Red Sox’ Signing of Jonathan Lucroy is Low-Risk, High-Reward


On Tuesday morning, Chris Cotillo of reported that the Red Sox were close to a deal with two-time All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

The deal includes an invite to Spring Training.

Lucroy, 34 in June, is fresh off a season where he slashed .232/.305/.355 with a .286 wOBA in 101 games between the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs. While his expected stats indicate that Lucroy was the victim of bad luck in 2019, those numbers aren’t impressive either, although the veteran catcher did post his highest hard-hit rate since 2016, where he slashed .292/.355/.500 with a wRC+ of 123 between Milwaukee and Texas.


On top of his pedestrian-at-best offensive output in 2019, Lucroy’s defensive metrics weren’t anything to write home about either, posting -9.4 fielding runs above average (Prospectus), negative-four runs extra strikes (Savant), and -5.8 frame runs (FanGraphs).

The 33-year-old has had a real tale of two careers.


However, there’s something about this signing that should excite Red Sox fans, despite the lackluster numbers.

For starters, Lucroy is just a few years removed from being one of the best catchers in the league from both an offensive and defensive standpoint; even having a very convincing Hall of Fame case as recent as 2016. While the past few seasons haven’t been too kind to him, the elite talent very well could reappear in the right situation, and a hitter-friendly ballpark like Fenway Park could aid the resurrection of his offense should he make the Major League roster.

Second, there’s familiarity between the player and Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke. In their four full seasons together (2011-2014), Lucroy slashed .290/.349/.453 with an OPS+ of 118. On top of that, Lucroy’s defense was superb as he posted 119.6 FRAA, which is roughly 37.2 FRAA/150 for the period.

While it’s likely a matter of coincidence, Roenicke certainly got the best out of Jonathan Lucroy outside of his 2016 campaign. While not correlated, it’s also worth mentioning that this “second career” for Lucroy began when Roenicke was fired by Milwaukee upon a 7-18 start to the 2015 season.


Next, Lucroy had offseason surgery to replace a disc in his neck that was said to be bothering him for a couple of years.

Being a catcher is physically taxing as it is. Adding a neck injury to the mix certainly doesn’t help one perform at the position. If Lucroy’s neck is right and he’s feeling 100 percent, this signing could make major dividends for a Red Sox team looking to recapture glory despite an offseason of retooling.

Fourth, adding depth at the catcher position is crucial. Not that there is a glaring injury history to look into with Christian Vazquez, but with the catching position being physically taxing, injuries are unavoidable, whether it be to Vazquez or presumptive backup catcher Kevin Plawecki.

Lucroy adds depth to –– if added to the 40-man roster –– a catcher room that only has two names listed.

Finally, it’s a minor league contract. There’s almost no risk in signing a guy to a minor league contract, especially someone as formerly coveted as Lucroy was. Who knows what kind of motivation this brings the former All-Star? This, much like a lot of the other moves Boston has made this winter, could be the definition of low-risk, high-reward.

Lucroy is set to join the Red Sox in camp and, with the scheduled Spring Training opener with the Northeastern University Huskies, so begins the quest for Jonathan Lucroy to beat out Kevin Plawecki at backup catcher.


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