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Lucroy seeks to put 'aberration' in past

MLB.com @JaneMLB

MESA, Ariz. -- Operating with an unproven starting staff and lacking the suitable resources to add a difference-maker to the mix, the A's introduced their backup plan on Monday.

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, a two-time All-Star with eight years of big league time clocked, will be tasked with handling the club's young group of pitchers. He hopes to simultaneously outdo a disappointing 2017 showing, which he deemed an "aberration."

MESA, Ariz. -- Operating with an unproven starting staff and lacking the suitable resources to add a difference-maker to the mix, the A's introduced their backup plan on Monday.

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, a two-time All-Star with eight years of big league time clocked, will be tasked with handling the club's young group of pitchers. He hopes to simultaneously outdo a disappointing 2017 showing, which he deemed an "aberration."

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"He certainly has a lot of experience behind the plate, and I think that's good, especially for our young starting staff," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "No knock on the other guys, but experience is experience. If we can't go out and get ourselves a starter, that's the next best thing. He's got a lot of experience and a great reputation for being a terrific leader behind the plate."

After playing out the waiting game as part of a free-agent class victimized by a stalled market, the 31-year-old Lucroy agreed to a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the A's, whose payroll still sits under the $70 million threshold.

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Veteran starter Lance Lynn inked a one-year deal with the Twins for nearly double that amount on Monday ($12 million). Jake Arrieta's three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies became official on the same day. Alex Cobb is the lone remaining big-name starter left on the table. These were never viable options for the A's, who have a hodgepodge of names vying for rotation spots behind Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea.

Enter Lucroy.

"We talked about the starters who were out there, but as you see with the Arrieta deal, or even the Lance Lynn signing, those weren't quite the opportunities that this was," A's general manager David Forst said. "We're hopeful that addressing it this way with a catcher still has an effect on the starting rotation."

Video: Melvin, Forst hope Lucroy is poised for big season

"He'll definitely know how to roll with the punches when they do get punched," said a smiling Khris Davis, who played with Lucroy in Milwaukee.

Melvin confirmed Lucroy will be his everyday catcher, leaving Bruce Maxwell and Josh Phegley in battle for the backup spot.

"We were just waiting for the right opportunity, and we got it here with Oakland," Lucroy said. "I'm very happy and proud we were able to reach an agreement with these guys so I can get out on the field and do what I do, especially with this quality of a team. No one is giving the A's any credit. I came in here going, 'this is actually a really good situation,' and we could really sneak up on some people."

Lucroy seeks to emerge from a drought on both sides of the ball. While his power dipped significantly in 2017, his defense has also been in decline. Once an elite framer, Lucroy has accelerated in the wrong direction in recent years and now grades below average. His overall value has subsequently fallen -- but that's the only way he falls into the A's price range.

"Really, honestly, just bad. I had no excuses on last year," Lucroy said. "I just didn't play well. I wasn't who I was. My track record speaks for itself. Last year was an aberration. I fully believe that. I know what I'm worth. I know what I've done, and I know that defensively I have some work to do, which I already started doing in the offseason, and I definitely plan on being back right in the mix."

Lucroy is latching on to his fourth team in two years. The Brewers made him a third-round pick in 2007 and dealt him to the Rangers in the middle of his second All-Star season in 2016, when he hit .292 with a .355 on-base percentage and 24 home runs. He enjoyed a one-year stay with the Rangers, until he was on the move yet again in a July deal that sent him to Colorado.

He hit .242 with four homers in 77 games for the Rangers in 2017, but bounded into form in the second half with help from hitter-friendly Coors Field, batting .310 in 46 games with Colorado, including .367 at home.

"Guys are going to have up years and down years," Melvin said. "He's got a track record of being really good on both sides. We wouldn't have made the signing if we didn't feel comfortable."

Melvin could have Lucroy in a Cactus League game by the end of the week. The catcher engaged in offseason workouts at his alma mater, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and spent the majority of the winter at home in Dallas, where he and his wife, Sarah, welcomed their second child, a son named Easton, just three days ago.

Lucroy arrived at A's camp on little sleep, but is eager to start his homework; he's considered a serious student of the game, and he hopes his detail-oriented ways expedite the learning curve that accompanies a new staff.

"We have a lot of young players, a very good lineup, good defense, and if we pitch, I think we're going to be right in there," Lucroy said. "And that's where I come in."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

Oakland Athletics, Jonathan Lucroy