Jonathan Lucroy Reportedly Vetoed Trade to Cleveland Indians

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJuly 31, 2016

Milwaukee Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy runs the bases after hitting a solo home run off Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin in the first inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The Milwaukee Brewers attempted to trade All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy to the Cleveland Indians on Saturday.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first reported the news and noted the Brewers would have received four players in the trade. However, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt reported on Sunday that "Lucroy has exercised his no-trade clause and vetoed [the] trade."

Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, citing sources, reported, "Lucroy wanted Indians to rip up 2017 club option to get him to waive no-trade clause. Understandably, Cleveland said no." Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball reported that the Indians have "moved on," adding "there will be be no reworking" of a potential trade.

"If Lucroy had agreed to the trade, he would have lost his everyday catching job in 2017. Made no sense to agree," noted USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Adam McCalvy of MLB.com shared Lucroy's comments after vetoing the trade:

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Heyman previously said "well-regarded young catcher" Francisco Mejia would have headed to the Brewers. Rosenthal passed along a few other players who would have gone to Milwaukee:

Lucroy has bounced back after a poor 2015 season in which he hit .264/.326/.391, though that came with an injury caveat after he suffered a broken toe in April 2015 that cost him 39 games. 

It wasn't a lost year for Lucroy, though, as Stat Corner metrics graded him as the 10th-best catcher by runs above average on defense (min. 5,000 pitches). Given the defensive demands of his position, the All-Star is a tremendous asset.

There seemed to be some uncertainty about how interested the Brewers would be in dealing Lucroy in 2016. General manager David Stearns told Haudricourt why the team was hoping to keep the 30-year-old.

"We are still open to discussing any number of players on our roster, but as I've said from the opening press conference, [Lucroy] is a really good player," Stearns said. "He provides a tremendous amount of value to the organization. He's a reason why we can be better next year."

This year proved injuries were the primary cause for Lucroy's issues in 2015. He was named to the National League All-Star team in 2016 for the second time in his career after hitting .304/.361/.491 in the first half. 

The Brewers, coming off a 94-loss season in 2015 and with another losing campaign in the works, are trying to contend in a loaded NL Central with the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates at the top. 

Rosenthal reported in January the Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics backed off discussions with the Brewers about Lucroy because "they perceived the price to be too high."

Things changed after the season started and playoff contenders found themselves in the market for an upgrade at catcher. A good defensive backstop who can hit for average, get on base and hit for power is one of the most precious position-player commodities in MLB.

Milwaukee's farm system is getting better; Christopher Crawford of Baseball Prospectus wrote in December 2015 the Brewers' collection of prospects "has impressive offensive depth, intriguing pitching and talent to make several teams quite jealous."

The Indians needed to make a bold move. They are in a position to win their first American League Central title since 2007 and have a starting rotation deep enough to carry them in a postseason series. They landed Yankees reliever Andrew Miller on Sunday, before Lucroy vetoed the deal.

Catcher has been a black hole in Cleveland this year. Yan Gomes, who is on the disabled list with a separated right shoulder, was in a season-long slump before getting hurt. Chris Gimenez has built a nice rapport with Trevor Bauer as his personal catcher, but even a bench backstop has to hit better than .200/.238/.274.

Per FanGraphs, Cleveland's catchers rank last in MLB with minus-1.2 wins above replacement. The Indians don't have a large-market budget, which is what would have made Lucroy a perfect addition because of his $4 million salary this season and $5.25 million team option in 2017. 

Adding Lucroy's bat to the middle of Cleveland's lineup, especially with the uncertainty around Michael Brantley's shoulder, would have addressed yet another need the club had. 

Age isn't a problem for Lucroy at this stage of his career, nor should he be considered injury-prone after playing 300 total games between 2013 and 2014.

Catchers with Lucroy's offensive and defensive stability who have a team-friendly contract don't come along often. He's been an underrated star because the Brewers haven't been strong playoff contenders since 2011.

     

Stats and contract info per Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.