By: Mark Prott
Let the madness of the August 1st trade deadline begin! No doubt Milwaukee Brewers General Manager Davis Stearns will be fielding a lot of calls from now until the deadline but sounds like things could be heating up sooner rather than later. ESPN’s Buster Olney already reporting that the Indians and Brewers have begun discussing a possible trade that would send the All-Star Catcher Jonathan Lucroy to the Cleveland Indians likely for multiple prospects.
The Brewers are known to have discussed Lucroy with the Texas Rangers and most likely multiple other teams have kicked the tires as well but to me, Cleveland seems to be the perfect match. Let’s first take a look at a possible deal from Cleveland’s side. Sitting in first place in the AL Central, things are looking up for the Indians right now but then again, it’s still only July with a lot of baseball to be played. Former Brewers prospect and current Indians outfielder Michael Brantley suffered another setback to his shoulder, so it’s anyone’s guess when he’ll come back or if this will linger all year. Which leads me to believe the Indians decision makers want to strengthen other areas of the team for their upcoming pennant race. And the one position that stands out like a sore thumb on that team is catcher. Steve Adams of mlbtraderumors.com notes that Cleveland has by far the worst production in all of baseball from their catchers, hitting well under .200 for the year.
Jonathan Lucroy on the other hand has been a hitting machine, ranking third among all catchers in baseball with a .305 batting average and second in OPS at .854 entering play Thursday. Don’t forget his defense, ability to throw runners out (currently leads MLB with 28), and his ability to pitch frame. He’s also a leader in the clubhouse. Hurts to say being a Brewers fan but Lucroy would look darn good in the middle of the Indians lineup and I know the city of Cleveland would love him just like the fans do here in Milwaukee.
Add in the Cleveland Indians desire to add back end relief help and I feel a blockbuster deal could be on its way. The Brewers happen to have two of the most coveted relievers on the market in lefty Will Smith and right hander Jeremy Jeffress, who is 23 out of 24 in save opportunities. Not only are both having great seasons, but they also won’t become free agents until 2020.
Now on to the Brewers side of things. GM David Stearns has made it clear he wants top value for Lucroy as well as his coveted relief pitchers and he will walk if he doesn’t get that in a deal. Lucroy has 1.5 years of control so Stearns knows the offseason is another possibility to deal Lucroy but with his value probably at an all time high, it would be great if the Brewers could find a taker right now to advance the rebuild. The Cleveland Indians possess the ammunition in their farm system to get this deal done now. Coming into 2016, they were ranked the #16 best farm system by Baseball America. But with many of their top prospects having excellent seasons, unlike the case with the Brewers prospects, their ranking is likely on the rise.
The Indians have a nice balance of 6 pitchers and 4 hitters among their top 10 prospects ranking on mlb.com. Even if the Indians hold onto their top 3 prospects in outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier, and pitcher Brady Aiken, a deal can still get done in my opinion. Among those 4 hitters is Bobby Bradley, a power hitting first baseman and catcher Francisco Mejia, who is having a huge season. Both spots are weak in the Brewers farm system and no doubt would be intriguing to Stearns and company. 3 high upside but young arms in lefties Justus Sheffield, Juan Hillman, and righty Triston Mckenzie also look like possible targets that would appeal to the Brewers brass.
Adding a Will Smith to a Lucroy deal would certainly drive the asking price up in a deal, enough so that Brewers could legitimately ask for 4-5 of the top 10 prospects on a team like the Indians. With just about every contending team wanting relief help, the Brewers could very well trade a Jeffress or a Smith on their own for a good return, but the thought here is the Indians would be wise to kill 2 birds with 1 stone in a blockbuster deal with the Brewers.