Jonathan Lucroy has already openly expressed interest in returning to the Rockies, and MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes today that the Rox are “expected” to pursue a reunion with the 31-year-old backstop. As Harding points out, the Rockies will return a very young pitching staff in 2018, and the team could benefit from an experienced handler of that youthful group.
Lucroy, of course, exercised his contractual right to veto a trade from the Brewers to the Indians last summer after being informed by Cleveland that he’d likely see significant time at first base. Soon after, he was flipped to the Rangers, who utilized him as their primary catcher following last year’s non-waiver deadline and for much of the first half of the 2017 season. Lucroy took Texas by storm in 2016, mashing at a .276/.345/.539 pace with 11 homers and seven doubles in just 168 trips to the plate.
Unfortunately for both Lucroy and the Rangers, he struggled through the worst half-season of his career to open the 2017 campaign, batting just .242/.297/.338 with only four homers in 306 PAs. The two-time All-Star began to cede playing time to Robinson Chirinos in Texas and was eventually traded to the Rockies for a player to be named later (young but well-regarded outfield prospect Pedro Gonzalez). With the Rox, Lucroy’s season turned around, as he slashed .310/.429/.437 with a pair of homers, six doubles and three triples in his final 175 plate appearances.
Certainly, Lucroy’s overall line of .265/.345/.371 pales in comparison to the .292/.355/.500 output he managed in 2016, but the solid finish to the season helped to salvage some free-agent value. With a solid run to close out the year and an impressive track record, Lucroy still looks like a candidate to earn a multi-year deal in free agency, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently explored at length.
The Rockies and other interested parties will need to determine exactly what to make of Lucroy’s defensive skills. After throwing out a career-high 39 percent of opposing base thieves in 2016, Lucroy returned to his career norm in 2017, throwing out a solid-but-unspectacular 27 percent of runners. His framing metrics, meanwhile, once rated among the best in baseball. In 2017, Baseball Prospectus ranked him last among MLB receivers in that category. That doesn’t necessarily make him a poor defensive backstop — Salvador Perez routinely rates poorly but is generally regarded as a plus overall defender, for instance — but the deteriorated framing numbers certainly won’t do Lucroy any favors when negotiating with suitors this winter.
Even if the Rockies and Lucroy are ultimately unable to agree on a price point, Colorado seems likely to pursue some form of catching help this offseason. Outside of Lucroy, the Rockies received virtually no offensive production from the combination of Tony Wolters (.240/.341/.284 in 266 PAs), Tom Murphy (.042/.115/.083 in 26 PAs), Ryan Hanigan (.267/.324/.347 in 112 PAs) and Dustin Garneau (.206/.260/.353 in 74 PAs). Garneau has since been claimed off waivers by the A’s and the veteran Hanigan is a free agent, further thinning out the herd.