The Red Sox have been named as one of six teams in on catcher Jonathan Lucroy by Jerry Crasnick including, yes, a mystery team:
#Rangers, #Indians, #Astros, #Mets, #Redsox have been mentioned in Lucroy mix. And believe it or not, there appears to be a "mystery team.''— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 27, 2016
This makes a lot of sense. The Sox have gone through a couple starting catchers this season, with Christian Vazquez’ bat proving untenable, and the team showing little confidence in Blake Swihart’s glove before he ended up injured in left field. As such, they’re left riding a Sandy Leon hot streak which, if we’re being honest, is not a realistic solution for now or for 2017.
And 2017 is certainly important when considering Lucroy, as any team which traded for him would be getting a Victor Martinez-style rental, good for the next season as well. Like Martinez was back in 2008, Lucroy is one of the top bats at the position. He holds a .300/.361/.486 line in 371 plate appearances on the season, with 2015 the only year in recent memory where he hasn’t been well above league average even ignoring his position.
Unlike Martinez, though, Lucroy is also one of the league’s better defenders. He’s always ranked very highly in attempts to quantify framing, allows relatively few passed balls or wild pitches, and has been particularly good at shutting down the running game this year, having thrown out 40% of would-be base-stealers.
The problem is, this all comes immediately after Peter Gammons’ report that the Red Sox just aren’t interested in dealing their top prospects. That doesn’t completely rule them out, though, because if there’s any trade that’s going to see Blake Swihart go the other way, this is it. A more polished catcher from a selling team for a younger, less experienced one halfway between prospect and MLB starter. It does make some sense.
Hanley Ramirez’ 2016 has been a roller coaster
Hanley Ramirez’ overall line makes him look like a solidly above-average contributor this year, but he’s never actually hit like his line portrays him.
It’s also one hell of a value sink for the Red Sox, though. Lucroy will only be theirs for a quarter of the time Swihart would. They would have to be pretty convinced of his inability to stick behind the plate to be happy making that move, especially if other names would have to head to Milwaukee, which might be the case with all these other teams involved.
This move would also leave the Red Sox completely without an answer behind the plate once Lucroy hit free agency. They would make a qualifying offer, undoubtedly, and he would turn it down. Sure, they can re-sign him, but there will likely be no small amount of competition for his services, and as a 32-year-old catcher, he’ll be far from a sure thing to live up to his contract.
Compared to the other moves the Red Sox have made this year, a Swihart-for-Lucroy swap would be the one most blatantly focused on the present with little concern for the future. Of course, maybe there’s a different way to make this deal, but probably not so long as the Red Sox’ current young starters (Betts, Bradley, Bogaerts) are off the table along with the names Gammons mentioned. If the Sox are in here, they have to have a lot of faith that this team and the next can win it all with Lucroy in the mix.