One of the more interesting names on the rumor mill is Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy. In fact, he might be the best player available; among position players believed potentially available, only Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies has a higher WAR.
Lucroy is hitting .305/.362/.494, is known for his pitch-framing skills and has obviously bounced back from last season's injury issues. He's also attractive because of his team-friendly contract, which pays him just $4 million this season and $5.25 million in 2017. You'd be acquiring an All-Star catcher for the price of a mediocre middle reliever.
One concern that I've heard is that teams don't like to bring in catchers midseason, since he'd have to learn a new pitching staff. With Lucroy, that seems like less of an issue, given his intelligence. Still, there hasn't been a World Series champ this century who acquired a starting catcher during the season (the 2010 San Francisco Giants called up rookie Buster Posey in late May, although he'd at least worked with the staff in spring training) and the last World Series winner that didn't have a clear-cut No. 1 catcher would have been the New York Yankees in 1999, when Jorge Posada and Joe Girardi shared catching duties in the postseason.
So bringing in Lucroy would be an unusual move, and given his ability and salary, he'll cost a highly regarded prospect or two.
Yan Gomes will miss about eight weeks with a separated shoulder, meaning an optimistic timetable would have him ready in late-September. The Indians love Gomes' defense and ability to handle a pitching staff, but his bat has been a big zero this year. Of players with 100 plate appearances, he's second-worst in OPS. It's one reason why the Indians have the worst offense in the majors from their catchers (.168/.216/.297). They do have Roberto Perez, just activated from the DL, and he was league-average with the bat last year and is regarded as a strong defender. They'd also like to keep backup Chris Gimenez, who hasn't hit either but has become Trevor Bauer's personal catcher, a tandem the Indians are loathe to break up, given Bauer's strong season.
The Indians have survived punting offense from catcher, ranking third in the AL in runs, but the concern is that some of the hitters have played over their heads. Remarkably, even though Michael Brantley has played just 11 games, the Indians rank third in the majors in wOBA from their outfield. The speculation is that they could look for an outfield bat such as Jay Bruce or Josh Reddick to bet against likely regression from Tyler Naquin or Rajai Davis.
That makes sense, but so does adding a lefty or two for the bullpen. While Lucroy's salary fits in the Cleveland budget, I don't see them giving up a prospect such as Bradley Zimmer or Clint Frazier to get him. Most likely, look for them to add a reliever and maybe a guy like Reddick (Bruce's salary and lack of range in the outfield don't really fit here).
With Robinson Chirinos on the DL for much of the season, the Rangers have had to patch together the backstop position, relying on career backups such as Bobby Wilson and Bryan Holaday. But Chirinos is back and even homered twice Tuesday. Lucroy would certainly be an upgrade, and they have a talented farm system to deal from, but the more pressing concern is the starting rotation. Kyle Lohse, who had an ERA over 5.00 in Triple-A, started Tuesday and got hammered, and the Rangers' lead over the Astros has dwindled to 4.5 games. If the Rangers lacked faith in Chirinos, it seems they would have pursued Lucroy more fervently in the offseason. At this point, the focus is on pitching. How about Joey Gallo for Julio Teheran?
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have the best lineup in the majors, although they didn't get much from their catchers until the legend of Sandy Leon kicked in. He has hit .431 in his limited duty, but this is a guy who hit .184 last season. Do the Red Sox ride the hot hand? Do they eventually go with veteran Ryan Hanigan or give Christian Vazquez another chance? Or does Dave Dombrowski make another big splash? Not if the Brewers demand Yoan Moncada or Andrew Benintendi.
Prediction: The Brewers don't swing a deal and wait until the offseason.