3:06pm: The Rangers have discussed Lucroy with other teams, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter).
1:56pm: The Rangers are open to trading catcher Jonathan Lucroy, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). Lucroy is a free agent this winter and Texas is “highly unlikely” to make a qualifying offer to the catcher, Rosenthal writes, so the team could use Lucroy as a trade chip to address its struggling bullpen. The Rangers would go with Robinson Chirinos and Brett Nicholas as its catching tandem if Lucroy was dealt.
It was just under 11 months ago, of course, that Lucroy came to Texas in a blockbuster deadline deal that saw the Rangers give up a hefty prospect package (Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, Ryan Cordell) to acquire Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers. It was a stiff price but seemingly a fair one for one of the game’s best catchers, especially since Lucroy hit well and helped Texas win the AL West last season, while still being controllable in 2017 at a team-friendly price. The two sides had some talks about a contract extension last offseason, though a new deal ultimately didn’t materialize.
This year, however, has been a struggle for Lucroy. He entered today’s action hitting just .263/.311/.375 with four homers over 241 PA, with a career-low walk rate (5.4%) and hard-hit ball rate (22.9%). That latter number is the seventh-lowest hard-hit ball rat of any player in baseball this season with at least 240 PA. On the defensive side, Lucroy’s pitch-framing numbers have also declined, making his overall production for the season barely above replacement-level.
The Rangers entered today with only a 40-41 record, though that is still good enough to put them just two games out of a wild card spot in the crowded American League. Since the Astros are running away with the AL West, however, it isn’t clear whether Texas would make a big trade deadline push just for the sake of reaching the one-game wild card playoff. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan recently speculated that Lucroy could be a trade candidate if the Rangers fell out of the race, though given Lucroy’s lackluster performance, a deal wouldn’t necessarily mean Texas is throwing in the towel on the season. Chirinos has been on fire this season with a .918 OPS in 123 PA, so giving him more playing time could boost the lineup.
Chirinos was given a modest contract extension of his own last winter as the Rangers were seemingly preparing themselves if Lucroy left, though it is still somewhat remarkable that Lucroy has gone from a potential top-five free agent this winter to a player who seemingly won’t even get a qualifying offer. The Rangers obviously wouldn’t get anything for Lucroy close to what they gave Milwaukee last summer, though given Lucroy’s track record, Texas could still get something of value back. This is just my speculation, but the Rockies, Cubs and Angels stand out as contenders that could be looking for a catching upgrade at the deadline.