The Rangers' Trade for Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress Proves They're Going All-In
You couldn't blame Texas Rangers fans if they are experiencing a bit of vertigo right now.
Just moments after acquiring Carlos Beltran from the New York Yankees, the Rangers further bolstered their roster for the stretch run by acquiring catcher Jonathan Lucroy and relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for top prospects Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz.
It's the second time in two days Lucroy has been sent away from the Brewers to another team. He was originally dealt to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, but no one bothered to check with him to see if he'd agree to the trade with the Indians on his limited no-trade clause. Texas was not one of the teams on his no-trade and could therefore not block any deal.
In Lucroy, the Rangers get one of the best catchers in the game at an extremely cheap salary. His 2.8 fWAR is third-best in baseball, behind only Buster Posey and Wilson Ramos, and his OPS of .841 is second-best, behind only Ramos (.905). He's bounced back in a big way after last year's injury-ravaged season.
Lucroy's arrival will certainly help the Rangers at a position in which they had struggled this year. Texas catchers combined for a .231/.285/.419 slash line and a wRC+ of 80. That, shockingly, was actually seventh-best in the 15-team American League, with a combined fWAR of 1.0, also seventh-best.
You just have to deal with a little Lucroy tick is all.
Lucroy is earning just $4 million this year with a team option of $5.25 million for next season -- not bad value for a 30-year-old, two-time All Star.
In addition to landing one of the most sought-after hitters on the market, the Rangers also picked up a solid relief pitcher in the right-handed Jeffress, who has a 2.22 ERA and a 3.16 fielding independent pitching (FIP) in 47 games this season. He's accumulated 27 saves in 44 2/3 innings and is striking out 7.05 batters per nine while walking 2.22 per nine innings.
Those 27 saves are the seventh-most in baseball and, along with Sam Dyson, Matt Bush, Keone Kela and Jake Diekman, should help a Texas 'pen that is among the worst in baseball, worth -0.2 fWAR this year. They also have the worst ERA in the American League (4.78) and K/9 (6.96).
In exchange for Lucroy and Jeffress, the Rangers gave up a lot, although they did not have to move one of their top prizes, Jurickson Profar, Nomar Mazara, or Joey Gallo. Instead, they gave up their second-best prospect, Brinson, as well as their third-best, Ortiz.
Brinson entered the season as the 16th-ranked prospect in the minors by Baseball America, but he has struggled in AA this year. In 326 plate appearances, the 22-year-old has batted .237/.280/.431 with 11 homers and 14 doubles. He doesn't walk that much, just 17 times this year, but also doesn't strike out a ton, only 64 times this season.
Ortiz is a 20-year-old who was 1-4 with a 4.08 ERA in 8 AA starts this season, averaging 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.6 walks per nine innings there. In 6 starts at Single-A, he had a 2.60 ERA and struck out 9.1 batters per nine and walked 2.0. He's got a big arm, and scouts love him a lot.
It was a steep price for Texas, but they managed to snag two excellent players at positions of need and, in doing so, believe they've done enough to fend off the Houston Astros in the American League West. The Rangers hold a six-game lead in the division and are right in the hunt with the Cleveland Indians for the best record in the American League. Not only that, the Rangers were able to pounce on Lucroy after the hard-hitting catcher spurned those very same Indians.
It should make for a compelling ALCS if it happens!