Report: Braves Inquired On Brewers’ C Jonathan Lucroy


The Milwaukee Brewers’ 2015 season may have hit rock bottom last night. Entering a 2-1 game in the 7th inning, LHP Will Smith quickly hit a batter and was then ejected for violating the MLB’s foreign substance rule. Boos reigned down on Smith as he left the field in an angry and expletive filled tirade, and the game quickly got out of hand with Atlanta scoring seven times in the inning off of four Milwaukee pitchers. A 10-1 final score and Smith’s eight game suspension announced today have been things we should apparently come to expect in this nightmare season. With the National League’s worst record at 15-27, the Brewers are now sitting 12.5 games back in the NL Central and nine games back of the second Wild Card.

With Milwaukee’s season is effectively over, Brewers’ management hasn’t been shy this season about letting other clubs know that its veterans are on the trading block. There have been little in the way of rumors so far with it still being early on in the trading season, but a report by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports from earlier today puts one the Brewers’ star players in the spotlight. According to Heyman, the Braves, dismayed at the production of rookie catcher Christian Bethancourt offensively, “inquired about the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy but were told he is unavailable” at this time.

I have been vocal in my support of Milwaukee beginning a rebuild process, and Lucroy would be the biggest piece to get that process started. There might not be a more valuable player in baseball than the 29 year old Lucroy, who finished fourth in NL MVP voting last season after putting together a .301/.373/.465 campaign, leading the league with 53 doubles while ranking second in defense among all catchers in baseball. His 6.8 Wins Above Replacement led all NL position players last season and made his first All-Star team. Lucroy is controlled for through 2017 on an extremely team friendly contract that will $12.25 mil over the next three season, a pittance for someone of Lucroy’s ability behind the plate. Lucroy got off to a slow start this season before going on the disabled list with a broken foot, but that should do little to hurt his overall value.

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Most reports so far have indicated that the team is wary of parting with their backstop, who some consider the face of the franchise. While GM Doug Melvin has stopped short of saying Lucroy is untouchable, he has been quoted as saying that “you’d have to be overwhelmed” and notes that catcher is a tough position to fill. Still, Melvin has also stated that he is “open to everything,” leaving the possibility that if the right deal came along, the Brewers could be convinced to move their superstar catcher.

Atlanta acted the part of a rebuilding team over the winter, sending off veterans like Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis in order to restock their farm system with an eye on their new stadium opening in 2017. Atlanta’s solid start at 20-20 has exceeded expectations, however, and with the team sitting just three games out of a Wild Card spot to this point, Atlanta could be a buyer at the deadline this season. If the Braves continue their pursuit of Lucroy, they should be well positioned to put together a strong offer with farm system ranked sixth by ESPN before the season.

Milwaukee has a few noted deficiencies in their minor league system, specifically at the infield corners and behind the plate. I had at one point thought that longtime backup Martin Maldonado could be roughly a replacement level contributor when thrust into a full-time role, however that has simply not been the case this season. If the Brewers’ look to move Lucroy to Atlanta, they should start a deal with the Braves highly regarded young backstop, Christian Bethancourt. The 23 year old was ranked as the #93 prospect in baseball heading into this season, and though he doesn’t have the same offensive upside as Luc, he is a plus defender behind the plate with an 80 grade arm. If the Brewers managed his service time well after aqcuiring him, Bethancourt could be the answer behind the plate through 2021.

Another prospect the Brewers would have interest in is Rio Ruiz, who the Braves aqcuired in the Evan Gattis deal over the winter. Ruiz, a 21 year old third baseman currently playing at AA and currently ranked as Atlanta’s 6th best prospect, has above average hit and power tools and should develop into an average defender at the hot corner. He has gotten off to somewhat of a slow start this year, but has shown an advanced eye at the plate, walking in 14% of his plate appearances and while striking out just 20 times in 35 games. Add a couple arms like Matt Wisler and Ricardo Sanchez to the haul to overwhelm Milwaukee’s front office, and the Braves could have themselves a blockbuster.

A deal like that would basically be a dream come true for Milwaukee. Desperate to infuse talent into their minor league system (especially at the upper levels), the Brewers should be looking to move as many pieces as they can with an eye of the future. While I’m not sure they’ll trade Lucroy this season (and definitely not this early in the season), he is by far Milwaukee’s most valuable piece and would bring the most talent into the system. If Milwaukee continues to spiral into irrelevance this season, I would expect them to soften on the idea that any player is “untouchable.” Changes are coming for the Brewers, the question is just how big of changes we will see.