Would you like the good news or the bad news first? Well too bad, you’re getting the good news first because that’s the only way this bit works.
The good news is: the Colorado Rockies addressed their need at catcher this week. The bad news is: did they really, though? Sunday night, the Rockies acquired Jonathan Lucroy from the Texas Rangers for a player to be named later. Yes, you read that correctly. One season removed from being packaged with reliever Jeremy Jeffress in a trade that took Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz to Milwaukeea��they are now Milwaukee’s top hitting and pitching prospects, respectivelya��Lucroy was shipped off for……some guy?
Look, the most flattering thing we can say about Jonathan Lucroy at this point in time is that…well…hmm…is that he’s handsome? Yes, okay fine, we’ll go with that. Jonathan Lucroy is a handsome individual. Now if you’re looking for us to talk about what he brings to the baseball field, that’s going to be tough. And by tough, I mean nearly impossible. Lucroy’s production has almost quite literally fallen off a cliff. Hell for all we know Lucroy really did fall off a cliff but he had far inferior clone of himself ready just in case. Maybe it’s his long-lost twin brother we’ve been seeing all season; who’s to say? After all, Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi moonlights as WWE’s Sami Zayn, so anything is possible here. *Looks at photo above* Holy (redacted), is that actually Sami Zayn?
But enough of these games. What happened to Jonathan Lucroy? He just turned 31 years old in June. He’s a two-time All-Star. Heck, he was an All-Star just last year! Plus in 2014, Lucroy hit and caught his way all the way to fourth in MVP voting. But in short, it’s not that he’s just not very good. Rather, it’s that he’s actually incredibly bad.
Lucroy cannot hit anymore. Or at least he can’t right now, with his .242/.297/.338/.665 slash line serving as plenty of evidence. He cannot play defense anymore, says his Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) mark of -15.7a��courtesy of Baseball Prospectus. Moving down the line, Baseball Reference paints a grim picture as well: a defensive runs saved mark of -10. Are you noticing a trend? Perhaps the only positive observation we can make about Lucroy is that he’s still throwing out 30 percent of would-be base-stealers. That’s a bit over the league average this season (27 percent) and right in line with his career average (28 percent). But that doesn’t make up for how shaky he’s been otherwise. And for what it’s worth, Lucroy was throwing out 39 percent of runners just one season ago.
According to Fangraphs, Lucroy finished with 3.5 fWAR in 2012. The catch? A broken hand shortened his season to just 96 games. But that’s how good he was in 2012. The following season, even with 147 games under his belt, that number slipped to 3.4. Still, it was clear Lucroy could hit. And at the time, he was one of the game’s best pitch-framers behind home plate. That’s certainly not the case anymore. Then came 2014. Lucroy would ride a .301/.373/.465/.838 slash line and a league-leading 53 doubles all the way up to 6.2 fWAR. His ability behind home plate wasn’t bad either. Even when injuries would lead to a dip in production and limit him to just 103 games in 2015, Lucroy bounced back the following season over 142 games between the Brewers and Rangers.
Does that mean next season will be better? Not necessarily. Catchers don’t typically get better as they age. Their bodies break down quicker. Still, Lucroy is set to be a free agent this winter. Just one year ago, there was probably a mega-extension waiting for him at the end of this rainbow. Now? Not so much. He’s got a little more to play for as this season comes to a close. Additionally, he’s back on a team that is currently in the postseason hunt. Will that provide enough of a boost? For their troubles, by the way, the Rockies are giving up virtually nothing here. This is as low-risk, high-reward as it gets.
But maybe Lucroy bounces back before the season ends. Maybe he needs Coors more than any player has ever needed Coors before. Or maybe that’s it. Perhaps Jonathan Lucroy is just a catcher whose peak came fast and crashed just as quickly. Whose glimpse of an MVP-caliber season back in 2014 was simply nothing more than that.