Slingin' David Stearns caught perhaps all us off guard on Saturday night when he completed his biggest trade yet as Brewers General Manager, sending Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Aaron Hill, Chase Anderson, and Isan Diaz. With less than three weeks until pitchers and catchers report and several key trade assets remaining in Milwaukee, there is little reason to believe that Stearns is done slingin' just yet.
According to a report from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe from over the weekend, the trade market for catcher Jonathan Lucroy may be heating up. "A few baseball folks feel something's brewing with Lucroy," Cafardo says, and he lists the Nationals and Astros as potential suitors for the All-Star backstop.
Lucroy made some waves recently when he told Tom Haudricourt that it would be best for both him and the club if he was traded to a contender, the type of frankness that is rarely seen from athletes. Stearns and the Brewers have been taking calls on the catcher all winter but are reported to have a high asking price that they aren't backing down from. As I've argued in this space before, however, it would probably be smarter for the Brewers to move Lucroy prior to the start of the season than it would be to risk waiting for him to "bounce back" (or struggle, or get injured) before the trade deadline in July.
We've discussed the Nationals as a potential suitor for Lucroy previously, but the Astros haven't really been linked to Lucroy publicly this winter. Even after the Doug Melvin mined some of Houston's best prospects in the Gomez/Fiers deal, there's no one better suited than David Stearns, formerly of the Astros front office, to find the gems remaining in their farm system.
The Astros made their move into "win-now" mode pretty clear with the heavy price they paid to acquire Ken Giles earlier far this winter, but according to MLB Pipeline they should still have plenty of prospects that might pique the Brewers' interest. Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, and Daz Cameron both fit with the Stearns model of acquiring young, high upside talent in the low minors, though all three were drafted in 2015 and signed to large bonuses so the Astros may not yet be willing to move any one of them at this point. A.J Reed was recently ranked as the game's best first base prospect after he hit 34 home runs between AA and AAA last season, and we know Milwaukee has a long-term void to fill there. On the pitching side of things, Michael Feliz, Francis Martes, and Joe Musgrove all project as potential mid-rotation starters with three average-or-better pitches. And those are just some of the players in their top 10.
There's been a negative connotation placed around rebuilding things the "Astros way" or tanking, as some have called it, in recent weeks. But to me it seems like a smart business model to stuff your system so full of talent that even after making two blockbuster trades in six months, you can still go out and get just about any player you want on the trade market.
Owner Mark Attanasio said yesterday at "Brewers On Deck" that he fully expects Lucroy to begin spring training in a Brewers' uniform, though of course that's probably just posturing at this point. We know Lucroy desires to be elsewhere and two veteran players, Scooter Gennett in a radio interview and Ryan Braun yesterday at "On Deck," have already come out to disagree with Lucroy's recent comments. At this point it'd obviously be best for all parties involved to get Lucroy out of Milwaukee sooner rather than later, so hopefully these rumors are a sign that his market is picking up steam before the start of spring training.
Braun called Lucroy in wake of Lucroy's comments on rebuild: "I made it clear to him that's not how we're going to handle the situation."— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) January 31, 2016