How a Brewers battery could supercharge the Rangers’ title hopes
Trade season is here, and the Rangers are spinning in and out of the rumor tornadoes. For months they have been linked to Jonathan Lucroy of the Milwaukee Brewers. Those rumors have yet to die, even the catchers for the Rangers have continued to produce offensively having slashed .236/.286/.422/.707 thus far in 2016. That isn’t terrible from a position that is lacking in stars across the league. Yet, there is no denying that a player like Lucroy could push this lineup in ways we have yet to see.
And what if, just what if, Lucroy brought something with him from Milwaukee?
First, let’s look at Lucroy. His contract is minimal and a team friendly option for 2017–at a little over 5 million– means the money isn’t even an afterthought. There are some minor injury concerns as the history of his health is speckled with issues–including a concussion last year– that have him averaging a little less than 125 games a year the last four seasons. However, to date, his health has zero questions in 2016. Lucroy has played in 84 of the Brewers’ 90 games. He’s having a great offensive year hitting .303/.360/.493/.854. He’s on pace for a bWAR of 4.3, and in what now is a tight AL West race, that could be difference in the division.
Now what does all this mean for a trade? Well, it means it’s going to be expensive. The Brewers are rebuilding and will be looking to transform their farm with this deal. We are looking at 4-5 players, and you can bet there will be some names even the casual fan will recognize. You can bet they will ask for two of the three of Joey Gallo/Jurickson Profar/Lewis Brinson, the Rangers will avoid this at all costs. The Brewers will want pitching–every team does– and they are particularly weak in their system up the middle. I would say from a Rangers’ perspective that means Travis Demeritte and Ryan Cordell are in play. Now we need a pitcher in the deal. Rangers are going to keep Dillon Tate and Luis Ortiz out of the discussion. At this point Yohander Mendez’s name becomes part of the conversation. That’s a young pitcher with high upside, and somebody the Brewers are going to covet. This is still not enough. The Brewers have a premier player at what is now a weak position across baseball. They need a close to MLB ready, top ten prospect in this deal.
GM David Sterns is demanding a star prospect in the deal. Jon Daniels is silent on the other end of the speaker phone. He leans over and says, “David you win. I’ll put Brinson in the deal… But we want Junior also.”
Brinson has struggled this year, but has come on strong again of late. He’s a premier defender in center field, and projects at worst to be Mike Cameron. This is the star the Brewers would demand for Lucroy. This is the guy the Rangers will have to be okay with moving.
Junior Guerra is a thirty-one year old rookie starting pitcher for the Brewers. He’s not arbitration eligible until 2019, and under team control for six years total. It’s a unique situation in MLB. A thirty-one year old isn’t in the Brewer’s rebuilding plans. However, with the price of starting pitching rising faster than Nintendo stock, he does have value to them. He definitely has some value in the trade market. The track record, or lack thereof, is the gamble with this deal. In 2016 he’s posted a 3.06 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.07. His K/9 and BB/9 are just a tick above average at 7.9 and 2.8 respectively. His FIP is 3.85, which is something to watch but he still sets up as a better option than anyone in the fifth spot right now, with a chance to slide into the middle of the rotation. Not to mention he’s cheap depth going forward a couple of years, and as the Rangers’ training staff can attest, depth is always needed.
The final deal looks like this:
The Texas Rangers send Ryan Cordell, Travis Demeritte, Yohander Mendez, Shawn Tolleson, and Lewis Brinson to the Milwaukee Brewers for Jonathan Lucroy and Junior Guerra.
They key to this deal for the Rangers I think is they need to be satisfied with Brinson headlining a package for Lucroy period. At that point Guerra becomes a bonus, and not a key to your sanity when Brinson is an All Star center fielder in Milwaukee. This move would put a stress on the Texas system, moving one of their top pitching prospects in what is a very thin group already, and both of their top center field prospects. It also leaves your biggest chips untouched and available should a move for an ace present itself.
Ultimately, they’re called prospects for a reason. You have one more year with Yu Darish and Cole Hamels. I do anything I can for a title run this year and next. The rotation is stabilized, with a chance to be much better the second half; with an arm that can help for a few more years to come. The lineup becomes dynamic with Lucroy, as tough as any top to bottom in baseball. Catcher becomes one less position to worry about for 2017 as well. Maybe most importantly, an All Star hungry to win could be the shot in the arm this team needs to get back on track.