LA Angels get their man in the mask signing catcher Jonathan Lucroy
By David Rice
After the LA Angels traded defensive stalwart Martin Maldonado away at the trade deadline, the Angels catching situation became murky at best. Friday, the Angels clarified things signing Jonathan Lucroy.
For weeks many LA Angels fans as well as many sports writers have been clamoring for the Angels to sign a big-name free agent to fill their hole at catcher created by the Maldonado trade. Friday evening Angels general manager Billy Eppler was finally able to sign a suitable replacement in free agent Jonathan Lucroy.
Lucroy was one of the top offensive catchers in baseball just two seasons ago. Lucroy was an all-star in 2016 when he batted .292 with 24 homers and drove in 81 runs. In 2017 Lucroy dipped a bit hitting only six homers and driving in 40 runs but still hit a solid .265 for the season.
However in 2018 Lucroy had his worst season as a professional with a career-low .241 batting average and also a career-low four homers and .291 OBP as a member of the Oakland A’s. Some may say it is age catching up to the 32-year old, but I think it is a byproduct of playing in McAfee Coliseum in Oakland which is a noted pitchers paradise that was the culprit.
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Lucroy is a two-time all-star (2014, 2016) with a career batting average of .277. He has also average 12 homers per season and 64 RBIs with a .337 lifetime OBP. With these career numbers I think he will do just fine in Anaheim especially in a line-up with Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Shohei Ohtani, and Andrelton Simmons hitting around him.
Defensively there may be a little more reason to worry as Lucroy made a career-high 10 errors behind the plate in Oakland which is more than he made in the past two seasons combined. Lucroy had a -0.7 WAR in 2018 which reflected both his lack of hitting and fielding. His defensive runs saved is also on the decline.
However, compared to what the Angels had in the fold, Jose Briceno and Kevan Smith, Lucroy is definitely an upgrade and a low-cost upgrade to boot. Lucroy’s deal is for one year at a cost of 3.5 million dollars is almost nothing in today’s market. Compared to throwing 13-15 million dollars per year to get Yasmani Grandal or 12.5 million a year for Wilson Ramos and you have a bargain basement price for a proven veteran.
I believe Lucroy will bounce back offensively this season and hit at least .260 with 10 or more home runs and drive in 60 or more runs. If this does indeed happen you heard it here first and it will be one of the greatest heists of Billy Eppler’s young general managerial career. If Lucroy does not improve you have lost almost nothing in terms of salary and if you are still in the hunt in July you can make a trade to upgrade the catching position for the stretch run.
I wholeheartedly like this pick-up by the Angels and while it may not be the move that pushes the team over-the-top, but it is definitely a move in the right direction.