Jonathan Lucroy decided not to become a member of the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline, and that decision has actually benefited the Tribe in October.
Perhaps the biggest story of Major League Baseball’s trade deadline this season was a deal that didn’t happen. While big names like Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Carlos Beltran switched teams, it was Jonathan Lucroy’s decision to veto a trade to the Cleveland Indians that made the biggest splash.
Cleveland had a deal in place with the Milwaukee Brewers that would have sent four prospects to Wisconsin for the all-star catcher, but Lucroy had the Indians on the list of teams that he could exercise a no-trade clause to. He did so, which was fully within his rights, and was later dealt to the Texas Rangers.
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Lucroy helped Texas over the final two months of the regular season to power its way to the best record in the American League and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, but the Rangers ran into a buzzsaw named the Toronto Blue Jays and were swept out of the postseason on Sunday night.
In retrospect, the argument can be made that Cleveland dodged a bullet when Lucroy vetoed the trade. Besides the fact that he clearly didn’t want to be a member of the team, the Indians have gotten vital production and development out of third-year catcher Roberto Perez that would not have been possible with Lucroy in front of him on the depth chart.
During the final two months of the season, the offensive output is tilted definitively in Lucroy’s direction:
- Lucroy: .276/.345/.539, 19 R, 11 HR, 31 RBI, 131 wRC+
- Perez: ..203/.275/.336, 11 R, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 62 wRC+
In the playoffs, though, Lucroy could scarcely buy a hit, going 1-for-12 in the only three playoff games he’ll have the opportunity to play in this season, while Perez has come up big for the Tribe. The stats look decidedly different:
- Lucroy: .083/.083/.083, 1 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, -74 wRC+
- Perez: .400/.571/1.000, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 298 wRC+
And while Lucroy was No. 2 among catchers during the regular season according to FanGraphs’ defensive metric, with Perez coming in at No. 20, that glovework did not show itself in the Toronto series. Lucroy had a critical passed ball in the decisive game that allowed a run to score, and failed to throw out the lone base stealer that ran against him. Perez on the other hand made a highlight reel tag at home plate in Game One and has yet to be run on by Boston.
The sample size of the playoffs is so small that reading anything into it is misguided, but it’s pretty clear that Cleveland would not be up 2-0 without Perez. Given the performance Lucroy turned in as Texas was eliminated in a sweep, the trade that wasn’t meant to be at the deadline is turning out to be a blessing in disguise for the Indians.