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Cleveland Indians trade rumors: Would Jonathan Lucroy mean the end of Yan Gomes?

Even if you're not ready to say goodbye to Yan Gomes, trading for Jonathan Lucroy could still work.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians have had talks with the Brewers about acquiring Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy. The Brewers are one of the worst teams in baseball, and Lucroy is their top Major League player, the biggest chip they've got as they continue to work on rebuilding. He's hitting .304/.361/.490 right, and is owed only ~$1.5 million for the rest of this season, and has a team option for just $5.25 million next year. He's going to cost at least one very good prospect, but the Indians have a strong farm system, and are a title contender whose starting catcher just landed on the DL, making them a good fit.

An interesting thing happened yesterday: A fake Buster Olney account tweeted that the Indians had traded Bradley Zimmer, their consensus #1 prospect, in a one-for-one deal for Lucroy. For five minutes I thought it was real, and so during those five minutes I got to learn how I'd feel if such a trade happened. It's one thing to form an opinion on a hypothetical, it's another to actually have that thing happen, and see what your emotions actually do. In those five minutes, I found that I was happy about the trade, so now I know definitively that I'd be cool with the Indians trading Zimmer for Lucroy.

Will a trade actually happen? We'll see. If it does though, it would seem to mean the end of the Yan Gomes era in Cleveland. Gomes has struggled mightily at the plate for a year and a half now, but he's great at limiting other teams' base-running, and the starting pitchers he works with love him. Gomes will make even less money than Lucroy next year, and is owed just $5.95 million for 2018 and $7 million for 2019, and there are even team options for 2020 and 2021 that just about any team would pick up if Gomes is even an average player at that point. His value has declined a great deal in the last year, but the potential for his bat to rebound following an offseason of rest (and possibly Lasik surgery) is too great for him to be kept around as a longterm backup.

If the Indians do acquire Lucroy during the next ten days, the most obvious follow-up move would be to trade Gomes, maybe this month, for bullpen help or another immediate upgrade, otherwise during the offseason. There is another option though: Trade Lucroy during the offseason.

If the Indians weren't that interested in Lucroy a week ago, because they like what Yan does defensively and expect his bat to get back to something closer to league-average, and they like the idea of having him as their guy for the next couple years, then you trade for Lucroy now to help win a couple extra games between now and October, and boost the team's chances of advancing if they do make the postseason, then you thank Lucroy for his contributions and send him to another team this offseason. It's not as though his trade value is going to plummet between now and January.

Yes, of course there are teams (like the Indians) most interested in what he can do for them this season, but he's still a really good player signed for dirt cheap money next year, and who will probably bring a compensation pick of some sort if he leaves at the end of next season. The Indians could probably recoup at least 80% of the value in prospects they'd give away now by dealing Lucroy in the offseason. The Indians might go from a top 50 prospect to a top 100 guy, or from two top 100 types to only one. If you wouldn't accept that sort of dip in farm talent for an increased chance at making and advancing in the postseason, I don't know what to tell you.

I hate seeing players injured, but the hidden blessing in Gomes landing on the DL is that the narrative behind any change behind the plate no longer has to be Gomes getting benched. Lucroy provides a big upgrade this offseason, and now there's no need to worry about hurting anyone's feelings or angering the teammates who love Yan. I'd be happy with Lucroy behind the plate for the Tribe in 2017 too, but trading for him now wouldn't have to mean that if the Indians decided they didn't want it to.