Ken Rosenthal recently posted an article with some of his thoughts on the upcoming trade deadline; it was nothing concrete or even anything to be considered rumors. Just a guy who knows a lot about baseball talking about things. In that post, he mentioned the Cleveland Indians and a trade, so naturally Indians Twitter collectively perked up at the thought. Specifically, Rosenthal suggested the Indians could trade for Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
It was nothing more than one man's idea, which is fine, but it's not a great one. The Indians should not trade for Lucroy, and I would be surprised if they were even considering it.
First, let's get the obvious out of the way: Lucroy has been worth all the trade deadline talk and then some this season. He has always been a very good offensive catcher and he is on pace to have one of his best years at the plate yet. His .377 wOBA is just a shade under his career best .378 wOBA he put up in 2012, a season shortened to 96 games by a bizarre injury involving a sock, a suitcase gone rogue, and Mrs. Lucroy. Lucroy already has 10 home runs on the season, which would be third on the Indians behind Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli.
Conversely, as Merritt discussed in an earlier post, Yan Gomes is having the worst offensive season of his career by far. He has not been the same since then-Detroit Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis slid into him early in the 2015 season, but 2016 has been another level of awful for Gomes -- he is slashing .170/.209/.347, good for a career-worst .347 wOBA. Gomes' defense is still as good as ever; he has been worth one defensive run saved in 406 innings this season from the catcher position. If it tells you anything about how good his defense is, it is enough to keep him at 0.0 fWAR, instead of costing the team theoretical wins.
Indians catchers as a group (Gomes, Chris Gimenez, and Roberto Perez) have combined for a .241 wOBA, the second-worst in the American League, just a hair better than the Minnesota Twins.
However, even with all these factors making it appear as though Jonathan Lucroy would be a perfect fit in Cleveland, there is one factor that disputes that idea. One beautiful, patchy bearded, factor. And that factor is Roberto Perez.
It's a real shame Perez was injured diving to make a great tag at the plate back on April 30, because I have little doubt he would be the everyday Indians starting catcher if he were not riding the disabled list. Perez, a 27-year-old who has been in the Tribe organization since 2010, only played in four games this season and they were odd. Despite not recording a single hit, he had a .400 on-base percentage thanks to six walks in 15 plate appearances.
Last season, Roberto played in 70 games -- most of which came during Yan Gomes' absence -- and slashed .228/.348/.402 with a 14.6 percent walk rate and seven home runs. Among American League catchers with at least 220 plate appearances last season, only four had a better on-base percentage than Perez, and he was ranked 9th (out of 41) in wRC+ with 110. He was playing great but lost playing time as soon as Yan Gomes returned, with the idea that Gomes would bounce back from his injury and be the 2013 Yan Gomes all over again. That, of course, never happened.
Fast forward to 2016 and Gomes is playing like someone who should not even be a third option on any team while Roberto remains injured. When Perez first had surgery on this broken thumb on May 6, it was expected that he would miss somewhere between two to three months. Assuming he can make it back in the better part of time that timeframe, he could see the field right around the All-Star break.
So, the big question becomes, is it worth the Indians dealing what prospects Jonathan Lucroy would require in order to have a major improvement for maybe a month (or less if the Brewers let the deals come in until the deadline), and a marginal improvement for the rest of the season and potentially 2017 if the Indians were to pick up Lucroy's $5.25 million option? And make no mistake about it, Lucroy would not come cheap for the Indians. We are still a month away from the trade deadline, and there are already several teams who look like a perfect fit for Lucroy. There is going to be a bidding war, and it would require the Indians to deal away a hefty prospect or two or three, especially given his friendly team option.
I have addressed other Indians needs earlier this week, and I still stand by that. The Indians would see a much better return keeping their farm system mostly intact and going after one of the many relief arms available at the deadline, instead of selling it all for a season-and-a-half of a catcher who might only be a slight improvement over what you have in-house already.
The Indians offense has had its ups and downs this season, but the bullpen is a constant weak spot. Address that first.— Matt Lyons (@mattrly) June 15, 2016
With all this said, there is also the terrifying possibility that Terry Francona will want to stick with "his guy" Yan Gomes and not give Roberto Perez a chance to start every day when he returns. If that's the case I am rooting for a meteor to destroy all of humanity by August anyway, so who cares what Cleveland does at the deadline.