The White Sox have released veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy from his minor league contract, reports FanSided’s Robert Murray (via Twitter). The decision leaves Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes as backup catching options still in camp. The Sox have already optioned Seby Zavala, and Yasmani Grandal is of course slated to serve as the primary catcher again in 2021. The Athletic’s James Fegan tweets that Lucroy asked for his release after being informed that he would not crack the Opening Day roster.
Lucroy, 34, appeared in 14 games with the Sox during Spring Training but only tallied 23 trips to the plate. It’s a small sample of work, but he hit well in that time, going 6-for-18 with a double and drawing five walks against just one strikeout. He’d long looked like a very plausible backup option behind Grandal, but it seems the Sox will instead turn things over to younger, in-house alternatives.
Keeping Lucroy would’ve required opening another 40-man roster spot. They’ll already need to do so for Andrew Vaughn at the very least — assuming he makes the club, as expected — and could need to do so for Jake Lamb, depending on the terms of the agreement he reached with the South Siders earlier this morning. Eloy Jimenez can be moved to the 60-day IL to create one such opening, but the Sox may not be keen on finding ways to open too many additional spots.
Lucroy was arguably MLB’s premier catcher at one point, but that was back in 2016 and his subsequent decline has been precipitous, to say the least. Since Opening Day 2017, Lucroy has posted a combined .248/.315/.305 batting line that clocks in at 24 percent worse than league-average production by measure of both OPS+ and wRC+. His once-vaunted framing numbers have tumbled as well, as has his ability to catch opposing base thieves. Lucroy appeared in just one big league game last year, with the Red Sox, and did not tally a plate appearance.