As trade rumors swirl, who may chase Lucroy?

July 25th, 2016

Following an injury-riddled 2015 campaign, has re-established himself as one of the premier catchers in all of baseball, making the Brewers catcher a top trade target for contenders as the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.

Through 90 games and 359 plate appearances entering Monday, Lucroy is second among all catchers in slugging percentage (.491) and OPS (.853), and ranks third in WAR (2.8 according to Fangraphs), weighted runs created (122) and batting average (.301). With a team-friendly $5.25 million club option for 2017 included in his contract, Lucroy could be one of the most valuable pieces on the move over the next week, likely bringing in return to the Brewers a notable package of prospects.

Those are the figures on the 2016 All-Star, but the conversation becomes even more intriguing as you include the current market for catchers. In the American League, in particular, many of the top contenders could realistically use an upgrade at catcher as they enter the pennant chase and postseason.

Could we see Lucroy, the top catching trade target and one of the top hitters on the block, playing in one of these uniforms come August?

Indians (Catcher weighted runs created: 33): Cleveland's backstops have posted a meager 33 wRC+ (a measure of a player's overall offensive production on a weighted scale, where 100 is league average) this season -- which is a wide 20-point margin beneath the next-worst figure in baseball. And to make matters worse, hit the DL after suffering separated right shoulder on July 17 and is likely out until at least September. (.528 OPS) and (.053 average through 29 PA this season; 350 career PA) are currently handling the catching duties, so a trade for Lucroy may help out Cleveland out substantially.

Rangers (Catcher wRC+: 79): Logistically, Texas has been one of the most realistic fits for Lucroy since the beginning of the season. With a .285 OBP at catcher this season, the Rangers lack a clear answer -- although they have slugged a combined 15 homers at the position this season -- but have the prospects in their system that a trade for Lucroy would require and will likely be adding talent at the Deadline to make the most of their current window. The Rangers have made do with and behind the dish, but adding Lucroy could serve as a major upgrade and help stabilize the pitching staff that has the third-worst ERA in the AL.

Astros (Catcher wRC+: 86): is a free agent at season's end and is batting .222 this season with a career OPS just north of .700. has appeared in 24 games at catcher, where advanced metrics rate him as a below-replacement level defensive player, and has seen his offensive production go down in many categories this season. There's a connection between the Brewers and Astros, as well, with Milwaukee GM David Stearns serving as assistant GM in Houston from 2013-15 and trading for in the offseason. Houston's system is deep, and they gave the Brewers four prospects for and last Deadline.

Red Sox (Catcher wRC+: 79): Known throughout his career as a defensive-minded catcher, has been a revelation for Boston at the plate since his recall from Triple-A in June, batting .395 with a 1.4 WAR in just 25 games. Leon, however, entered the season with a -0.4 WAR and is a career 73 wRC+ batter, making him a prime regression candidate; the Red Sox would surely trust the two-time All-Star Lucroy over their current catching situation, but would they rather allocate their top prospects toward bolstering a shaky pitching staff? Boston already traded with the Brewers this month, acquiring third baseman in addition to deals with the D-backs for reliever and Padres for starter .

Orioles (Catcher wRC+: 68): was named to the All-Star team this season, but don't read too much into that in terms of how productive he has been. The 30-year-old catcher is batting .250 with a .306 OBP and his wRC+ of 86 ranks 16th among all catchers with at least 200 PA. He's a free agent at season's end, and the Orioles may want to make the most use of their current window, but acquiring Lucroy would mean a diminished role for the veteran Wieters.