Untouchable not so long ago, Jonathan Lucroy is now in play with teams looking to upgrade at catcher. He's loved his time in Milwaukee, but is ready to move on.Beset by injuries, the 2015 season was a lost one for Lucroy. But the 29-year-old is healthy and should be able
Untouchable not so long ago, Jonathan Lucroy is now in play with teams looking to upgrade at catcher. He's loved his time in Milwaukee, but is ready to move on.
Beset by injuries, the 2015 season was a lost one for Lucroy. But the 29-year-old is healthy and should be able to help a contender. He's two years away from free agency and owed only $9.5 million at the end of an extension he signed four springs ago, when the Brewers were fresh off a 96-win season and trip to the National League Championship Series.
This is a guy who is a solid receiver and a good enough hitter that he can warrant at-bats as a first baseman when he's not behind the plate. Lucroy led the NL with 53 doubles in 2014, when he hung up a slash line of .301/.373/.465.
Throw away last season. So what if Lucroy's production was down (.264/.326/.391)? He was beat up physically and had to be crushed emotionally to hear management say uncle by trading away Carlos Gomez, Aramis Ramirez and Gerardo Parra. Put Lucroy in a good spot and he'll bounce back in a big way.
Here are five possible fits, ranked by the likelihood that they will add Lucroy before Spring Training.
Current situation at catcher: Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez, both of whom are older than Lucroy, were an adequate combination last season, producing 2.5 Wins Above Replacement between them. Gimenez produced an .820 OPS in limited play, but is easy to run on.
Deal that could land Lucroy: Outfielder Lewis Brinson, right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez and right-hander Tanner Scheppers for Lucroy.
Maybe this is too much to give up, but Scheppers needs a change of scenery and Gonzalez had more walks than strikeouts (32-30) in his 67-inning debut season in Texas. The 21-year-old Brinson is the difference-maker in this package. He's a speed-power center fielder knocking on the Rangers' door. Texas' inventory of outfield prospects will grow if Joey Gallo and Jurickson Profar are converted into outfielders. Both are blocked at their position.
Gallo is the guy the Brewers have said they want in any possible Lucroy deal with Texas. But by including Brinson and a good arm, they can build an attractive offer that allows them to hang onto Kris Bryant's running buddy from Las Vegas. Lucroy's right-handed bat would be especially valuable in a lineup that leans to the left side.
Current situation at catcher: Hank Conger was acquired from the Astros to compete for time alongside Curt Casali and Rene Rivera, who hit .178 after being imported from San Diego to be the primary catcher.
Deal that could land Lucroy: Right-hander Taylor Guerrieri, corner infielder Richie Shaffer and Rivera for Lucroy.
If either Guerrieri or the power-hitting Shaffer work out, this is a good move for the Brewers. Both are high-level prospects. Rivera does a nice job handling pitching and would fill a role. This is a lot of talent to give up, but Lucroy's contract makes him especially valuable to the Rays.
Current situation at catcher: Heralded prospects Blake Swihart and Christian Vasquez arrived at Fenway Park in the past two years, but neither was an instant success. Vasquez missed all of 2015 after Tommy John surgery. Swihart shared the catcher's job with Ryan Hanigan. He showed promise, but it's fair to question if he and Hanigan are the best fit for a team that added David Price and Craig Kimbrel, intent on a quick turnaround after back-to-back last-place seasons in the American League East.
Deal that could land Lucroy: Swihart for Lucroy, straight up.
If the Red Sox won't give up on Swihart, who will play at age 24 in 2016, they could structure a deal around a pitching prospect like Henry Owens or Brian Johnson, and one of their two first-base prospects, Travis Shaw and Sam Travis, while sending Hanigan to Milwaukee as a Brewers stopgap. Lucroy looks like a perfect fit in Boston for cerebral manager John Farrell. He would also provide depth at first base and DH.
Current situation at catcher: Jason Castro was a solid regular for the Wild Card Astros in 2015. Conger was dropped from the roster to open up playing time for Max Stassi, who will play at age 25 in '16. He has impressive power but has hit only .232 in two Triple-A seasons.
Deal that could land Lucroy: Jake Marisnick, 20-year-old right-hander Francis Martes and Stassi for Lucroy.
Outside of the bullpen upgrade provided by Ken Giles, the Astros haven't done anything to add to the mix that was successful last season. Lucroy would make a statement. He and Castro would become the deepest catching mix in the Major Leagues, and he would be an upgrade over Marwin Gonzalez as a right-handed first baseman. Marisnick is a plus center fielder but a .232 hitter in 238 Major League games. He's blocked by Colby Rasmus, who accepted the Astros' tender of a qualifying offer. Martes, traded by the Marlins to Houston in the Jarred Cosart deal, is a potential front-of-the-rotation arm who climbed to Double-A last season.
Current situation at catcher: Miguel Montero and David Ross return from last year's 97-win team. Ditto Kyle Schwarber, who enters his first regular season as the top left fielder, but has been developed as a catcher.
Deal that could land Lucroy: Three-team trade in which the Brewers add center fielder Albert Almora (Cubs), third baseman Jeimer Candelario (Cubs), catcher Justin O'Conner (Rays) and right-hander Jacob Faria (Rays); Rays add Montero and cash, outfielder Billy McKinney (Cubs) and first baseman-DH Dan Vogelbach (Cubs), and Cubs add Lucroy and Guerrieri (Rays).
The Cubs having been eyeing Lucroy throughout the Hot Stove season, hoping the Brewers would make him available. He would be a better fit for the next two years than Montero, who, like Schwarber, hits left-handed. But Montero is signed for two more years at $28 million total and he has no appeal for Milwaukee. So Chicago must involve another ambitious team.
Would the Rays want his pop at the Trop if the Cubs were sending along $18.5 million, the difference in salaries between Lucroy and Montero? Why wouldn't the Cubs do that if they value the right-handed-hitting Lucroy more than Montero?
If not the Rays, the Cubs must bring another third team into the talks. This is a complicated process, but it would make it easier for Joe Maddon to play Javier Baez and provide a nice window to assess Schwarber's future behind the plate. Both Tampa Bay and Chicago are loaded with young talent, so there are many ways to make a three-team Brewers-Cubs-Rays deal work.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.