According to several reports last week from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Oakland Athletics were among three organizations who reached out to the Milwaukee Brewers for veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy‘s services.
"“The Rangers, Athletics and Nationals are among the teams that have engaged in trade discussions with the Brewers about catcher Jonathan Lucroy, only to back off when they perceived the price to be too high, according to major-league sources.”"
Moving an established veteran such as Lucroy makes complete sense for a Brewers ball club building for the future – especially for a franchise that has not reached the postseason since 2011 when they won the National League Central Division.
Unfortunately, the 29-year-old may not be willing to wait around for things to shape-up; and has expressed his frustrations with the team’s rebuilding process as illustrated in an article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
"“I want to win and I don’t see us winning in the foreseeable future. I want to go to a World Series. That’s what all players want. Rebuilding is not a lot of fun for any veteran guy”“It’s not guaranteed that I’m going to win if I am traded. But I’m going to be a 30-year-old catcher (in June). I can’t put numbers on how much longer I’m going to play, but as players we want to win. I don’t care about the money; I just want to win. That’s the bottom line.”“If I stay with the Brewers, I’m not going to go out and dog it,” said Lucroy, who has limited no-trade protection in his contract. “I’m not going to be a bad teammate. I’m not going to be a bad clubhouse guy. I’m not going to be bitter. It’s just part of the game.”"
Interpret the right-hander’s quotes in any way you see fit, but you have to consider what he brings to the table from both an offensive and defensive standpoint. Ultimately, would having Lucroy under team control for the next two seasons be a wise investment for the A’s?
Remember that several of Oakland’s top-prospects are set to make their Major League debuts in 2016 (Sean Manaea, Renato Nunez, and Joey Wendle for example) and the impact they could have on their respected organization could be crucial, whether they break camp with the ball club or find their groove in the minors.
After the A’s went “All-in” in 2014, should the front office tap into their farm system yet again and hope for the best? Lets analyze each scenario and determine once-and-for-all if the 2007 3rd-round pick is the perfect fit for the Athletics.
First Scenario: The A’s acquire Lucroy from the Brewers.
There are several reports, including the quote from Rosenthal above, that the price tag for the veteran backstop Lucroy, is inconceivably high. It’s safe to assume that Brewers’ general manager David Stearns would receive a generous prospect-haul from any suitor, if he’s willing to part ways with the Florida native.
From the Athletics standpoint, you would have to think that one of your top three farm hands are in play with an additional hitting/pitching prospect or two, for example:
A’s get: C – Jonathan Lucroy
Do not take this transaction personally. Obviously this trade proposal is a bit extreme, and heavily favors Milwaukee. However, from a front office perspective, you’d have to believe that it would take this type of package to get Lucroy to suit-up for the green and gold. A’s GM David Forst could easily swap out Barreto for Manaea. Ultimately, he’d have to be content parting ways with his top-hitting or pitching prospect.
Aside from Garin Cecchini, the Brewers don’t have much depth at the hot corner, which is why Nunez would be the perfect candidate to be packaged, based on his raw-power and strong arm alone. Milwaukee appears to have enough arms in the rotation and bullpen to suffice for the 2016 campaign; although Dillon Overton would ultimately sweeten the deal and thus be enough real estate to send Lucroy to Oakland.
On the flip side, Lucroy is under team control for the next two seasons and without a doubt, should bring some stability to an Athletics lineup as an everyday number three, or four hitter. Behind the plate, he is more than capable of catching 130-150 games a year and has excellent pitch-framing skills that Oakland’s pitching staff would certainly rave about.
In his 2014 All-Star campaign, Lucroy set a Major League record for doubles (53) as a catcher and even posted a .837 OPS for the season. The right-hander has some pop at the plate and showcases his talent not via the long ball, but rather by driving in runners on the base paths. In 2015, Lucroy landed on the disabled list with a toe injury, and was sidelined in September due to concussion symptoms.
Because his trade value is so low at this point and has a team-friendly contract (will make $4 million in 2016, $5.25 million in 2017), it wouldn’t be surprising if the Athletics some way, some how, landed the veteran backstop for the next two seasons.
Second Scenario: The A’s stand pat.
Assuming the A’s are satisfied with their catching platoon of Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley, newly-acquired first-baseman Yonder Alonso should see the majority of playing time against right-handed pitchers with Mark Canha penciled in against lefties when he’s not manning left field.
At the moment, it’s unclear as to whether or not Vogt can handle the everyday-catching duties when you factor in his chronic foot injuries. In some cases, acquiring Lucroy would allow Vogt to transition to first base, or see the majority of his playing time at the designated hitter position.
Although for that to transpire, the A’s front office would have to bench or trade Billy Butler if they want Vogt’s offensive production in the lineup on a daily-basis. Unless the green and gold make a run for a high-profiled left fielder, who can slot in the three or four spot, expect Alonso at first, Canha in left, Vogt behind the dish and Butler as Oakland’s primary DH — if he cannot build up his trade value during spring training, or in the month of April.
If the A’s decide to go this route, they can presumably expect solid contributions from Manaea, Nunez, Wendle and even Matt Olson for years to come if you consider that Coco Crisp and Butler’s contracts will be off the books when 2017 rolls around.
There are several pros and cons should the A’s continue their pursuit of Lucroy. The 29-year-old is an above-average defender with just enough pop to get the job done. He appears to have a strong work ethic, and is known for his excellent pitch-framing skills. Although, is it worth parting ways with Barreto or Manaea after considering how the 2014 campaign transpired?