The Rangers have had “informal” conversations with the agents for Jonathan Lucroy about a possible extension, GM Jon Daniels said in a recent appearance on 1310 The Ticket in Dallas with host Norm Hitzges (transcript via the Dallas Morning News). There haven’t been any serious talks yet, though Daniels said he plans on exploring that scenario with both Lucroy and Yu Darvish as Opening Day draws nearer.
“We will sit down and talk to them but haven’t yet and that’s by design with so much going on,” said Daniels, presumably referencing his ongoing work to fill areas of need around the roster. Texas is known to be in fairly serious talks with Mike Napoli about a two-year contract to play first base and/or DH, for instance, and Daniels and his staff have already worked to re-sign Carlos Gomez to a one-year deal in addition to various trade scenarios that command persistent attention.
Both Lucroy and Darvish are set to hit free agency following the 2017 season, and barring some form of disastrous injury or unexpected decline, they’ll do so as two of the most coveted players available on the open market. Lucroy rebounded from an injury-plagued 2015 season to bat a combined .292/.355/.500 with a career-high 24 homers in 544 plate appearances between the Brewers and Rangers this past season. Paired with premium defense behind the plate and an ability to play first base as needed, Lucroy could well challenge or surpass the five-year deals signed by Russell Martin ($82MM) and Brian McCann ($85MM) in recent years with another characteristically strong season.
Darvish, meanwhile, returned from 2015 Tommy John surgery to turn in 100 1/3 quality innings with the 2016 Rangers. The 30-year-old logged a 3.41 ERA and averaged 11.84 K/9 against 2.78 BB/9 with a 40.4 percent ground-ball rate and a 93.3 mph average fastball that was actually harder than any of his previous Major League seasons. If he’s able to turn in another season that falls somewhere between that form and his 2013 peak — 2.83 ERA, 11.89 K/9, 3.43 BB/9, 41 percent ground-ball rate in 209 2/3 innings — he looks very much like a pitcher that can command in excess of $100MM in free agency.
Certainly, each player’s proximity to free agency will make it difficult to extend him, however. Both players have already banked a sizable amount of money in their careers ($10.7MM for Lucroy and $45MM for Darvish), and the allure of a significant open-market payday would mean both are unlikely to offer any form of discount. Lucroy, in fact, cited a very business-oriented thought process when explaining his veto of a trade to the Indians over the summer, noting that the team’s plans to use him at first base and DH more than at catcher (which would’ve depreciated his free-agent value) heavily influenced his decision. Considering the fact that his current contract has become one of the game’s greatest bargains, free agency has to be especially appealing to him.
Daniels also spoke to Hitzges about the roles of Matt Bush and Jurickson Profar in 2017, noting that while there’s been some talk of Bush getting a look as a starter, he’s expected for the time being to come to Spring Training as a reliever. The GM did indicate an openness to the idea, though he noted some reasons for concern with the concept as well, including his limited experience on the mound and the fact that he’s never pitched to a starter’s workload (or even attempted to do so). Profar, meanwhile, is expected to compete for at-bats at first base and in left field, depending on exactly how the outfield alignment shakes out, Daniels added. Others in that mix will be Joey Gallo, Delino DeShields, Ryan Rua and Drew Robinson, the general manager noted. Obviously, a Napoli signing could take away some of those theoretical at-bats.