Jonathan Lucroy and the trade that (luckily) never happened

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Happy MLB Trade Deadline day, you guys! Transactions, emotions, and a few surprises are sure to be strewn across our day.

Hug Watch 20171 will be complete once the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies complete their 12:35 pm first pitch game. A great matchup for such purposes as both the Braves and Phillies are in full rebuild mode, so any veterans (especially those on expiring contracts) who get an early hook and hugs are likely headed to a contender, who are attempting to plaster any holes for a run to and through October. With the trade deadline coming at 4:00 pm, the other games of the day will start after all trades have been completed.

One year ago today, the Cleveland Indians and their fans thought they had acquired the top catcher on the market, Jonathan Lucroy. Arguably the biggest need in the 2016 lineup, news of trading for the best hitting catcher made the Indians and their fans ecstatic. They seemed primed to not only make the postseason, but to make a run into October. With both teams agreeing to the trade, the deal appeared complete. Then Lucroy decided to use his no-trade clause to nix the deal to the Indians before eventually agreeing to be dealt to the Texas Rangers instead.

The deal the Indians did make at the deadline was acquiring reliever superstar Andrew Miller. His dominance down the stretch and in the postseason was one of the reasons why the Indians were just one game away from bring Cleveland it’s second championship in five months to end the 52-year drought (now at 69 years for the Indians though).

Lucroy was nothing but a disappointment in Texas. In 124 games with the Rangers, the 31 year old had a .254/.314/.409 slash with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs in 433 at bats. In the 2016 postseason, he was a dismal 1-for-12 in three games before the Rangers were eliminated in the ALDS.

While he may still have been an offensive upgrade over both Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, it would have been tough for him to replace their talent behind the plate. Whether it’s calling the game, framing pitches, throwing out potential base stealers, or just being a damn good defensive catcher, Gomes and Perez are two of the best defensive catchers in the game. Both struggle at the plate, but Perez had some of his biggest hits when it mattered most in the World Series.

Whether it was due to not being guaranteed a starting spot behind the plate in 2017 or the Indians not changing his contract, Lucroy had the right to veto the trade. He did just that. Him saying no meant that the Indians didn’t have to trade prospects Shawn Armstrong, Francisco Mejia, Yo-Cheng Chang, and Greg Allen. Do any of those names look familiar? Armstrong has spent time in the Indians’ bullpen this season, Mejia is the Indians up-and-coming great catcher and the top prospect in the organization (No. 3 in all of MLB on Baseball America’s ranking) with Chang and Allen being two of the better prospects in the Indians’ farm system as well. If Lucroy didn’t nix the deal, all of them would have been shipped to the Brewers. Instead, the Indians acquired Edwin Encarnacion in the offseason to help with the lineup and were able to keep their top prospects as well. Not a bad deal, eh?

Lucroy is not only struggling mightily at the plate again this season, but, less than 24 hours before the deadline, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named later. From garnering multiple top prospects to getting traded for just one player, it’s crazy how much things have changed in just 365 days.

July 31, 2016 may have seemed like a bad day for the Indians, but looking back, it was a day that not only increased the Indians’ chances of making the World Series last October, but a day that could go down as one that changed the MLB postseason fortunes for the club for the foreseeable future.

That day it may have felt like every Indians fan just had their hearts ripped out, but it was one that the Indians and their fans can forever be grateful. So, thank you, Jonathan Lucroy, for using your no-trade clause to your advantage and nixing the deal that would have sent you to Cleveland. The fans of the Indians are forever grateful and cannot wait to hear all about “the catcher for the Colorado Rockies” on STO when you come to town on August 8.

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