Jonathan Lucroy has seen his name bandied about in trade rumors for quite some time, dating back to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Today, the Brewers’ catcher candidly and openly discussed the possibility of a trade with Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and while he stopped short of asking new GM David Stearns to trade him Lucroy implied that a trade might be best for both him and the rebuilding Brewers. Via Haudricourt, Lucroy offered the following statement:
“I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to compete for the playoffs this year. If I did that, you’d call me a liar. I’d lose credibility and respect. I want to win and I don’t see us winning in the foreseeable future. I want to go to a World Series. That’s what all players want. Rebuilding is not a lot of fun for any veteran guy. … It’s not guaranteed that I’m going to win if I am traded. But I’m going to be a 30-year-old catcher (in June). I can’t put numbers on how much longer I’m going to play, but as players we want to win. I don’t care about the money; I just want to win. That’s the bottom line.”
One thing made clear by Lucroy after those comments is that he is not asking for a trade, nor is he expecting to be traded. In fact, Lucroy told Haudricourt that he’s planning on heading to camp with the Brewers and will be playing this season “with a chip on [his] shoulder” as he looks to prove naysayers wrong in the wake of a down season in 2015. Last year, Lucroy was limited to 103 games by a fractured big toe and a concussion that came with lasting effects and forced him to finish the year at first base. “I want to go out and tear it up. It wasn’t for a lack of effort last year,” said Lucroy. “I just did not compete at the level I know I’m capable of. There’s always doubters out there, which is fine. I plan on proving a lot of people wrong.”
Of course, those injuries — specifically the late concussion — make Lucroy a difficult trade chip for teams to assess. On the one hand, Lucroy batted .297/.359/.472 and averaged 18 homers per 162 games from 2012-14 as Milwaukee’s primary catcher. He’s also signed to a highly affordable deal that will pay him $4MM in 2016 plus a $5.25MM club option for the 2017 campaign. Those components of the Lucroy equation paint the picture of a player teeming with trade value — one of baseball’s most coveted assets. However, the other side of the coin is a bit murkier; Lucroy batted .264/.326/.391 with seven home runs this past season — solid production for a catcher, but nowhere near the levels he displayed in the three years prior. On top of that, Lucroy caught his final game of the season on Sept. 8 due to the aforementioned concussion, with the remainder of his time coming as either a pinch-hitter or first baseman.
That creates somewhat of a difficult situation when looking to trade Lucroy. Stearns has reportedly been seeking an enormous return to part with Lucroy, and the 29-year-old’s outstanding track record and contract make that a justifiable request. However, teams are probably wary of the potential for lingering concussion effects, causing reluctance to surrender significant talent to part with Lucroy. By hanging onto Lucroy, Stearns runs the risk of continued diminished production, which would only drop his value further. But, trading Lucroy now would be selling low if Lucroy is indeed able to bounce back to his previous heights.
Haudricourt notes that the Brewers also value Lucroy’s leadership and his ability to be a voice of calm and reason on a rebuilding club that will likely go through some painful stretches in the upcoming season. Lucroy insists that his clubhouse demeanor won’t be any different if he remains with the team, saying he won’t “dog it” or be a bad teammate/clubhouse presence in 2016 if he’s not moved.
A number of teams have been linked to Lucroy over the course of the offseason, with the Rangers perhaps representing the most commonly cited team with interest. James Wagner of the Washington Post recently wrote that the Nationals like Lucroy quite a bit as well, and Washington is said to have explored the trade market for upgrades at the catcher position.
I’ll add that readers are encouraged to check out Haudricourt’s interview in its entirety, as the column contains far more quotes from Lucroy than are transcribed here in addition to plenty of insight from Milwaukee’s seasoned beat writer.