Mariners Trade Target: Jonathan Lucroy, Revenge of the Nerd


There have been quite a few moves from the front office in the last few weeks.  But none have been a major.  Every general manager makes a signing or a trade that defines his tenure and makes the paradigm shift from the previous direction to the new one.  The moves that have been made this far signal a change and begin to change the tide, but I don’t believe the significant one has been made yet.  I believe for Jerry Dipoto this move could very well be to solidify the catching position for the Mariners.  The catching position is extremely important defensively.  Recently you have probably read that the Mariners are interested in adding a catcher to the team to upgrade the catching situation.  You have probably read articles that Jerry Dipoto is close to signing free agent Chris Ianetta. But as Brian Helberg pointed out a few months ago, Jonathan Lucroy is a great trade target for the Mariners.  A very good case can be made to trade for Jonathan Lucroy now.

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First of all it appears that Jonathan Lucroy may be available.  It was recently reported that the new GM in Milwaukee may be willing to listen to trade offers for Jonathan Lucroy.  The Brewers are in a rebuild mode and are searching for players to build their roster.  They appear to be targeting a 3rd baseman and center field.

Jonathan Lucroy is the gold standard for catchers.  He was an All-Star in 2014.  And his stats in his first 6 years in the league are very good defensively and offensively.  He saves (or prevents) runs defensively in several ways.  From pitch framing, to blocking pitches, to throwing out runners.  He’s been ranked atop the of the advanced catching metrics over at Baseball Prospectus for several years (2010 #1, 2011, #1, 2012 #2, 2013 #1, 2014 #6, 2015 #28).  These are the most respected catching metrics in the SABR community from what I have read.  Offensively he’s been an all-star as well.  His lifetime .282/.340/.430 slash line says most here.  As far as catcher’s go, this is exceptional production.  Just two years ago he posted .320/.368/.513.

Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

For years the Mariners have gotten very little offensive production from their catching.  The mendoza line has been synonymous with an optimistic expectation from the catching position in the lineup.  Recently however, they’ve gotten better production from the defensive metrics side with the addition of Mike Zunino if you go look at the chart at BP (2013 #15, 2014 #4, 2015 #13), but offensively there has been a hole in the lineup for the most part. Zunino’s lifetime slash line of .193/.252/.353 shows you that his slugging is ok when he makes contact, but he’s lacking in consistency and on base percentage. Zunino is still young and with the demotion to AAA will indeed work hard on making his way back up to the big club.  He may have been brought up too soon, but that’s something that can’t be changed anymore.

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Chris Ianetta would be a nice addition to the Mariners and it would improve the defense as Ianetta has shown a rise in his defensive metrics last year.  However, going forward I don’t believe he is the answer.  His offense is on par with what the Mariners have had.  And with all the signings the Mariners have had, they really need more consistent hitters.  The contact rates will improve for the team with the players the Mariners have added so far this offseason as will the defense, but that alone won’t take the Mariners to the next level.  There needs to be a helper to the pitching staff that can produce offensively and help make the pitchers better.  And I think it’s Jonathan Lucroy who’s teammates have jokingly referred to as the nerd.  In my research I truly enjoyed reading about how much he learns from his experience.  This is someone who would be awesome in the clubhouse and uses his experience to elevate his game and those around him.  A student of the game.  Jonathan Lucroy can stabilize this team’s catching position and help the Seattle take their revenge on the Brewers organization who is the original Seattle baseball club the Pilots that Bud Selig relocated to Milwaukee, but also gave us our most recently departed general manager.  Ok, so maybe revenge of the nerds is stretching this a bit much.  But hey, every club needs their curse of the bambino right?

Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Brewers do not want to pay Lucroy any more than they have as per the denial of contract extension talks last summer.  I think this has affected him so much that it affected his play in 2015.  Lucroy asked for an extension to his contract for 5 years to settle down and not worry about his future but the Brewers nixed that.  So it might be time to make a trade and a change of scenery will spark his play and work on giving him a contract to keep him in Seattle.  He has 2 years left on his current contract.  I believe the Mariners have the right prospects and have some major league talents they can use to make a trade.  Even if they have to give up some good prospects or a really good major league player.  And I’m not saying this lightly.  I know how tough it is to hear that the M’s have traded someone we’ve all waited to explode on to the major league scene like Adam Jones or someone who’s been on the major league club already with a lot of potential like Zunino or Seager.  And I am NOT condoning trading away Kyle Seager by any means.  But the reality of the current situation is that without this cornerstone behind the plate, the team is missing someone that can not only elevate the batting lineup but can significantly improve our pitching staff.  If the move can be made by keeping Seager and trading DJ Peterson, then great.  This is the kind of move that can create a paradigm shift for this team.  One that can someday soon bring a World Series to Seattle and Safeco Field.  Something we’ve never seen in Seattle.