Let’s revisit the 2016 Jonathan Lucroy trade that almost happened between the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers.
It has been five years since the Cleveland Indians’ magical run to the 2016 World Series, riding the backs of Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller all the way to Game 7 against the Chicago Cubs. No need to mention what happened after that.
As many fans remember, the Indians acquired Miller at the trade deadline that year, shipping off top prospect Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen to the New York Yankees for the star reliever. It was a huge move for the team to make – it was no small thing to trade Frazier at that time – and it was the exact bullpen-bolstering move the team needed. In 2016, Miller was easily regarded as one of the most dominant relievers in the game.
But there was another trade the Indians almost made that would have made an even bigger splash that season.
Remember Jonathan Lucroy?
In the past few years, Lucroy has bounced around from team to team – a pretty astonishing eight teams in five seasons. Most recently, the Atlanta Braves designated him for assignment earlier this month.
But in 2016, Lucroy was putting together his second All-Star season, hitting .299/.359/.482 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs for the Milwaukee Brewers. It would have been a massive upgrade for Cleveland’s catching corps at the time; the Yan Gomes-Roberto Perez-Chris Gimenez combination was not faring well that year, as they hit for a combined .184.
Plus, Lucroy was coming over to the Indians cheap, making only $4 million that season, with a $5.25 million team option in 2017. All in all, it was the perfect deal for the Indians to make as they set their sights on a deep playoff run.
Except for that pesky no-trade clause.
Lucroy had made it very clear he wanted to play for a contender, which seemingly made the AL Central-leading Indians a perfect fit. In this trade, Cleveland would have shipped off another highly touted prospect – catcher Francisco Mejia – along with utility infielder Yu Chang, outfielder Greg Allen, and pitcher Shawn Armstrong. Just like with Frazier, this would have been a huge move for Cleveland at the time, as Mejia was in the middle of his 50-game hit streak in the minors.
And yet, after both sides agreed to the trade… Lucroy nixed it. In his contract, he had an eight-team no-trade clause, and one of those teams was the Cleveland Indians. For whatever reason, Lucroy decided Cleveland wasn’t a place he wanted to play, drawing the scorn of Indians fans everywhere.
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But would this deal have made a difference in the postseason? Obviously the Indians got to the World Series without Lucroy’s help, but there’s no denying Cleveland could have used his bat. Roberto Perez was the catcher during that run, hitting .200 in the World Series with a memorable two-homer, four-RBI performance in Game 1. But Perez only hit .125 in Games 2 through 7, so it’s hard to say Lucroy wouldn’t have been a welcome bat in the lineup in those final three games.
And when you look at what the Indians would have sent to the Brewers, it would have been a complete steal knowing what we know now. Francisco Mejia is now catching in a part-time role with Tampa Bay, and Greg Allen has actually found some playing time with the Yankees. Yu Chang is struggling to find playing time and keep it with the Indians, and Shawn Armstrong was actually just involved in a trade deadline deal between the Orioles and Rays.
Weirdly enough, Tampa Bay now has both Armstrong and Feyereisen, who they acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in the Willy Adames trade back in May.
If you’re a sicko who likes following the winding career paths of former relievers in the Indians organization, this is a quirky banner day for you.
And for those of us who just can’t let go of 2016, it’s a tough reminder of just how close Cleveland game to ending its World Series drought, and how Jonathan Lucroy, who was having the best season of his career, might have been the piece needed to do it.