As the MLB trade deadline quickly approaches, there have been numerous rumors involving the Milwaukee Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy. The strongest ones involve a potential trade to the Texas Rangers or the Cleveland Indians.
Both teams make sense as a Lucroy landing spot for a handful of reasons. First, each club leads their respective division and should be considered legitimate World Series contenders. They also would each have the necessary talent to offer back to the Brewers.
Texas has the deeper talent pool and lauded farm system, but Cleveland has a few highly-touted kids that would do the trick if the Indians were willing to part with them.
Both teams also have lackluster offensive catchers – and that may be putting it mildly.
Indians’ catchers collectively reside at the bottom of MLB with the bats, dead last in OBP (.211) and OPS (.511) – that’s an OPS an abysmal 60 points below the next worst group of catchers. They also own the league’s lowest numbers in advanced stats like weighted on-base average (wOBA) and weighted runs created (wRC).
And this was mostly with starter Yan Gomes healthy. He’s going to be missing a month or two with a separated shoulder. Gomes is currently batting .165 with a .198 OBP and 69 strikeouts (compared to just 9 walks).
The Rangers haven’t been quite as bad as a group, although none of their backstops have done much at the plate consistently. Of the three who have played in at least 30 games, no one has an OBP above .292 and they’ve combined to hit .233 with 75 punch outs.
Robinson Chirinos has hit well since the break, but he entered the 2nd half of the season with a .197 average. His two home runs on Thursday helped boost his OPS to .833 on the year. However, that’s terribly deceiving since he has fewer than 100 plate appearances.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee’s All-Star catcher owns a .361 wOBA and an .854 OPS, both good for 2nd at his position. His improved power thus far has been a nice addition, posting a .492 slugging percentage thanks to 12 HR, just 6 shy of his career best.
So it’s clear to see the immediate offensive value Lucroy would bring to either club at a premier position. Both teams are in the bottom half of overall OPS+ in the American League, so despite their success, a cliff could be looming.
The next question would be, how would Lucroy impact each team defensively?
From a pure skills standpoint, Lucroy is one of the best at framing pitches and blocking balls in the dirt. That increases his stock, benefiting any club that would swing a deal.
He doesn’t have the greatest arm, but he has quick feet and gets rid of the ball well, helping him to a 38% caught stealing rate this year. That ranks 8th in MLB (minimum 30 games) and is better than Texas and Cleveland have done.
All this may lead one to wonder what the Indians and Rangers are waiting for. Sure, Brewers’ GM David Stearns is asking for the moon right now (which he should), so that could be giving the teams pause for concern. They may be hoping that the price drops a touch as the deadline gets closer as well.
But still, whoever gets Lucroy will gain an edge over the other team in their race to the AL pennant.
Here’s where the hidden factor could come into play when determining who may actually make a deal. The problem is this factor is something that’s difficult to measure. Will changing catchers in the middle of a season hurt the pitching staff?
We hear constantly how catchers must know their hurlers inside and out, even getting credit for “handling a pitching staff.” They work tirelessly throughout Spring Training to ensure the relationship creates the ultimate performance over the course of the season.
Perhaps this is seen more so with a young staff, but the chemistry and understanding between the battery mates does seem to be an essential part.
Of course, that’s not something even advanced metrics can put a number on as it is mental or psychological in nature. In theory, there could just as easily be a positive impact as a negative one, depending on the circumstances of each team and the makeup of the players involved.
Overall, the Indians have better pitching. It’s really not that close, either. Cleveland’s hurlers lead the AL in ERA at 3.62, while Texas owns a 4.53 staff ERA, 13th out of 15 clubs. Or take the FIP statistic (fielding independent pitching) and you’ll see the Indians with the 2nd-best number in the AL (3.86) with the Rangers 2nd-worst in MLB (4.85).
Cleveland may look at this and believe another catcher could disrupt the chemistry of their high-quality pitching staff, creating more problems than benefit in the long run. This could be causing the Indians to drag their feet or feel the asking price is too high in terms of prospects, simply due to the greater risk.
Texas, however, may see this as a “what have we got to lose” situation. Lucroy’s bat and defensive skills are obvious improvements, and maybe he can lift up the struggling pitching. There’s no guarantee, but they can’t get much worse, so his value may even be elevated some more.
While there are always a number of factors teams will consider before swapping players – especially some of their better assets – sometimes it’s one of the considerations further down the list that makes or breaks a potential deal.
With a player like Lucroy, the well-defined positives are easy to spot. In the end, it’s this hidden factor that will ultimately swing the pendulum one way or the other…or hold it still until the offseason.
Indians Exercise Contract Option on Corey Kluber
The Cleveland Indians made a move to address a key player’s status with the team for the 2020 season when they officially exercised the $17.5 million contract option for pitcher Corey Kluber next season.
The move doesn’t come as a surprise as Indians’ team president Chris Antonetti said last month that the Indians would pick up Kluber’s option.
In a corresponding move, the Indians declined the options on second baseman Jason Kipnis and relief pitcher Dan Otero for the 2020 season.
Kluber, 33, wasn’t able to pitch for the Indians after May 1st due to a broken arm he sustained due to a comebacker. Kluber was working his way towards returning later in the season before his comeback was derailed in the minors when he suffered an oblique injury, shelving him for the rest of the season.
Kluber is a former two-time Cy Young award winner.
Kipnis, who has spent his entire career with the Indians, had a $16.5 million option for next season, and while the team did decline to exercise it, the team has not ruled bringing him back.
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Reds Acquire Trevor Baeur, Indians Land Yasiel Puig
The Cincinnati Reds have acquired starting pitcher Trevor Bauer from the Cleveland Indians in a three-team deal that was executed late Tuesday night.
As part of the deal, Bauer heads to Cincy, while outfielder Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes will head to the Indians. Cleveland also lands mire league pitcher Scott Moss from Cincinnati.
Furthermore, the San Diego Padres will ship left-hander Logan Allen and minor league infielder Victor Nova to Cleveland, while receiving top prospect Taylor Trammel from the Reds.
Bauer posted a 9-8 record with a 3.79 ERA and 185 strikeouts for the Indians this season.
Puig is once again on the move, having already been traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Reds back in December, and left the Reds dramatically when he was involved in a benches clearing brawl during the ninth-inning which led to his ejection, along with several other players.
Puig is hitting .252 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs so far this season.
“I’m going to miss all my teammates here,” Puig said (h/t ESPN). “This part of the year is amazing for me, being on this team and the city. Now it’s time to move forward and go to my new team and help my team go to the playoffs. … I want to say thank you to all the city, Cincinnati. We stay next door — we’re going to Cleveland.”
Indians Retire Jim Thome’s Number 25
The Cleveland Indians have officially retired the number 25 worn by Hall of Fame slugger, and franchise career home run leader, Jim Thome on Saturday.
Thome was honored in a pregame ceremony, prior to the Indians game against the Baltimore Orioles, who Thome also played for during his long career, in which they lost 2-1.
During the ceremony, Thome took his familiar home run trot around the bases one final time, this time accompanied by his son, Landon, and was mobbed by his former teammates as he crossed home plate.
Thome’s retired jersey number will now be permanently displayed in the upper deck of Progressive Field between fellow Hall of Famers Bob Lemon’s 21 and Larry Doby’s 14.
Thome mashed 337 homers to become Cleveland’s career home run leader, and it will be fun to see if any player can catch, or surpass Thome’s number, making it fun for betting sites, such as bettingsites.ltd , to track in the years to come.
Many of Thome’s former teammates and managers were on hand for the celebration, including Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Charlie Manuel and Mike Hargrove.
Current Indian players also paid homage to Thome, by wearing high socks that mimicked Thome’s look during his playing days.
“To have my jersey retired gives me the chills,” Thome said, according to ESPN News. “To see my number hanging in the rafters in the company of Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Jackie Robinson, Mel Harder, Larry Doby, Earl Averill, Bob Lemon and Frank Robinson, I don’t really know what to say. That’s some ‘Field of Dreams’ stuff right there.”
“To this day, these guys are my brothers, and I’m so touched that you all would take the time to come today,” Thome said.
Thome, who spent 13 years with the Indians organization, batted .276 and hit 612 home runs, eighth on the all-time home run list, during his MLB career.
“The ’90s were exciting times in baseball, and there was no place better than the corner of Ontario and Carnegie,” Thome continued. “This organization from top to bottom is first-class all the way. I was so proud to go into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Cleveland Indians.”
Additionally, Thome is the Indians’ career leader in walks (1,008) and is second in career RBIs (937).
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