Catcher and free agent Jonathan Lucroy is still unsigned. Could the Blue Jays actually be a fit for the former All-Star?
Under normal circumstances, catcher Jonathan Lucroy would have been signed long ago, likely to a multi-year deal. But, like the Chinese curse, we live in interesting times. A combination of teams being largely set at the primary catcher position, a general unwillingness to pay for aging bats, and Lucroy’s poor 2017 have led to his still being unemployed in March.
In discussing possible destinations, MLBTR.com said this about Lucroy and the Jays:
"The Blue Jays, meanwhile, are currently slated to use light-hitting Luke Maile as their backup to Russell Martin. There’s a fit there, but Lucroy probably prefers more playing time as he seeks to reestablish himself."
I suspect that MLBTR is exactly right – Lucroy would prefer (a) a primary catcher gig (b) with a contender (c) on a lucrative multi-year deal. But that outcome is looking increasingly uncertain. So what would Lucroy’s second choice look like?
Lucroy will turn 32 in June, so he should (?) have plenty of baseball left. His biggest issue is the ugly (by his standards) 2017 – particularly given his poor 2015. Assuming that the above first choice were not available, I would think that Lucroy would look for a one-year pillow deal to establish his value. He would then re-enter the free agent market in 2018-19, hopefully from a far better bargaining position.
Toronto Blue Jays
So what would he want in a pillow deal? JL’s greatest strength has always been his bat, so ideally he would want to play in a hitters’ ballpark in a hitters’ division. And ideally for a decent offensive team in its own right, both so he’s not pitched around frequently, and so he can put up the stats that we geeks all say are irrelevant (runs scored, RBIs) but that still impress some. A backup catching role, while not ideal, might still be acceptable if (a) the primary catcher were only expected to play ~100 games and (b) the primary catcher had an above-average injury risk.
On that basis, the Jays might be a good fit.
From the Jays’ perspective, a one-year deal for a veteran catcher could be a perfect bridge, giving Danny Jansen an additional year in triple-A to get ready for the MLB jump. And, as I mentioned in a previous article, an upgrade at backup catcher could provide more bang for the Jays’ payroll buck than any other position.
The bottom line
An upgrade from Maile to Lucroy would add value even if the latter continued to perform at 2017 levels. If he could rediscover his 2016 mojo, the Jays would be golden. In either case, he would appear a gamble well worth taking.