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Free agent market can help determine Brewers trade routes

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The free agent market can help or hurt a player's trade value. In the case of Brewers' tradeable assets it does both.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today I was taking a look at the free agents currently on the market because I'm an obsessive freak who is always thinking about baseball too much and I noticed something. There are a lot of outfielders on the market this year. This might not seem like it matters to the Brewers who are rebuilding and who are on the verge of a logjam at the position. But it does matter to them if they want to shop a guy like Khris Davis whose trade value will likely be depressed in this a buyer's market for outfielders. Fortunately it's not a buyers market for all positions.

The Brewers biggest trade piece--if he is indeed available--is Jonathan Lucroy. Sure he had a poor season but he's still a top catcher. I would easily still have him in the top 10 at the position and perhaps even in the top 5. I think the broken toe had a lot to do with his poor overall season stats and even more to do with the perception--among some--that he's no longer an elite catcher.

His season started out horribly. Before he broke his toe he was hitting 133/216/178. I mean...wow. It might be worth noting Lucroy had a hamstring issue in spring training that sidelined him for a long time and he almost missed the start of the season because of it. I have to admit though I don't know that it had anything to do with his uncharacteristically poor start.

But this poor was only 12 games and 51 plate appearances. Then he broke his toe and was out from April to June 1. Every Brewers fan had to sit for a month and a half with that abysmal triple slash line on their mind wondering what went wrong with Lucroy. I personally believe that had a multiplying affect on peoples pessimism towards Lucroy.

Then he came back and wasn't quite his previous MVP form. In June he hit 278/319/352. It's not really that bad when you consider he was coming back from a broken toe and a 40+ days of inaction. The only thing really missing here was his power. But it was enough for some people to pronounce his past his prime.

By the end of June Lucroy's triple slash line was still a paltry 235/287/301. Now we're talking about 167 plate appearances. It's not enough to form an opinion on his true talent level. It is, however, enough to make it really hard to come back from--with regards to season stat line--and make look pretty by the end of the season. Believe it or not, though, Lucroy really did make a come back.

The further away he got from his broken toe the more normal his offense start to look. In July he hit 283/350/424. In August he hit 262/343/512. In Sept/Oct he hit 333/373/405. Those are really good numbers. He produced those numbers consistently over a three month period. From July to the end of the season he hit 284/352/454. The power was down a bit from his MVP caliber season in 2014 but still a very strong line especially for a catcher.

Yet I'd still here--and still do hear--people lament about how Lucroy isn't the player he used to be. That opinion formed on just 1.5 months of play surrounding significant injuries.

If the Brewers do decide to shop Jonathan Lucroy I'm sure these are observations they'll share with teams trying to lowball them--which is just part of the process. Lucroy's value won't be as high as it was a year ago but it's still very strong. And that value is only aided by the poor market for catchers. Matt Wieters--who carries significant injury concerns himself--is the top free agent at the position and it's a pretty steep drop off. Dioneer Navarro is probably next followed by a cavalcade of mid-30's mediocrity to put it pleasantly.

Unfortunately the opposite is true for the outfield market. There are many high quality and mid-tier quality talent available. I'm a big fan of Khris Davis and I've written about that several times before so I won't reproduce that argument here. That being said, if I was a GM and I could choose between trading prospects for Davis or just giving money to Gerardo Parra, Nori Aoki, Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, Colby Rasmus, Dexter Fowler, Denard Span, Jason Heyward, or any combination of platoon types I think I'd rather just go that route because it keeps the more talent with my club.

The free agent market gives and it takes away. I think if the Brewers want to trade Jonathan Lucroy they'll have suitors lined up. And I think they'll be able to get good value in return for him. However with the market for outfielders being what it is I suspect we see Khris Davis return for another season. That's okay though. The Brewers have 4 years of team control remaining giving them plenty of time to move him. Plus next year's free agent class is pretty abysmal.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs