About 5 months ago, Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the following about the Brewers rebuilding project that started to form last off-season:
“I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to compete for the playoffs this year,” Lucroy said in a telephone interview with Haudricourt back in January. “If I did that, you’d call me a liar. I’d lose credibility and respect.
“I want to win and I don’t see us winning in the foreseeable future. I want to go to a World Series. That’s what all players want. Rebuilding is not a lot of fun for any veteran guy.”
Weeks later, at the team’s annual ‘Brewers on Deck’ event, Lucroy’s teammate Ryan Braun revealed what he thought about Lucroy’s comments:
“I talked to him, because a couple of the guys reached out to me and I think he felt that his comments were taken out of context. I made it clear to him that’s just not how we’re going to handle the situation. And he means well. You guys know Luc. He’s a real good guy. He always means well. He’s coming from a good place. Sometimes guys get frustrated. Sometimes guys react emotionally. He knows that’s just not how we’re going to handle it,” Braun said.
Fast forward another couple of weeks, and this is what Lucroy had to say to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com:
“So regardless of what I said in the past about not wanting to be on a rebuilding team — I’m going to make the best out of it. We have a really good group of guys, a good coaching staff, and the fans are awesome and they’re going to support us, no matter what. I just want to be positive and I want to have fun.”
“It doesn’t make sense to come out here and be bitter. It’s just about getting back to playing a game for a living, having fun with it. I kind of had an epiphany a couple of weeks ago. I realized, ‘I’m going back to the Brewers, no doubt. So let’s do something positive.’”
Lucroy has been doing something positive for Milwaukee in 2016. He has returned to one of the game’s best catchers, as he is batting .312/.367/.524 with 10 homers and 34 runs batted in on the year. His 34 runs batted in trail only Chris Carter for the team lead on the Brewers, who has 43.
An article written by has many potential landing spots for the former MVP candidate Lucroy. The Brewers currently sit at 31-37 on the year, 4.5 games back of the Cardinals for second place in the National League Central, a record that most people weren’t expecting out of the Brewers.
While the Brewers are overachieving, many still expect general manager David Stearns to deal Lucroy and other veterans like Aaron Hill, Chris Carter, and maybe even a bullpen pitcher like Will Smith or Jeremy Jeffress. All of these players are sure to bring the Brewers back a nice haul.
It’s very rare to see a veteran receive a long-term extension in a rebuilding season, but according to MLB Insider Jon Heyman, Jonathan Lucroy is open to signing one with the Brewers:
As GM David Stearns said in this space last week, an extension for Lucroy should not be ruled out. While there have yet to be talks, if the Brewers trade Ryan Braun, they may want to keep their franchise catcher who also happens to be having a great year – he just turned 30 and has shown a willingness to sign long-term before. Lucroy is said to be open to an extension, too, despite comments in the winter suggesting he was interested in a trade.
The 30-year-old Lucroy has a club option for the 2017 season in the final year of a five-year, $11 million Lucroy signed back in March of 2012. This contract is very team friendly, especially for a team in a small market like Milwaukee, which is why Lucroy is so appealing to other clubs.
Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants is currently the highest paid catcher in baseball according to Spotrac, making $20.7 million in 2016 in the fourth year of a eight-year, $159 million extension signed back in March of 2013 while Lucroy is the 13th highest paid catcher.
If Lucroy does indeed receive an extension from the Brewers, it’s unlikely that it would be as massive as Buster Posey’s extension. Last year in July, it was revealed that Lucroy and his agent came to the Brewers in January to discuss an extension:
“It was a proposal that would have kept me here for the rest of my career, most likely,” Lucroy said. “We gave it to them in early January, and when we got to Spring Training, they informed us they weren’t interested in doing anything at this point in time.”
Lucroy ending up with an extension at this time would raise some immediate questions with the Brewers future right away. Over the winter, Milwaukee traded slugging outfielder Khris Davis to the Oakland Athletics in-exchange for pitching prospect Bubba Derby and catching prospect Jacob Nottingham – who is rated the 8th best catching prospect in baseball, per MLB.com.
There are some questions from scouts about Nottingham on defense as a catcher, and so far at Double-A Biloxi in 2016, Nottingham has already recorded 15 passed balls, and is 11-25 on throwing out base runners, causing those same questions to still be asked.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell praised Nottingham as a catcher during Brewers spring training:
“There’s no question in anybody’s mind,” Counsell said. “He’s going to be a catcher.”
Nottingham also would like to stay as a catcher, but he’s open to changing positions if the Brewers end up asking him too:
“I want to be a catcher. I don’t want to move positions,” Nottingham said. “I mean, if they ask me to, I’ll do whatever they say, but I want to be a catcher and I want to be a big league catcher. I’ll do anything I can to stay there.”
Milwaukee still does not have a 1st baseman for the future, and hasn’t been able to get much production from the spot since Prince Fielder left town for Detroit in the winter of 2011. If Nottingham is asked to move positions, it will likely mean he would be moved to 1st base, where he has played 136.1 career innings there in the Minors.
This on-going debate with Nottingham will only get more heat if the Brewers decide to hold onto Lucroy. Lucroy has appeared in 44 games at first base, but as he said back in August 2014, he has no interest in becoming a full-time first baseman:
“I feel like I’d go from an above-average catcher to an average first baseman,” said Lucroy. “I don’t really want to do that. To be the best at something, you’ve got to do that all the time. Some guys are freak athletes and can do that but I’m not one of those guys.”
It should be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out regarding Jonathan Lucroy’s future with the Brewers.
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