Here’s the latest from around the NL Central…
- The Brewers were talking with the Astros and Braves about a three-team trade involving Jonathan Lucroy last month, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports. Houston made an attempt at Lucroy earlier in the offseason, as previously reported by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, and the club has also been linked to Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte. This isn’t to say that Inciarte was also necessarily part of this three-team proposal, of course, as Atlanta’s role in the trade could’ve taken any number of forms.
- Lucroy has been the subject of many trade rumors this winter, to the point that he and his family don’t have living arrangements in Milwaukee settled yet since he presumed he was going to be dealt. “It’s all out of your control. But communication is a big thing. I’d like to be kept up to date what’s going on. It’s not like I’m going to spread it all around, I just want to know when it’s coming, when to expect it,” the longtime Brewers catcher said.
- Also from Nightengale’s piece, he notes that the Reds were willing to pay roughly $8MM of Jay Bruce’s $12.5MM salary as part of the abandoned three-team trade that would’ve sent Bruce to the Blue Jays, Michael Saunders to the Angels and prospects to Cincinnati. It was expected that the Reds would have to eat some money in any Bruce deal, given that the outfielder is coming off two consecutive subpar seasons. Saunders is making $2.9MM in 2016, so adding Bruce would’ve cost Toronto around $1.6MM in extra salary (not counting the $1MM buyout of Bruce’s $13MM club option for 2017).
- Like Lucroy, Bruce is also rather surprised to still be with his original team given all of the trade speculation. He reiterated that he would prefer to stay with the Reds, and blames his recent “pretty poor” play for threatening his long-term future in Cincinnati. (Though it could be argued that if Bruce had been hitting more, the Reds would’ve been able to move him sooner.) “In order for me to have a chance to stay here, I need to play better. We’ll see what happens. I never changed my sentiment, wanting to be part of this for the long haul….But obviously, I have to do my part to even have a chance,” Bruce said.
- Kyle Schwarber could be a personal catcher for Jason Hammel this season, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney writes, as the Cubs are looking for ways to get Schwarber’s bat into the lineup whenever possible. Schwarber’s defensive future has been the subject of much debate, as he’s scheduled to see most of his playing time in left field this year even though his fielding prowess is still a question mark. It’s also unclear if Schwarber can handle being a regular catcher, though with Miguel Montero and David Ross ahead of him on Chicago’s catching depth chart, he could be eased into the position for just Hammel’s starts. Being removed from too much grind behind the plate could actually benefit Schwarber, Mooney notes, by helping him stay healthy.
- The Pirates hired James Harris as a special assistant to baseball operations in February, and Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review examines how the hiring is an example of how the Bucs are willing to look outside of baseball for ways to build their organization. Harris specializes in fitness and nutrition techniques and he has spent much of his career in football, including the last decade working with Chip Kelly both at the University of Oregon and with the NFL’s Eagles. Harris’ lack of baseball experience wasn’t a big factor for Pirates GM Neal Huntington, as the goal for any athlete is about “maximizing performance. How do we help this player get better every day and perform as consistently as possible?“