Would Jonathan Lucroy Be A Good Fit For The Houston Astros?
How good of a fit would former Louisiana Ragin' Cajun baseball star Jonathan Lucroy be for the Houston Astros?
Personally, I think he would be a great fit.
The 31-year old Lucroy, who is an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his Major League Baseball career, will be the top catcher available on the open market this offseason.
A member of the UL baseball squad from 2005-2007, before being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the third round of the 2007 amateur entry draft, Lucroy, a two-time National League All-Star selection (2014 & 2016), began last season with the Texas Rangers, before being traded to the Colorado Rockies in late July.
Last season, with the Rangers, was a disappointment for Lucroy, hitting only a .242 with 4 home runs and 27 runs batted in, before bouncing back a little, hitting a .310 with 2 homers and 13 RBI's over the final two months with the Rockies.
So, between stints in Texas and Colorado last season, Lucroy hit a .265, to go along with 6 homers and 40 RBI's.
After hitting 24 homers in 2016, Lucroy's drop in power numbers is a little concerning. As a matter of fact, the drop in power will likely cost Lucroy at least one season on his deal, along with a decent amount of money.
Still, Lucroy has earned, and should expect, a really nice multi-year deal.
First, even in a down year, Lucroy was able to hit a .265, which ranked 6th, behind only Buster Posey (.320), J.T. Realmuto (.278), Gary Sanchez (.278), Yadier Molina (.273), and Salvador Perez (.268) among catchers with at least 400 at-bats.
Also, you have to keep in mind how good Lucroy was from 2012-2016. In 641 games over that span, Lucroy hit a combined .291, while posting a .353 on-base percentage, as well as a .465 slugging percentage. For a catcher, especially one regarded as one of the best, defensively, those are monster numbers.
Because of those numbers, a lot of people thought that Lucroy would get a contract similar to the 5-year, $82 million deal that Russell Martin signed with the Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 2015 season.
Due to the slow start with the Rangers in 2017, Lucroy likely won't get that kind of deal, but anything less than $30 million over three years would be incredibly surprising.
And that's the low end. I'm expecting more.
The Minnesota Twins signed catcher Jason Castro to a 3-year, $24.5 million deal last offseason, while the Pittsburgh Pirates inked Francisco Cervelli to a 3-year, $31 million extension prior to last season.
No offense to Castro or Cervelli, but they haven't come close to doing what Lucroy has done, so anything less than $30 million over three years would be criminal.
Now, Lucroy, a native of Eustis, Florida, could always elect to sign a one-year deal with someone, and gamble on having a big year, allowing him to maybe get a bigger deal next year, but after spending time with three franchises over the last three years, he likely wants to sign with a place that he can call home for at least the next two years.
Defensively, Lucroy doesn't rate as an elite framer of pitches like he did back in 2014, but he's still very good behind the dish, and organizations couldn't ask for a better human being.
I truly believe that he'll get a three-year deal, with maybe an option year, averaging around $12 million a year. I also believe the organization that gets him will get a bargain.
So, where will Lucroy end up playing next year? Well, the Rockies are an obvious choice. He played well after being traded to them, and he said he'd welcome a return to Denver.
But I'd love to see him sign with the defending World Champion Houston Astros.
The Astros reportedly have interest in Lucroy, and I think it would be a great fit.
First, Even Gattis, who split time at catcher with Brian McCann last season, may not be back.
Gattis, who earned $5.2 million in 2017, is expecting to earn close to $7 million in 2018.
That may be too rich for the Astros, who could trade Gattis, or even non-tender him, making him a free agent.
Gattis threw out only 4 of 39 base runners last season, but provided the Astros with a hitting threat. If they want to upgrade the catching position, without losing a quality bat, Lucroy would be an obvious choice.
The other thing you have to keep in mind is that Carlos Beltran, the Astros' designated hitter last season, is now retired.
Beltran made $16 million last season.
Now, granted, the Astros will have to spend some money on arbitration-eligible players, and on a left-hander reliever, which is their top priority, but without Beltran, and possibly Gattis on the books next season, that's $21.2 million that could go to those things, and to Lucroy.
Lucroy could serve as a right-handed hitting compliment to McCann at the catcher position, could serve as a DH in place of Beltran when he's not catching, and could even play first base, allowing the Astros to DH Yuli Gurriel.
Lucroy to the Astros makes sense from a baseball standpoint, and from a financial standpoint.
Jonathan Lucroy to the Astros; sounds great to me!