In recent weeks, there have been many rumors about the Brewers trying to sign some of their core players to extensions. These rumors have mainly been centered around Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and John Axford.
But, earlier today, the Brewers surprised their fan base by signing young catcher Jonathan Lucroy to a five-year extension, reportedly worth more than $11 million. The deal may not yet be finalized, but Lucroy was scratched from today’s ST game against the Indians, probably because the Brewers were closing in on a deal for him. Doug Melvin has yet to comment on the news, however.
If it does go through, though, it’s a great signing for the Crew. The Brewers haven’t had a catcher who has managed to stick with the team in years, and it appears that Lucroy will be in Milwaukee for awhile now. But Lucroy is a different catcher than the Brewers have had in recent years. They usually relied on a veteran free agent/trade piece to take on the job (i.e. Jason Kendall, Johnny Estrada, Gregg Zaun, etc.). But Lucroy the opposite of those names- he’s a young, homegrown catcher with a lot of promise.
It doesn’t appear Lucroy has hit his full potential in the Majors yet. He has only about a year and a half of MLB experience, as he got called up midway through the 2010 season after Zaun went down with a season-ending injury. In 75 games after getting called up in 2010, Lucroy hit .253 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. He started 2011 on the DL with a broken finger, but, in 136 games last year, hit 12 home runs with 59 RBIs while hitting .265. As you can see by the numbers, he’s shown flashes of power, which lead me to believe he’ll be a solid offensive catcher in the future. In fact, before a September drought that brought his average down to .265, Lucroy had been consistently hitting between .280 and .300 all season.
But one thing that really looks promising about Lucroy is his defense. It took him awhile to get used to playing defense in the Majors, but he finally got the knack for it around halfway through the 2011 season. I don’t know exactly what his defensive stats were in 2011, but it sure seemed like he was throwing out everybody who tried to steal against him, regardless of the starting pitcher.
Which leads me to my next point- how he’s handled the Brewers’ pitching staff. Lucroy has received a lot of credit from the starting pitchers, save for Randy Wolf, who uses George Kottaras as his personal catcher, because Wolf’s set of signs are “too complex” for Lucroy. Wolf only has four pitches, so I don’t know how complex his signs could be, but Wolf and Lucroy just don’t click for some reason. Anyway, other than Wolf, Lucroy has handled the pitching staff great for such a young catcher.
But back to the contract itself. In my opinion, it draws comparison to some other deals that teams gave young and somewhat inexperienced players. The Rays gave Matt Moore a five-year deal with three club options after he made just four or so regular season appearances, and one postseason appearance. Salvador Perez received a five-year deal, also with a few club options, from the Royals before going down with a knee injury. Perez had played just a few months in the Majors before getting this extension. So it appears that giving these young players “mega-deals,” as some call them, hasn’t been that uncommon as of late.
So hopefully Lucroy stays healthy and productive for a long time to come. He’s going to be held to high expectations after signing this deal, but I think he’ll live up to them.