The Nationals have interest in Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy but are one of eight clubs on the 29-year-old’s no-trade list, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. That, of course, presents an immediate roadblock but does not eliminate the possibility of a trade. In such instances, players will sometimes agree to forfeit their no-trade rights for some form of incentive from the acquiring team. The Nationals themselves made a compromise with Jonathan Papelbon last July, agreeing to guarantee his 2016 option at a slightly lesser rate ($11MM instead of $13MM) in order for Papelbon to accept the trade.
Lucroy is on one of baseball’s most favorable contracts, slated to earn just $4MM this season with an equally reasonable $5.25MM club option for the 2017 season. The overwhelmingly affordable nature of that option means that a Papelbon type of situation — exercising the option in advance — probably isn’t enough, as the option is likely to be picked up even in the event that Lucroy suffers an injury in 2016. An extension beginning in 2017 or, at the very least, an extension covering the 2017 season at a higher rate, could seemingly provide motivation for Lucroy to green-light a swap between the two sides.
Recently, Lucroy took to the media to voice his desire to play for a winning club. The longtime Brewer was respectful toward the Milwaukee organization — the only one he has ever known — speaking highly of the team but plainly stating that he preferred to be on a winning club. The implication, of course, is that a trade would be best for all parties involved. In that sense, a trade to the Nationals, whom many expect to contend for the NL East or at least for Wild Card spot, seem like an appealing landing spot for Lucroy.
Extracting full value in a trade of Lucroy, however, will be challenging for the Brewers. Lucroy started slowly in 2015 and then missed a sizable chunk of time due to a fractured toe suffered in late April. He returned on June 1 and hit more like himself over the next three months before suffering a concussion in early September. That injury sidelined him for about three weeks, and upon his return, he was limited to first base duties. While he’s fully expected to catch again in 2016, the possibility of lingering concussion issues and a down season that saw him post an overall batting line of .264/.326/.391 are factors working against his trade value.
The Nats were rumored to be seeking catching help earlier this offseason, although GM Mike Rizzo responded to those rumors quickly by offering high praise for incumbent backstop Wilson Ramos. Of course, moving Ramos to a backup role, while an unfavorable outcome for the player (Ramos is a free agent after the 2016 season), would certainly serve to deepen the Nationals’ roster, and the team hasn’t shied away from stockpiling depth (or attempting to, anyhow) all around the roster this winter. Daniel Murphy and Stephen Drew were both signed despite the fact that the Nats entered the season with reasonable middle infield depth, and the team has pursued Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes despite not having a clear need at any of their respective positions. The Nats have more of a need behind the plate than they did in those spots, so a run at Lucroy certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable.