Rumors have been circulating for weeks that two-time All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy was going to be shipped out of the Cream City. In fact, Lucroy himself had said prior to the season that, while not demanding a trade, it would be best for both sides to part ways. Just before Monday’s deadline, the culmination of those rumors happened; Lucroy, along with closer Jeremy Jeffress, were traded to the Texas Rangers for three prospects, one of which will be named later.
Over his six-plus years with the club, Jonathan Lucroy became one of the most consistent and beloved players who put on a Brewers uniform. A career .284 hitter, he has always been looked at as one of the most reliable catchers in the majors when it comes to performing at the plate. This average was highlighted by a career year in 2014, where Luc hit a career-high .301. He added 13 home runs, 69 RBIs and 53 doubles, the last of which set the MLB record for doubles by a catcher (as well as tied the team record.) Lucroy also proved himself to be more than capable behind the plate as well, sporting a .992 fielding percentage for his career.
His prowess both at and behind the plate was not the only thing that made Brewers fans adore the man they called “Luc”. His personality and contributions to the community through the team’s various charity efforts made it so fans viewed him as an average joe type who they could easily root for; and root for him they did. Every time Lucroy was introduced, the Miller Park crowd would serenade him with chants of “Luuuuuuuuuc”, a play on his last name.
To Jonathan Lucroy: for the many years of service and great moments you have given us as Brewers fans, we would like to say thank you and we wish you the best of luck where the rest of your career takes you. Don’t worry, we will have a “Luuuuuuuc” chant waiting for you upon your return.
Jeremy Jeffress, on the other hand, has had a more up-and-down type of road. Selected 16th overall in the 2006 draft by the Brewers, he would later be shipped off to the Kansas City Royals in the Zack Greinke trade in 2010. Over the course of the next 6 years, he would play for the Toronto Blue Jays and, once again, the Brewers. In his return stint with Milwaukee, Jeffress excelled as both a setup man and closer. This season, he posted a 2-2 record with a 2.22 ERA and 27 saves in 44.2 innings of work. However, Jeffress has also been suspended two previous times for drug violations: 50 games in 2007, as well as 100 games in June 2009. In fact, when the Brewers traded Jeffress to Kansas City, he was one suspension away from a lifetime ban from baseball.
Now to talk about the confirmed prospects in the deal. T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com first reported that the prospects coming to the Brewers in return for Lucroy and Jeffress are outfielder Lewis Brinson and pitcher Luis Ortiz. Brinson and Ortiz are the Rangers’ #2 and #3 ranked prospects, respectively, according to MLB.com Pipeline. It was later reported that a third player in the deal would soon be named.
Brinson, a right-handed 6’3” 195 pound outfielder, was selected 29th overall by the Rangers in the 2012 draft. Still just 22 years of age, he has developed into a multi-tool prospect, with all five position player skills (running, fielding, throwing, hit for average, hit for power) all rated at 55 or 60. On the standard 20-80 scouting scale, 55 reads as an “above-average” tool while 60 reads as a “plus” tool. At Double-A Frisco this season, Brinson has hit for a .237 average along with 11 home runs, 40 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. He has been hampered with leg injuries in the past, as well as a shoulder strain this season that has affected his hitting numbers. However, Pipeline writes that if he can stay healthy, Brinson could become a 30 home run, 30 stolen base player. To go along with his rank as #2 in the Rangers’ system, Brinson is also Pipeline’s #5 outfield prospect and #21 overall. ETA: 2017
Ortiz, a righty with a solid frame (6’3”, 230 pounds) was picked in 2014 by Texas with the 30th overall selection. So far in 2016, Ortiz stood out at Advanced-A High Desert, posting a 2.60 ERA along with a 3-2 record and 28 strikeouts in 27.2 innings. He was then promoted to Double-A Frisco, where he has struggled a bit more, but still has a respectable 4.08 ERA to go with 34 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. Only 20 years old, Ortiz shows a lot of promise for his age and could find himself to Milwaukee sooner than later, with an ETA of 2018. He is MLB Pipeline’s #65 overall prospect.
Once the dust settles from this trade and players have switched to their respective new teams, only time will tell how this trade will work out. With any luck, as Lucroy said, it will work out well for both sides.