Nationals Baseball: What would you give up for Lucroy?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What would you give up for Lucroy?

John Lucroy wants to win. The Nats want to win, too.  They've talked about liking Lucroy. A perfect fit... if it was 2015 again.

We mentioned just yesterday again the Nats' less than ideal catcher situation. You can blame injuries or you can blame talent but Ramos has never developed as they thought he might. He has had continuous trouble staying on the field and last year, in his first healthy season in years, he was awful. He hangs on to average usefulness through his defense. He may be ok this year, if the Nats are lucky. Then he hits free agency meaning the Nats would have to pay for a catcher to replace him.*  Going into the offseason with an outright NEED is not the Nats way.

Lucroy should solve the production problem. Even in an off-year caused by concussion he was close to average. It's reasonable to expect some bounceback to an average season which would be a huge improvement over the last 2 years of Ramos/Lobaton. And it shouldn't be at the expense of defense. Lucroy's D has been good across the board for years and was above average again last year. So what's the problem?

The problem is which Lucroy do the Brewers think they are trading and which Lucroy do the other teams think they are trading for. From 2012-2014 Lucroy was an all-star level catcher. He could field and he could hit and combining that with his relatively young age (28 at the end of 2014), health (played full 2013 and 2014) and contract situation (2 more controlled years) made him arguably the second most valuable catcher in baseball going into 2015 behind Buster Posey. That Lucroy was worth your best prospect. Maybe not Giolito, but a Ross+ or a Turner+ definitely. (at least to those of us that don't overvalue prospects). That Lucroy was never on the table.  

2015 Lucroy got injured and put up a much worse offensive season than he had in the past. He was barely average with more than half the league providing more offense than him. He also saw some major defensive declines biting into his other value. He seems like he could be a one year rental if he wants to test FA and he could be a coin flip on playing a full season.This Lucroy is worth a decent prospect but nothing more. Something sitting at the bottom of the Top 100, something like pre-2015 AJ Cole straight up.

The Brewers want to deal the 2012-2014 under the assumption the 2015 Lucroy was an anomaly. The teams want to give up talent equal to what the 2015 Lucroy is worth, acting like 2012-2014 is mostly ancient history. Can they meet in the middle?

The easy thing would be for the Nats to offer something in the middle, like a Cole+ deal. But the Nats have a particular problem with trades like this, because of an issue that has dogged them for years now. They have no "2nd tier" to their minor league. Rizzo bets big on his picks, often going for guys who should be great if they are healthy. Occasionally he hits and the Nats have a big time prospect on their hands (Rendon, Giolito) occasionally he misses and the Nats have nothing (Purke). Overall this works pretty good but it leaves the Nats devoid of those "next best" minor leaguers, the ones made for deals like this. You might have been tricked into thinking they did last year but that was only because Rizzo dealt for them, bringing in Ross and Turner. The rest of those touted propects were probably overrated as evidenced by the fact they are going to fall off the list. Cole's timed out not making that next step in 2 years. Difo hasn't put up a good AA year. Lopez was bad. Unfortunately no one is joining them. Any previous Fedde ranking was all hope and he didn't justify it last year. Victor Robles has potential but hasn't played a game outside of low A. Andrew Stevenson, the Nats highest pick last draft, is just a guy in A ball right now.

So there is no "Cole+" available to the Nats. They could step it up, but a Turner or a Ross straight up now seems like an overpay for a potential one-year rental who didn't perform last year**. They'd love to step it down but a Difo plus a couple whatevers seems like an underpay for a potential all-star at a bargain price.

The middle point then is in a group of these other guys Difo and Cole and Lopez or At least two and something not terrible. But that guts the farm. It's a tough call.

This would all be easier if Lucroy had just had another very good year or if he wasn't that good to begin with. We'd all have a good idea on what the price should be. Then it's just a do they want to do it. With the price fluctuating it becomes harder.  I'm saying it should be around Difo/Cole/+ but the Brewers may not agree, or the Nats may not agree. That's even before getting into the "should" part.

What do I think? I think you do offer Difo/Cole/+ and you do try to sign Lucroy to an extension because we're at the end of something here. There may be a new beginning, there may not be but I don't see Difo/Cole as keystones to any new beginning and we know there is a chance in 2016. Take it.

*Lobaton is no better and is older. Nats catching prospects are not good or close. 

**Yes, I said Lucroy was worth these guys PLUS other stuff going into 2015. Things change. Lucroy was unexpectedly injured/bad. Ross went well past expectations skyrocketing his value and Turner kept on his, raising his value as he got closer to majors. It happens. Works the other way too. You might have said Lucroy was worth Cole, Difo, Lopez going into last year.  Let's say Lucroy had a 2015 like 2014. Even with one less year of control it'd be hard to say he was worth the same as those guys this year given they've all disappointed in one way or another.


Zimmerman11 said...

LuCroy and Murphy as my big offseason presents? BOOOOOOOOO!!!

Am looking forward to a really big season from Bryce as he positions himself for a nice 500M deal from NYY in a couple of years. So regardless of how badly I think Rizzo has screwed the pooch this offseason, hope springs eternal... pitchers and catchers report in ONE MONTH!

Washington Nationals: Pitchers and Catchers Saturday, Feb. 20 | Everybody Thursday, Feb. 25

Zimmerman11 said...

Please DONT pay out the wazoo for Cespedes becuase he's what's "left" of the free agents... Heyward and Upton are different players than Cespedes and we should try and limit clubhouse cancers. With the assclown Papelbon still attached...

Nevermind!!! Let Darwin sort it out... Papelbon VS Cespedes in the dugout would be EPIC!!!

Chaz R said...

Yea, really hard to peg Lucroy's current value. Fangraphs projects him to have a pretty good bounce back season, but they also like Ramos. Lucroy doesn't project much better than Ramos in Fangraphs' world. What would happen to Ramos shold they get Lucroy? Another trade or part of one for Lucroy?

I'm wondering what might be available in next year's FA if they don't fix the need now?

Jay said...

Do you sign Cespedes and trade Taylor to Milwaukee for Lucroy? Just a thought. I agree that it has been a very bleh offseason. "Experts" on Espn don't even have them among the top 10 teams in baseball. Not that they were right last year. It makes those two MW years all the more painful because of missed opportunity.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure I agree with the comments about drafting, if only because I think the bigger issue has been the lack of drafting rather than the results. They have given up a first round pick in 2016, 2015, and 2013. Since 2012 they have only had 8 picks in the top 100 and of those 8 picks only two have been in the top 50.

So instead of pointing to a risky 3rd round pick, I think it would be more accurate to say they have been passing on young talent to sign protected players and also have yet to make a substantial investment on Latin American player the way other big market teams have.

Bjd1207 said...

Lobaton just makes no sense to me. I don't understand how you can hit progressively worse each year while you're still on the good side of 30. Is he losing measurable physical tools? Is he just not hitting the cage as much as he needs to?

I don't think he's serviceable at all anymore, which is why Lucroy presents such a desirable option. He's got the team option in 2017 which would put him (if he's good enough to pick up the option) in the same FA class as Werth, Espinosa, Lobaton, Revere. And if he sucks he's in with Stras, Ramos in the 2017 FA class. So he fits into our turnover plan pretty nicely since a sizable portion of our core (or slightly off-core) will be leaving between those 2 years.

blovy8 said...

I know clubs don't like to trade for catchers in mid season, but this is starting to feel like a thing where the Brewers are going to have too nice a chip not to try really leverage it. Since he's so cheap,you can't even really complain if 2015 is all you get. My feeling is that a club who can play him some at first will step in, because you can't feel secure about a foul tip or backswing not hitting his head and putting him on the DL some time in the next two seasons.

Jay said...

Looks like Nats are making a push for Cespedes. Let's see if it's more than trying to get him on the cheap. Rizzo did like him a lot when he first came to the MLB. Still think they may need a SP as well.

Bjd1207 said...

If we do get Cespedes we have to believe MAT is headed somewhere right? No one would take Werth and Revere fits our lineup needs much better

Rob Evans said...

I would love to have Harper and Cepedes back-to-back in the lineup. Together with Rendon, Zimm and Werth, that would make a pretty formidable lineup

sirc said...

Does this seem a little off to anyone else? Reports of activity doesn't happen very often under Rizzo. Why is this one being reported to heavily? The reports came at the same time as reports that the Nats had been in on Upton. Except, as is typical under Rizzo, those reports didn't come out during negotiations.

I think this might be a false rumor to try and wake the Mets and White Sox up rather than anything real.

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