With a deal reportedly in place to send Jonathan Lucroy to the Cleveland Indians (pending him waiving his no-trade clause), the Milwaukee Brewers have potentially opened up a hole at catcher in their starting lineup. According to a tweet from Scott Miller, the club may be seeking to fill that vacancy through another trade:
Norris was one of baseball’s more productive catchers between 2013-2015, hitting .256/.333/.405 with 33 home runs in just over 1300 plate appearances with the Athletics and Padres during that time. His production has fallen off precipitously this season, however, as Norris owns a paltry .193/.253/.360 slash in 328 plate appearances in San Diego thus far in 2016. His strikeout rate of 29.3% would be a career high and is five points worse than his career average.
There is some reason to believe that Norris is the victim of some bad luck, however. He’s currently sporting a .236 BABIP that’s nearly 60 points worse than his career average, despite posting career bests in hard hit rate (36.2%) and line drive rate (21.7%).
Norris has hit double-digit home runs in each of the last three seasons and has already smacked 12 in 89 games this year. His .167 Isolated Power mark would be a career-best total. He’s been regarded as a positive contributor behind the dish per Defensive Runs Saved in each of the last two seasons, with Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average and Framing Runs both agreeing.
The Padres are reportedly “pushing” to move Norris, and if his value has fallen enough he could be an intriguing buy-low opportunity for the Brewers. Norris was a 2+ win player in each of the two seasons before this one and is controllable for two more years through arbitration. He’s earning the remainder of a $2.9 million salary in 2016.
In the meantime, should the Brewers and Indians announce the trade for Lucroy then Martin Maldonado would presumably slide into the everyday catching role. Maldy’s an outstanding defender behind the plate (perhaps even better than Lucroy) and has had a couple near-league average offensive seasons, but overall he’s a .217/.291/.340 hitter with 24 home runs in 938 career plate appearances. In 34 games he’s hitting .185/.313/.346 this year with four home runs (73 wRC+), though his 14.4% walk rate and .160 ISO are career bests.
According to Junior Guerra’s Instagram account, Sky Sox catcher Manny Pina has also arrived in Milwaukee in case of a Lucroy announcement. Pina was having an outstanding season for the Brewers’ AAA affiliate after arriving as a part of the K-Rod deal with Detroit over the winter. Overall he’s batted .329/.371/.506 with five home runs through 262 plate appearances, good for a 128 wRC+ even in the hitter-friendly environment that is Colorado Springs. The 29 year old briefly appeared in the big leagues in 2011 and 2012 with the Royals.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs