The Jonathan Lucroy saga continues.
Late Saturday night, reports surfaced that the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers had agreed to terms on a deal that would send All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy to the Indians, in exchange for a package of prospects. The only caveat to the deal, was that it needed Lucroy’s approval. Due to the fact that the Indians were one of seven teams on Lucroy’s no-trade list, the 30-year-old backstop had to waive his no-trade clause in order for it to go through. In a shocking twist, Lucroy would exercise his no-trade clause yesterday morning, vetoing a deal to the Indians. It was a move that sent shockwaves, and rightfully so. In the hours after the news, details came out regarding why Lucroy vetoed a deal. The Indians would not promise Lucroy the job as starting catcher, instead asking him to split his time between backing up catcher Yan Gomes, starting at first base, and making appearances as a designated hitter. The final straw came when the Indians refused to void Lucroy’s 2017 option, which would make him a free agent after this season.
A little more than a day after the stunning news, it appears that Lucroy will still be on the move. This time however, he’s heading down south, not out east. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports reports (via Twitter) that the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to a deal, that would send Lucroy, and relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress to the Rangers in exchange for a lucrative package of prospects.
Lucroy, 29, is enjoying a renaissance at the plate in 2016, hitting .300/.360/.484 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs in 94 games. To put this year’s production into perspective, Lucroy hit .264/.326/.391 with seven home runs and 43 RBIs in 103 games in 2015 season, although he dealt with injuries all year. Lucroy holds a cool .284/.342/.436 career triple-slash with 79 homers and 387 RBIs in 809 games. Currently thought of as one of the three best catchers in the game today, it’s Lucroy’s combination of elite offensive production at a shallow position, and his excellent pitch-framing skills behind the dish, that make him so coveted.
Jeffress, 28, has enjoyed a breakout season this year. The right-handed reliever took control of Milwaukee’s closer job back in March, when then-closer Will Smith tore ligaments in his knee while removing his shoe. Since taking over, Jeffress has gone 2-2 with a 2.27 ERA, and 26 saves in 43.2 innings of work. With many teams in pursuit of bullpen help, it comes as little surprise that Jeffress was on Texas’ radar.
After having a reportedly large haul from Cleveland negated by Lucroy’s veto, the Brewers landed a decent return for both Lucroy, and Jeffrees. The centerpiece of this huge return, was Texas’ top prospect Lewis Brinson.
Brinson, 22, is a consensus top-15 prospect. The 29th-overall pick of the 2012 MLB Draft has really blossomed in the Rangers farm system. In five minor league seasons, Brinson owns a career .275/.343/.486 batting line with 72 home runs and 254 RBIs. Brinson’s combination of power and speed is unmatched and has garnered him a lot of praise from scouts. He has the potential to be a member of the 30/30 club. He’ll figures to become a mainstay in the Brewers outfield for years to come.
Top pitching prospect Luis Ortiz is the second prospect heading back to the Brewers. The third-rated prospect in the Rangers farm system has been referred to as the most polished pitcher in the Rangers farm system. In three seasons down in the minors, Ortiz has a 9-8 record with a 2.62 ERA in 137.2 innings of work. The 20-year-old right-hander has a very good combination of stuff and feel, better than most his age. His pitch repertoire includes a fastball that tops out in the upper-90s, a plus-slider that hangs around the low 80s, and an improving change-up. Scouts project him with the ceiling of a #2 starter.
This deal is a little surprising for Milwaukee, as they took less in the deal with the Rangers. Most notably, they didn’t walk away with power-hitting prospect Joey Gallo, a man that many expected to be the centerpiece of the deal. While the Brewers didn’t walk away with a bevy of prospects, they opted for the old quality over quantity theory.
For Texas, this establishes them as one of the favorites out in the American League. In the span of an hour, the Rangers have filled a number of needs, having added Lucroy, Jeffress, and Carlos Beltran.