I don't know if Milwaukee Brewers fans are bashing Jonathan Lucroy today but I respect him for speaking the truth and saying he'd like to be traded to a contender. In an interview with Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the catcher said:
"I'm not going to sit here and say we're going to compete for the playoffs this year. If I did that, you'd call me a liar. I'd lose credibility and respect. 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."
Lucroy is a smart guy and he's right. The Brewers are going to be bad in 2016 as they begin their self-admitted rebuild and they could be bad for a long time. It's going to be a tough rebuild in a difficult division.
Lucroy mentioned his age -- he turns 30 next June -- as another reason for wanting a trade. As a catcher, he doesn't know how long he'll be able to put up good numbers. The Brewers should trade him: He's signed for two more years, at the incredibly discounted rate of $4 million in 2016 and a $5.25 million team option for 2017. Those salaries make him valuable above and beyond his production: Any team in baseball can afford Lucroy. They're not going to win the next two years and he's not going to re-sign there when he's a free agent.
After hitting .297/.359/.472 from 2012 to 2014, he did fall off last season, hitting .264/.326/.391 while suffering a broken big toe and a concussion. The Brewers will undoubtedly value him at that earlier rate of production -- he finished fourth in the 2014 MVP voting -- and ask for an enormous return.
So, who could use a catcher? A lot of teams could use a catcher. Using the projected depth charts and WAR totals at FanGraphs, here are five possible contenders with bad catching situations who would most benefit from Lucroy:
Tampa Bay Rays (29th in projected WAR): Curt Casali, Hank Conger and Rene Rivera. Ugh. Rivera is a good defensive catcher who hit one year in San Diego. The Rays acquired Conger from the Houston Astros but he's coming off the worst year throwing out runners in MLB history: Base stealers were 42 of 43 against him. Trade talks: The Brewers will ask for Blake Snell, one of the top pitching prospects in the minors. The Rays will object. So this would have to be a multi-player deal. The Rays do have two catching prospects in Justin O'Conner and Chris Betts and several middle-infield prospects, including shortstops Willy Adames and Daniel Robertson.
Houston Astros (25th in projected WAR): Jason Castro and Max Stassi. Castro was an All-Star back in 2013 but his bat has gone south since and he hit just .211/.283/.365 last year. He's arbitration eligible and will make an estimated $4.6 million, so it's not like his salary would prohibit the Astros from making a move. And Lucroy could fill in some at first base until prospect A.J. Reed is ready. Trade talks: The Astros have no shortage of prospects to offer. In fact, if the Astros believe in Jonathan Singleton at first base, Reed would be enticing to the Brewers, who need a first baseman.
Minnesota Twins (22nd in projected WAR): Kurt Suzuki and J.R. Murphy. Suzuki has had one good offensive season since 2011 and is regarded as a poor pitch framer. In other words: He doesn't really bring much to the table except veteran leadership. Well, Lucroy is a veteran too. Maybe Murphy, acquired from the Yankees, is the solution here, but Lucroy would be a huge upgrade. Trade talks: No, the Brewers aren't getting Byron Buxton or Jose Berrios, but the Twins have a lot of interesting prospects like Nick Gordon, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Kohl Stewart. They could throw back Murphy or Suzuki (paying $2 million of Suzuki's $6 million salary to even out payroll) as well.
Texas Rangers (21st in projected WAR): Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez. Chirinos was a pleasant surprise last year, hitting .232/.325/.438 in 273 plate appearances, but that was the result of slugging .494 against left-handers. He's a 32-year-old guy without any upside and the Rangers traded Jorge Alfaro, their top catching prospect, in the Cole Hamels deal. Trade talks: This has been a rumor all offseason and the Rangers have a highly rated farm system, so there's a likely match here. Would Texas part with Joey Gallo?
Washington Nationals (19th in projected WAR): Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton. It's not that Ramos is terrible. Well, that's not quite correct. He was terrible in 2015, posting a .258 OBP that wasn't mitigated enough by an occasional home run. He has good arm strength (he threw out 38 percent and 44 percent of runners the past two seasons), but his crummy OBP was one reason that Nationals didn't score enough runs. Trade talks: Joe Ross is the Nationals' projected No. 5 starter, but the Brewers would ask about him. Or maybe Trea Turner could be traded again (the Brewers have shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia, so Turner would have to move to second).