The trade rumors surrounding Milwaukee's largest trade asset have been sparse. However that doesn't mean the market is quiet or that a Jonathan Lucroy trade won't happen. The biggest trades so far this winter have been for relievers. And the three trades the Brewers have made weren't announced until right before they were made official.
Next week the Winter Meetings begin and that's when 90% of this offseason is going to happen. It's entirely possible the Brewers have been laying the ground work for a Lucroy trade before pulling the trigger when the two GMs have a chance to sit down next to the buffet and hash out the details. And if the Brewers really are trading Lucroy then there will almost certainly be more than a few GMs in the running making the Winter Meetings the perfect place to whittle down the winner.
Should that trade go down the Brewers will have to go outside the organization to find a second MLB ready catcher. The pickings are very slim. Laughably slim in fact. JP Arencibia and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are among the three best free agent options remaining. For my money though, I think Dioner Navarro is the best of what's left.
The soon to be 32 year old catcher has played in parts of 12 seasons at the major league level. He hasn't exactly been a top flight player in those 12 seasons and he's not exactly known for swinging the bat. But he has been good defensively. By DRS he's been a positive defender in each of the last six seasons.
If you're looking for some upside, he's been about a league average hitter in 3 of the last 4 seasons. However, the worst of those four seasons was this year. Still, he's only one season removed from two consecutive years as a 2 win catcher. There's some potential here for him to build some modest trade value by the August deadline.
Alex Avila signed for 1 year at $2.5 million. A.J. Pierzynski just signed a 1 year $3M deal. Chris Ianetta signed a 1 year deal worth $4.25M with an option year for another $4.25M. So that's probably the range we can expect Dioner Navarro to sign for. Ianetta has a better track record so I think Navarro will sign for less than that which makes him a very cheap defensive option.
If the Brewers are looking to trade Jonathan Lucroy they should strongly consider signing Navarro now as I think the alternatives are much worse. I know there are a contingent of fans that think that would be a bad move. The argument goes you don't want to tip your hand because then other teams will send in low ball offers. I think the argument is specious.
You don't walk into an antiques store, point at something and say, "Hey buddy. That picture frame over that is obviously worth quite a lot. But since you're selling it, I know you want to sell it. Therefore I'm only going to pay you half of what it's worth." When the purveyor of said antique is done laughing at you, he or she is going to have security rough you up a bit on the way out. Then the purveyor is going to sell that beautiful frame for exactly the price he or she wants because there's a line of weirdos five or six deep that are really into picture frames.
So in the event that it becomes clear the Brewers are looking to trade either Lucroy or Maldonado, they're still going to wait until they get good value because they're the only team with a Jonathan Lucroy. And there are still going to be a good 5 or 6 teams interested in getting him.
I like Dioner Navarro to the Brewers mostly because he is solid defensively. I think that's important for this rebuilding team because they have several younger pitchers on the staff. It would be good for them to still have a veteran catcher behind the plate they feel comfortable with. Beyond that there is still a chance the Brewers could get something of value at the trade deadline if Navarro has a good start at the plate. Either way, he's going to be very cheap and that's nice too.