The Texas Rangers are strongly in the mix for Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy following his veto of a trade to the Cleveland Indians, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 31, 2016
With Milwaukee well out of contention, Lucroy has been a popular trade target for the number of teams who need catching help. The Brewers originally agreed to deal Lucroy to Cleveland, a team included on his limited no-trade clause, but he rejected the trade after the Indians refused to void his 2017 $5.25 million club option.
That put Lucroy back on the market, and the Brewers will presumably still try to move him prior to tomorrow’s MLB trade deadline. While Texas’ biggest weakness is still the rotation, Lucroy would provide a critical upgrade at a position of need.
Multiple injuries, including a scary concussion issue, limited Lucroy to 103 games last season, and he regressed all the way to a 93 wRC+. Fortunately for the Brewers, Lucroy has bounced back in 2016 to considerably rebuild his trade value with 2.8 WAR and a 120 wRC+ in 375 plate appearances.
Texas has a five-game lead in the AL West with a mark of 61-44 and is looking to make a few moves to hold off the hard-charging Houston Astros. While Texas is in great shape for a postseason appearance no matter what, Lucroy could provide a big boost for both this season and 2017 while the Rangers’ World Series window is wide open.
The Rangers are currently using veteran Robinson Chirinos as their primary catcher. Chirinos has not been terrible with a 91 wRC+ and 0.3 WAR in 39 games per FanGraphs, but Lucroy would clearly represent a big upgrade at the plate. Lucroy is also regarded as a terrific game caller and pitch framer, and the Rangers believe that could help their pitching staff.
Injuries have decimated Texas’ starting rotation, and it could really use a front-line starter to pair with Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, who has been on the disabled list twice this year. However, a deal for someone like Chris Sale, Sonny Gray or Julio Teheran is appearing less and less likely, so upgrading at catcher would be Texas’ next best option with an otherwise strong lineup.
Even if the Rangers decide to grab Lucroy, they would still have enough left to trade for a top starter should an unexpected deal arise. The more likely plan for Texas could be dealing for another cheap innings-eater like Jeremy Hellickson in the hopes that Hamels and a healthy Darvish are enough for the playoffs.
Milwaukee has quietly done a strong job rebuilding under new general manager David Stearns, and a Lucroy trade will only strengthen the farm system. The Brewers have a few relievers to deal including Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress, which could sweeten the deal for the Rangers, who needs bullpen help.
If Texas’ pursuit of Lucroy falls through, the New York Mets would also be a strong suitor with a need at catcher.
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