- Ron Roenicke was Jonathan Lucroy’s manager with the Brewers for over four seasons, and with Roenicke now serving as the Red Sox interim manager, he was the motivating factor in convincing Jonathan Lucroy to sign with Boston. “He called me and he wanted me to come. It was a big one,” Lucroy told reporters, including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “He’s like, you’ll get an opportunity to come here and make the team. Right now, that’s all you can ask for with a guy in my position.” Lucroy signed a minor league contract with the Sox after a pretty quiet stint in free agency, as Cotillo notes that Lucroy “negotiated with a few clubs who backed out of deals at the last minute.” This isn’t to say that Lucroy is surprised at how his trip through the free agent market went, given his struggles over the last three seasons: “Analytically, I’ve been terrible. Seriously. I’m not trying to make excuses. I’m not surprised I didn’t get a big league offer.” Now, Lucroy is reunited with his old skipper and will compete with Kevin Plawecki for the backup catching position.
- The Rays are known for cycling different players through a position rather than having a set everyday starter, and MLB.com’s Juan Toribio examines how the club will juggle its many third base options. Yandy Diaz, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Joey Wendle, Daniel Robertson, Nate Lowe, and Mike Brosseau could all factor into Tampa Bay’s choices at the hot corner, while also being rotated around to other positions on the diamond. Diaz is expected to get the majority of playing time, while Tsutsugo’s readiness at third base is perhaps the biggest wild card in the mix, as he hasn’t played the position since 2014 as a member of the Yokohama BayStars.
- The Blue Jays face some interesting decisions with their bench mix, as the Toronto Star’s Gregor Chisholm observes that slugger Rowdy Tellez might not make the Opening Day roster. Since minor league signing Joe Panik “is almost a sure bet to be included on the roster” as a utilityman and outfielders Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford are both out of options, this trio might have the advantage over Tellez, who is defensively limited to only first base. Tellez has shown some strong power (25 homers, .475 slugging percentage) over 482 MLB plate appearances, though is somewhat one-dimensional at the plate, as evidenced by his .241 career average and .299 OBP. Fisher and Alford will both need to perform well this spring to block Tellez, however, and Chisholm notes that Brandon Drury also isn’t a lock for the roster, as the Blue Jays could opt to cut Drury and just go with Panik as the primary utility player. Since Drury was an arbitration-eligible player, releasing him before Opening Day would leave the Jays on the hook for just a small portion of his $2.05MM salary. If Drury was released, Chisholm speculates Toronto could potentially put those savings towards signing another veteran player who might become available as teams trim their rosters in advance of the season opener.
4:50pm: Lucroy would earn a $1.5MM base salary were he to crack the Major League roster, Rob Bradford of WEEI reports (via Twitter).
February 19, 1:30pm: The Red Sox have formally announced the deal. They’re now up to 67 players in Major League camp.
February 18: The Red Sox have a minor-league deal in place with free agent backstop Jonathan Lucroy. Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com (via Twitter) first reported it was coming close; Jon Heyman of MLB Network added on Twitter that a minors pact had been completed.
At 33 years of age, Lucroy is no longer the multi-dimensional performer he once was. One of the game’s best all-around backstops from 2012 through 2016, the vet has since settled into a journeyman existence.
Over the past three seasons, Lucroy carries a cumulative .248/.315/.350 batting line over 1,263 plate appearances. He’s still tough to strike out but just doesn’t make the kind of contact he once did. That’s reflected in declines in his power numbers, batting average and on-base percentage.
Lucroy’s once-vaunted skills behind the dish have also diminished. Although he was at one point the face of the pitch-framing awakening and a highly regarded smotherer of errant pitches, Lucroy has in recent years consistently graded in the negative in both areas (by measure of Baseball Prospectus).
If that’s all a bit negative, it’s because Lucroy set such a high standard earlier in his career. He promises to represent worthwhile catching depth for the Red Sox and could perhaps even challenge for a roster spot if there’s an injury or the team considers a third catcher behind Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki.
The Athletics used a slew of catchers in 2019, but almost all of them are now out of the organization. Josh Phegley, Chris Herrmann, Nick Hundley, Beau Taylor and Dustin Garneau are gone. Sean Murphy’s the lone member of last season’s group still remaining, and the promising 25-year-old figures to get the most playing time among Athletics catchers in the upcoming campaign. There’s no battle-tested backup on the roster, but the A’s are monitoring the free-agent market for backstops, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
There’s at least some chance that Russell Martin, a longtime Dodger, will remain in California. Oakland “checked in with” him earlier in the offseason, Slusser writes. Should the team wind up signing Martin, the 36-year-old would make for quite a mentor for Murphy.
Martin, who debuted in 2006, has been one of the game’s most successful catchers in recent memory on the field and a well-regarded locker room presence off it. While Martin’s production has tailed off in the past couple seasons, he still turned in 1.2 fWAR with a .220/.337/.330 line in 249 plate appearances last year. Behind the plate, Martin threw out just 18 percent of would-be base stealers, though Baseball Prospectus did assign him above-average marks for his overall work as a defender.
Martin’s likely the most appealing catcher left in a free-agent market that has shrunk to almost nothing at his position. Fellow ex-star Jonathan Lucroy, a former Athletic, is also out there. He has engaged in “conversations with a few teams,” per Slusser, though it’s unclear if the A’s are among them.
Of course, Oakland could just decide to stick with in-house choices at catcher, where it has two options besides Murphy on its 40-man roster. The club acquired Austin Allen, who’s penciled in as its backup, from the Padres in December. The Athletics also have Jonah Heim, a 24-year-old who raked in Triple-A ball in 2019. Additionally, they picked up veteran Carlos Perez earlier this winter, though he’s not on their 40-man.
The Rockies’ search for catching help could lead them to a familiar face, as Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe writes that “Jonathan Lucroy could return to the Rockies for a second stint.” Lucroy first played for Colorado in 2017, suiting up for 46 games in the purple pinstripes after a deadline trade from the Rangers. The veteran backstop had a big hand in the Rockies’ run to the NL wild card game that season, batting .310/.429/.437 over 175 plate appearances with the club.
Lucroy’s time in Colorado also represents the last consistently good stretch of his career, as he has otherwise struggled badly over the last three seasons. Over 782 PA with the Athletics, Angels, and Cubs in 2018-19, Lucroy has hit only .237/.297/.338 with 12 home runs. Prior to the Rockies trade, Lucroy also batted .242/.297/.338 in his first 306 PA of the 2017 season.
It has been a stark dropoff both offensively and defensively for a player who was arguably the game’s best catcher in his 2012-16 heyday with the Brewers and Rangers. As per Baseball Prospectus, Lucroy’s blocking and framing numbers have been far below average over the last three seasons. On the more intangible front, Lucroy was heavily praised for his game-calling ability and work in managing Oakland’s makeshift pitching staff in 2018, as the A’s overcame a barrage of rotation injuries to win a slot in the AL wild card game.
This type of veteran stability would be a boost to a Rockies’ catching situation that was a big problem area in 2019. Tony Wolters has yet to show anything at the plate (.653 OPS) over 1123 career plate appearances, and Wolters’ framing numbers dropped precipitously from near-elite level in 2018 to below average in 2019. Drew Butera and Elias Diaz has have already been added as veteran backup options, and Lucroy would bring more of a track record than either of that pairing, though he has shown little of his old form in recent years. The pickings are slim on the free agent catching market by this point in the offseason, so Colorado could opt to just add another relatively inexpensive option in Lucroy or perhaps seek out a trade.
4:23pm: The Cubs announced the signing. Davis has been optioned to Triple-A to open a roster spot, and Lucroy will join the team tomorrow.
2:25pm: The Cubs are set to sign catcher Jonathan Lucroy following his release by the Angels, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter). Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this week that Chicago had interest in Lucroy after he’d been designated for assignment by the Halos.
The Cubs dealt away Martin Maldonado prior to the trade deadline but suddenly found themselves with a unexpected need for help behind the plate when Willson Contreras went down with a hamstring injury that is expected to cost him four weeks of action. Lucroy will step in and share catching duties with Victor Caratini in Contreras’ absence.
Lucroy, now 33, was a thorn in the side of the Cubs and their fanbase for when he was one of the best all-around catchers and a two-time All-Star for the division-rival Brewers. Those days are a distant memory at this point, however, as Lucroy has seen both his bat and his defensive skills erode in recent seasons. Dating back to 2017, he’s authored a well below-average .250/.317/.353 batting line despite spending ample time in hitter-friendly settings in Colorado and Texas (78 OPS+).
Defensively speaking, Lucroy was among the game’s best at preventing steals in 2016 (39 percent), but he’s been league average in the three subsequent seasons. His once-elite framing numbers now check in below the league average, and Baseball Prospectus rates Lucroy as the game’s weakest pitch blocker.
It’s not a terribly appealing profile, especially relative to Lucroy’s peak years, but he’s an experienced backstop who can at the very least be considered an upgrade over current backup Taylor Davis. Caratini was also spiked in the hand in last night’s game, though he didn’t come out of the game and the Cubs have given no reason to be concerned about a trip to the injured list for the young switch-hitter.
Lucroy will only cost the Cubs the prorated portion of the league minimum — about $158K between now and season’s end. The Angels will be spared that sum but remain on the hook for the remaining $797K or so of Lucroy’s $3.35MM base salary this season. Lucroy will be a free agent once again this offseason.
Aug. 7: Lucroy has cleared release waivers, the Angels announced. He’s now a free agent and can sign with any team for the prorated league minimum.
Aug. 5: The Angels announced today that they have requested release waivers on veteran backstop Jonathan Lucroy. He had been designated for assignment recently.
Any team can place a claim on the veteran backstop, stepping into his contract rights if awarded. The order of priority is based upon inverse record, without reference to league.
Lucroy, 33, is guaranteed $3.35MM this season, so it’s far from certainly any team will choose to take on the remainder of what’s owed. But that’s the surest way to gain control over a player during the month of August. If Lucroy clears waivers, interested orgs will be competing for his services based upon opportunity and any other considerations he values (location, for instance).
While Lucroy struggled badly at the plate with the Halos, sporting an ugly .242/.310/.371 batting line, he remains a trustworthy veteran receiver. For a team that needs depth, an improved backup situation, or a temporary replacement, there may not be a better option.
The NL Central-leading Cubs are suddenly in an unfavorable position behind the plate, where they’ll go without injured star Willson Contreras for about a month. With the trade deadline having passed and short-lived Cubs reserve Martin Maldonado now a member of the Astros, Chicago’s lacking avenues to bolster its depth at catcher. The Angels are set to release veteran Jonathan Lucroy, though, and the Cubs have shown interest in the two-time All-Star, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Although Lucroy has gone through a rough couple years since his halcyon days with the Brewers and Rangers, the Cubs aren’t in position to be choosy at his spot. Victor Caratini, who has taken over for Contreras, has performed well this season and may have what it takes to hold the position down for the next few weeks. But the Cubs are without a remotely established backup for Caratini, who only has the untested Taylor Davis behind him on the team’s 40- and 25-man rosters. The 29-year-old Davis has picked up a meager 36 plate appearances at the major league level since he debuted in 2017, and he hasn’t provided much offense in the minors over the past couple seasons.
While Davis may not be the answer behind Caratini, the same could apply to Lucroy. Now 33 years old, Lucroy’s once-excellent hitting and formerly pristine pitch-framing skills have experienced severe drop-offs of late. After Lucroy struggled mightily with the Athletics in 2018, he joined the Angels over the winter on a $3.35MM guarantee in free agency. However, the Angels cut the cord on Lucroy after 268 trips to the plate and a gruesome injury he has since recovered from.
Although Lucroy’s 2019 offensive numbers (.242/.310/.371 – good for an 84 wRC+) are presentable for a catcher, he has declined into one of the game’s worst defenders behind the plate. The catcher-needy Cubs could nonetheless take a low-risk flier on Lucroy in hopes he’ll give them a better backup than Davis.
Additionally, the Halos announced that southpaw Adam McCreery was outrighted to Triple-A after clearing waivers. McCreery was designated for assignment recently.
Lucroy. 33, was designated for assignment right on the heels of his activation from the injured list. He had suffered a concussion and broken nose in a scary collision at the plate.
While the Halos forewent a chance to swap Lucroy at the deadline, it would have been tough to swing a deal due to the quick succession of transactions. Stassi only became available after the Astros added Martin Maldonado earlier that day. And it was the first game back for Lucroy.
Now, Lucroy can’t be traded. If and when he’s placed on outright waivers, rival organizations will have a chance to claim his contract, which would mean taking on the remainder of the $3.35MM he’s guaranteed this year. (The deal also includes bonuses based upon games started as a catcher and plate appearances.) If he clears, Lucroy can reject an outright assignment and keep his guaranteed money, signing on with another club as he chooses. In that case, the Halos would stand to save a pro-rated version of the MLB minimum salary for any time Lucroy spends on the MLB roster of a different team.
While Lucroy likely won’t be seen as a difference-maker, he’s an experienced veteran who could improve some contenders — or, at least, bolster the depth at a key position. Through 268 plate appearances this year, Lucroy carries a marginal .242/.310/.371 batting line that’s only slightly better than his output from the prior season.
Lucroy’s back after an awful July 7 collision at home plate with Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick sent him to the shelf. Lucroy suffered a concussion and a broken nose that day. He later had to undergo surgery on his nasal fracture. Before the injury, the 33-year-old former star hit an underwhelming .237/.307/.364 with seven home runs in 264 plate appearances. Lucroy’s once-pristine defense also continued to trend downward.
Garneau, whom the Angels already designated once this year before Wednesday, has performed respectably at the plate this season. The 31-year-old owns a .232/.346/.362 line with a pair of homers in 82 trips to the plate. If Garneau doesn’t end up with another team in the next week, he’ll be able to reject an outright assignment in favor of free agency should he choose. For now, he’ll go into DFA limbo as the Angels opt for a Lucroy-Kevan Smith setup at catcher.
Cubs left-hander Cole Hamels will “likely” return from the injured list Aug. 2 or 3 if he gets through one more rehab start unscathed, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets. Having suffered a left oblique strain June 28, it appears the 35-year-old will end up missing just over a month. The Cubs have tread water without Hamels, going 11-10 since he incurred his injury, which has been enough to stay atop the NL Central. They’re leading the division thanks in no small part to Hamels, who has recorded a 2.98 ERA/3.59 FIP with 8.76 K/9, 3.16 BB/9 and a 51.1 percent groundball rate in 99 2/3 innings.
More from around baseball…
- Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario has begun getting reps at first base at the urging of general manager Al Avila and assistant GM David Chadd, Chris McCosky of the Detroit News explains. The decision comes with Triple-A third baseman Dawel Lugo “likely” on his way back to the majors soon, infield prospect Isaac Paredes soaring through the Tigers’ system and right fielder Nicholas Castellanos a strong bet to leave before the trade deadline, McCosky notes. Once Castellanos is out of the picture, the Tigers figure to use at least one of their current first base options – Harold Castro and Brandon Dixon – in right. Candelario has only played one major league game at first, though the 25-year-old has lined up there 35 times in the minors. Regardless of position, this has been a disappointing season for Candelario – who, along with Paredes – joined the Tigers in a trade with the Cubs in July 2017. Candelario was a top 100 prospect who was immediately successful in the majors, but he has batted just .213/.309/.360 (79 wRC+) with seven home runs in 272 plate appearances this year. To his credit, though, Candelario has hit far better since the Tigers demoted him to Toledo on May 15 and then recalled him June 26.
- Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea – out since he underwent shoulder surgery last September – survived a 76-pitch rehab start with Triple-A Las Vegas on Wednesday, per Martin Gallegos of MLB.com. Manaea struggled over 4 1/3 innings, allowing five earned runs and three HRs, but the A’s are encouraged that he remains on track to return to the majors by the second week of August. In the meantime, Manaea’s scheduled for two more Triple-A starts. He’ll progress to 90 pitches in his next outing and then 100 in what should be his final minors start of the year. In further good news for Oakland, outfielder Stephen Piscotty is slated to begin a rehab stint over the weekend. A sprained right MCL has shelved Piscotty since June 30.
- Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy will start a rehab assignment at the High-A level Friday, Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com relays. The Angels plan to re-evaluate Lucroy after he plays two games. The 33-year-old has been out since he bore the brunt of a brutal home plate collision with Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick on July 7. The league issued Marisnick a two-game suspension for plowing into Lucroy, who suffered a concussion and a broken nose. Lucroy also had to undergo surgery on his nasal fracture.
- Baseball America released its latest organizational talent rankings on Thursday (subscription required). Led by shortstop Wander Franco, whom BA ranks as the game’s best prospect, the Rays check in at No. 1. However, even without Franco, BA contends the Rays would still have baseball’s premier farm system. Beyond Franco, the club boasts eight other top 100 prospects. The Brewers don’t have any, on the other hand, making them the outlet’s last-ranked org. As BA points out, though, superb rookie second baseman Keston Hiura did just graduate from Milwaukee’s system.