This was weird news to wake up to this morning. Late last night, I had seen a report that Jonathan Lucroy had been dealt to the Cleveland Indians, assuming that he waived his no-trade clause.
This morning, we find out that Lucroy had, in fact, exercised his no-trade clause to veto a trade to join the Indians, who had been quite busy after acquiring Andrew Miller from the Yankees for four minor leaguers. This was obviously shocking, seeing as through Lucroy had said publicly that he was hoping to be traded to a contender. Well, he got traded to the team with the best record in the American League, but that wasn’t good enough. Makes no sense, right? Well, it kind of does.
29-year-old Yan Gomes is Cleveland’s primary starting catcher, but Lucroy was Cleveland bound because Gomes has been on the disabled list since July 18 with a separated right shoulder. Not only that, but he was in the middle of a season in which he was hitting .165 with a .512 OPS. Obviously the Indians could’ve used an upgrade at the catching position, regardless of Gomes’ injury. Lucroy, an All Star this year, is hitting .301 with an .844 OPS, so you can see why the Indians pursued him as hard as they did, given that they have arguably the best rotation in the American League and could’ve used a boost with their offense.
As Jeff Passan noted, Lucroy wanted the Indians to rip up his option for 2017 in order to accept a trade. It was later reported that Lucroy wanted the option declined because he thought it would impact his playing time in 2017. That just doesn’t make any sense to me. Lucroy is clearly the better player over Gomes, so if he’s aware of that, then I’m not sure why he’d be concerned over playing time. I think the obvious explanation here is that this is very much free agency driven. Lucroy is having the second best season of his career, second to his 2012 campaign when he hit .320 with an .881 OPS in 96 games, but missed two months with a fractured right hand.
Lucroy also spent time on the disabled list in 2011 with a broken pinky, and this past season with a broken toe. If you’re Lucroy, playing time in Cleveland isn’t what you’re worried about. You’re having a healthy and productive season, which has been somewhat of a rarity in his career, and I’ve gotta believe he wants to cash in this offseason on a high note. If that were the case, I don’t think anybody would blame him for feeling that way, but I suppose you can’t just come out and say, “Yeah, I want my option declined because I want to get paid.”
Regardless, he’s still out there. There are conflicting reports that the Indians have “moved on from Lucroy” and there are also reports that they are still trying to convince him to come to Cleveland. It should be interesting to see if the Tribe can convince him to help put them over the top, or if another team swoops in and brings him on board under his demands.
UPDATE: The Indians are idiots. You don’t trade for an All Star catcher and then tell him he’s going to be the backup next year to a guy who literally can’t even hit his own weight. And while I appreciate the honesty, that’s not even an assessment you should make right now. That can wait until next year, and you keep an open mind about it until then. Bad call by Cleveland.