5 Reasons Why You Can't Blame Jonathan Lucroy for Vetoing a Trade to Cleveland4 min read
Fans of northern Ohio’s baseball team are still fuming less than a week after former Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy rejected being traded to the leader of the AL Central. This is Believeland, after all, the home of your 2016 NBA champions and dare I say it, an improved Browns team as well? Surely Lucroy must be a baseball snob who looks down on The 216, Indians’ fans thought. Lucroy has finally spoken about his decision, however, and his motives for taking his talents elsewhere seem completely rational. Here are five reasons why you can’t blame the catcher for rejecting the deal to Cleveland:
1. Lucroy Wants to Play Catcher Long-Term
In his recent statement regarding the events of the trade deadline Lucroy was very respectful of Cleveland and the Indians organization. While he admitted that he was surprised after being dealt to the AL Central division leader, the catcher emphasized that he kept an open mind to the opportunity. The deal-breaker came during a conversation between Lucroy’s agent and Indians president Chris Antonetti, when Antonetti admitted that the organization planned on using their new acquisition at first base and in the DH slot moving forward. While Lucroy appreciated Antonetti’s honesty, he was adamant about remaining at catcher for the foreseeable future. This posed an issue because…
2. The Indians Have a Young Catcher
While Yan Gomes is currently on the 15-day DL with a shoulder injury, the Indians believe the 29-year-old is their guy at the catcher’s position moving forward. Gomes is only two years removed from a stellar 2014 season in which he hit .278 with 21 home runs, 25 doubles, and a WAR of 4.4. The Indians invested heavily in Gomes before that season, signing the young catcher to a 6-year, $23 million contract that runs through 2021 if the team exercises two additional team options after the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Gomes is scheduled to earn $2.5 million next year with significant pay raises in each of the following years of his deal. Having invested significant dollars in the catcher position already, the Indians were unwilling to make significant changes by bringing in Lucroy behind the dish, which didn’t bode well for the Brewers’ catcher because…
3. 2017 is a Contract Year
With a $4 million salary this year and a team option worth $5.25 million next year (which will almost certainly be exercised) Lucroy has produced another All-Star season at a bargain price. The momentum is certainly there for the 30-year-old to earn a massive contract following his production the past few years. Lucroy says his value is as a catcher and perceived a potential move to first base or DH as something that could take a significant bite out of his value proposition to teams moving into the 2017 offseason. Looking to secure a payday, he wants to maximize this coming contract as…
4. Top Offensive Catchers Have Short Shelf Lives
Beyond the MVP award and World Series rings, Buster Posey’s career has been amazing because he has been an exception to this rule. For Lucroy, who is often considered the second-best catcher currently in baseball behind Posey, it doesn’t make sense to gamble on his production remaining high for an extended period. The catcher position is the most physically taxing position in the game, and the best offensive catchers often end up paying a price with their bats. Does anyone remember the glory days of Joe Mauer and Yadier Molina, both of whom led their respective leagues in batting average and several other offensive categories? While Molina was also very well-regarded as one of the best defensive catchers the game had seen in quite some time, both his and Mauer’s production fell quite significantly after the physical toll of the position caught up with them. Lucroy will be 31 entering free agency with potentially another 200+ games of wear and tear on his body. He’s wise to know that the time for him to get paid is now. He will probably benefit from the fact that…
5. Several Big Market Teams Will Be Seeking Catchers
Teams pay premiums for good catchers, nowadays. In this past offseason nine catchers signed for an average of $4.32 million per year. Including 39-year-old A.J. Pierzynski, the average age of the catchers signed was nearly 33. With the exception of Matt Weiters who may be considered above-average, the other eight catchers signed are considered to be average talent-wise for the position. Enter Lucroy, who will be a full two years younger and will be bringing significantly greater production to the free agent table. Look for several big market teams, including the Yankees, Angels, and White Sox, to consider adding the multi-year All-Star to their lineups. If Travis d’Arnaud and Yasmani Grandal don’t produce for the Mets and Dodgers respectively, you can count those teams in as well on the list of potential suitors. The Rangers would most certainly be interested in re-signing their new acquisition if his season-and-a-half tryout goes well in Texas.
Only time will tell whether Lucroy helped himself by rejecting a move to Cleveland. But if anything is evident, the catcher’s decision was certainly rational.