This week we will be examining various trade possibilities for the Rangers as we near the MLB Trade Deadline. With Texas just a few games out of a Wild Card spot, the season is far from over despite a record seemingly stuck in neutral around .500. Whether Texas wants to trade players with expiring contracts for prospects to build for the future, trade prospects for big leaguers to help put them over the top, or stand pat and see if they can make it to October with the team they've built, the Rangers have options.
Last year, minutes before the trade deadline, the Rangers made a blockbuster deal sending a healthy crop of prospects, led by outfielder Lewis Brinson, to the Milwaukee Brewers for the All-Star backstop that they hoped would be the missing piece to put them over the top.
Lucroy finished up the 2016 campaign with a strong stint in Texas. His 11 HR in 41 games was a significant uptick in power compared to the fleet of catchers employed previously and Lucroy’s defense was as advertised. The kicker to this deal was the one year of remaining control, this year, left on Lucroy’s affordable contract, meaning the Rangers were primed for another year of having the second best catcher in the league catching the majority of their games.
Then 2017 actually got here and things changed. Lucroy is on pace to have his worst year offensively since his rookie year. His .251/.297/.355 slash line is helping him limp along at or below replacement level and his defense isn’t there either. A myriad of unexplained past balls, a consistent inability to frame strikes as well as he had been known for adds up to what is becoming a forgettable season for Lucroy.
Lucroy now finds himself on a team that could be looking to sell, as the catcher who's having the second best year on his own team. Robinson “All I Do Is Homer” Chirinos has proven that when he’s healthy, he’s more than capable as a major league catcher.
The Rangers also have a proven backup in Brett Nicholas sitting in Round Rock. Nicholas isn’t going to win any defensive awards but he’s a capable backup who hits left handed and provides the flexibility to play first when needed.
Additionally the money it’s going to cost to retain Lucroy long term after this year likely isn’t money well spent for the Rangers. With Yu Darvish approaching free agency and a pitching rotation that will need attention with or without Yu Darvish coming back, the Rangers are likely setting themselves up to bide time until the potential catcher of the future, Jose Trevino, is ready. In AA Frisco now, Trevino looks to be a good everyday major league catcher in the making should his bat continue to progress.
This means Lucroy would be better served in a deal to bring back something useful for the Rangers, whether that’s immediate help or help rebuilding the farm system. The problem with dealing Lucroy now is that his value is plummeted, so you would certainly be selling low, but he’s a proven catcher and there’s a few contenders out there in need of a backstop that may have hopes that a change of scenery is what Lucroy needs. Let’s take a look at some options and what the Rangers could net in return.
The first contender in need of a catcher is a bit of an awkward one…the Milwaukee Brewers. After basically reinventing their roster of the last 12 months the Brew Crew have found themselves in contention in 2017 behind the big bats of Eric Thames and Travis Shaw. Their catcher situation has been up in the air since trading a cornerstone of their franchise to the Rangers for an outfielder named Lewis Brinson wait is this sounding familiar?
Oh yeah, we talked about that. Yeah the Brewers could use a catcher. Clearly they aren’t going to be jumping up with big offers but maybe a prospect they see as expendable and a longshot prospect from far down in the system would fit the bill. After a serious restocking last year, the Brewers could stand to part with a prospect or two for a reunion with their old pal who's sure to succeed in his old stomping grounds…right?
Another serious need for the Rangers, besides restocking their depleted farm system, is a good bullpen pitcher. Maybe Lucroy could be dealt to a team with a slew of healthy, productive relievers – something the Rangers are in desperate need of.
The Cubs have found themselves in a precarious catcher situation. The retirement of David Ross was a blow, Kyle Schwarber saw some time behind the plate but he’s back in AAA, and the real odd twist that saw Miguel Montero released for basically bad mouthing his teammates means that Wilson Contreras is the lone man standing from a team full of catchers a year ago.
The Cubs have a healthy bullpen manned by four former Rangers and a few other pretty good hurlers so perhaps they could afford to part with someone. Maybe not, maybe they’ve watched the same Lucroy we’ve been watching and the only person they’ll be willing to part with is Koji Uehara who will step foot in Arlington and immediately start giving up homers again….but maybe? The Cubs also have their own strong farm system to deal from if the Rangers are just hoping to strengthen the farm the cubs could be interested on that front.
When it comes to dealing Lucroy the Rangers are likely to take what they can get from whoever is interested and a wise bet may be on him being the most likely Ranger veteran to be dealt, as he has played himself into being replaceable and there is no incentive to keep him into the offseason. Rangers fans really wanted this to work out, but barring a big change – it looks like it just hasn’t.
What could the Rangers realistically receive for receiver Lucroy? Share your trade proposals with Chris on Twitter @RealChrisRoland.