I was going to start off with the thought that this will be the last time we will see a player traded at the All Star break show up in the top 4 MVBrewers, but then I thought of what could happen next year and reconsidered.
Jonathan Lucroy is a good major league hitter. He is a good major league catcher. Combining those two attributes makes him a very valuable major league player. Had he stayed on the Brewers’ roster for the entire season (and ended with the offensive numbers he had combined with Texas), it would have been a very tight three-way race for the top spot with Ryan Braun and Jonathan Villar, and then a very tight race for the second spot after one of them won at #1. I don’t know that Luc would have moved up any higher than third, but we’ll never know. Fourth after playing only half a season (plus) here is impressive enough.
His 121 OPS+ and 3.07 composite WAR numbers while a Brewer are excellent. He ended the total season at 24 homers, a career best, after hitting 13 for Milwaukee. He stole 5 bases for the Brewers without getting thrown out. He threw out 40% of those that had the temerity to run on him while with the Brewers.
The Brewers will not replace Luc easily. There are candidates, and all of them have strengths and weaknesses, but none are likely to combine Luc’s hitting and defensive abilities. A team can win with less hitting at catcher (after all, the Brewers actually had a better winning percentage after he was dealt, but I’m pretty convinced that they would have won a few more if he had stayed), but having a bat like Lucroy’s at the catcher position will always make a team more of a threat.
One more thought on Luc’s value: Jonathan knew at the outset of 2016 that the chances were very, very good that he was going to be traded during the season. It is entirely possible that Brewers’ GM David Stearns approached about an extension and it was a non-starter. But the fact is, Lucroy played hard, produced well, and never complained about his situation. That was a crucial component on a rebuilding team. His rejection of the trade to Cleveland was a rational decision, given the catching situation there. But even after voiding that trade, Luc was paired with Jeremy Jeffress to bring back three premium prospects to the org from Texas. His mark on the franchise will continue through the future contributions of Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, and Ryan Cordell.
Best of luck, Luc, and thanks for being the best Brewer catcher ever. Even if you never caught a no-hitter.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs