Despite coming off an injury-riddled season filled with struggles on the field, Milwaukee Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy finds himself as a possible trade candidate this offseason. The Brewers are clearly in a rebuilding effort under new general manager Dave Stearns. Lucroy, within that plan, represents a logical choice for a potential trade. The Brewers likely won’t be competing again for the next several years, which means the one remaining year on Lucroy’s contract (with a team option for 2017) will likely be spent on a losing team. With this in mind, it makes sense for the Brewers to consider trading Lucroy now in order to get the most value out of the remaining years of his contract and translating that value into their rebuild.
Coming off a season in which Lucroy was held back by concussion injuries, it is unclear what the future will hold for the Brewers’ catcher. Lucroy finished the year with a slash line of .264/.326/.391 with a wRC+ below league average (93) and a WAR of only 1.1 in just over 100 games played. More concerning, still, was Lucroy’s decline in defensive value in 2015. It is unclear how much of this offensive and defensive decline is due to Lucroy’s various injury problems and how much is because of other factors. Despite his poor 2015 season, Lucroy is coming off a phenomenal 6.1 WAR 2014 season which put him among the best catchers in all of baseball.
With such a poor 2015 season, and so many question marks surrounding his short and long term health, it would be logical to think that Lucroy’s trade value is at a low point. Many would say that the Brewers would be selling low if they did pull the trigger and decided to trade Lucroy this winter. However, that is simply not the case. With nearly no eye-popping free agent options at catcher, and many teams in desperate need of an upgrade at the position, Lucroy and the Brewers still hold an enormous amount of value and sway in trade negotiations this offseason.
At only 29 years old, and with two years and only $9.25 million left on his contract, Lucroy represents not only a huge bounce back candidate, still in the prime of his career, but a fairly cheap one at that. Even if Lucroy can get to only half the level he was at in 2014, that is still a great performance level for a player who is set to only make $9 million over the next two seasons. Given that free agent Chris Iannetta just got $4.25 million to play for the Mariners, Lucroy’s contract is a real bargain. With his young age and cheap contract, and despite the various injury concerns, Lucroy will draw significant interest on the trade market this offseason.
There is no shortage of teams in need of catching upgrades and quite a few would jump at the chance to trade for Lucroy, if the deal is right. The most obvious fit appears to be the Texas Rangers, who have shown interest in Lucroy in the past. Beyond them there are plenty of teams, including the Orioles, Nationals, Cubs, Mariners, Angels, among others, who could be interested in an upgrade at the catcher position. Even after such a down season, Lucroy still holds tremendous value and, more importantly, the Brewers hold a lot of power in trade negotiations this offseason.