston GM Theo Epstein, traded for Buck when he was forced to dump All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran to Houston for salary reasons.

The Red Sox discussed Buck extensively internally, according to one source, as a potential complement to switch-hitting Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whose throwing problems after surgery last season stalled his big-league career. According to one Texas source, Saltalamacchia misfired on “every other throw” back to the pitcher in the first couple of months of the season in Triple-A Oklahoma City but appeared to have the problem under control by the time he came to the Red Sox.