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Acquiring Jonathan Lucroy solved the Rockies catching dilemma

Lucroy was just what the Rockies needed

Welcome to the 2017 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the in-season contributions of every player to don the purple this past season. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to quibble with order. Instead, it’s to get a snapshot of a player along with a look forward. For that reason, we simply sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) and will start at the bottom and end up at the top.

No. 15, Jonathan Lucroy (0.9 rWAR)

Prior to the season, a lot of baseball writers in the national media felt that the Rockies needed to add a veteran catcher to the team. Around there parts, we all felt that they were overlooking the Rockies two young catchers, Tom Murphy and Tony Wolters, and that the Rockies were going to be just fine behind the plate. The Rockies seemed to agree with us choosing to enter camp with Murphy and Wolters as the catching tandem and all was right in the world.

Unfortunately, the national media was right and we were wrong. Murphy broke his arm in spring training and Tony Wolters wore down trying to pick up the slack. Dustin Garneau and Ryan Hanigan weren’t the answer either and by July the Rockies catching situation was a black hole offensively.

Thankfully, the Rockies found the answer at the trade deadline by acquiring Jonathan Lucroy from the Texas Rangers for a player to be named later that would eventually turn into Pedro Gonzalez. Just a year earlier Lucroy had been traded from the Milwaukee Brewers along with Jeremy Jeffress to the Rangers for a package of Lewis Brinso, Luis Ortiz, and Ryan Cordell. The difference in prospect cost wasn’t just the lack of a second player or the lack of an extra year of control for Lucroy. The big difference was that Lucroy no longer looked like the dominant catcher that he’d been for the Brewers for half of a decade.

Lucroy’s offense and defense had both fallen off a cliff and the situation with the Rangers didm’t appear like a happy marriage anymore. The Rockies took a gamble that a new situation would rejuvenate the veteran catcher while also giving the pitching staff an experienced presence behind the plate for the stretch run. Counting on bounce backs rarely pays off, however, this time the Rockies struck gold.

Prior to the trade, Lucroy was hitting .242/.297/.338 with a 66 OPS+. After the trade, he hit .310/.429/.437 good for a 115 OPS+. Mostly batting 8th in the Rockies lineup, Lucroy’s ability to get on base any way was a huge boost to the bottom of the Rockies lineup that gave struggled for most of the season.

While his defense didn’t bounce back to his standard as a Brewers catcher, it was considerably better than his first half numbers with the Rangers as well. Also of note, his veteran presence helped the Rockies young pitching staff deliver the Rockies first playoff berth since 2009.

2018 Outlook

As a free agent this offseason, Lucory will undoubtedly draw interest from quite a few teams looking for veteran catching help. Lucroy’s bounce back with the Rockies will undoubtedly improve his market value as well. Thankfully, there has been a lot of mutual interest expressed by the Rockies and Lucroy in reuniting. Lucroy’s difficult time with the Rangers may also help the Rockies, as he is most likely interested in finding the best fit and by all accounts he loved his time with the Rockies.