With the MLB Trade Deadline looming, the Cleveland Indians have two glaring needs: A catcher who can be a threat at the plate, and another bullpen arm (or two or three...). On Wednesday, MLB.com's Jerry Crasnick tweeted that the Indians could possibly kill two birds with one stone in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers in which they would acquire both catcher Jonathan Lucroy and reliever Will Smith.
While Lucroy isn't the defensive-type catcher that either Roberto Perez, Yan Gomes, or Chris Gimenez are, he would be a tremendous upgrade solely due to the fact that he is much better at the plate. So far this season, it's almost as though whoever is playing catcher for the Indians is an automatic out when they step in the batter's box. The right-hander would drastically change that. The 30-year-old has a .301/.362/.487 split with 16 doubles, three triples, 13 home runs, 50 RBIs, and five stolen bases in 92 games so far this season. In his seven-year career, all of which are with the Brewers, Lucroy has a .284/.343/.436 split with 156 doubles, 19 triples, 79 home runs, 387 RBIs, and 29 stolen bases in 802 games.
Of the 92 games he has played in so far in 2016, Lucroy has played 80 as a catcher, six at first base, and three as a designated hitter. The All Star has thrown out 40 percent of would-be base stealers (40 percent) this season. In his career, he has thrown out just 27 percent (176-of-465) but has greatly improved since 2013. While Lucroy may be worse defensively than the catchers who are currently on the Indians, his bat is such an improvement from the other catchers that his defense almost wouldn't be noticed.
Lucroy is in the final year of a five-year, $10.28 million deal he signed in 2012, with a team option in 2017. Obviously, if the Indians were to acquire the right-handed catcher, they would be able to accept that team option for next season as well.
Smith is a left-handed reliever that the Indians desperately need, along with an above-average bullpen arm as well. So far in 2016, the 27-year-old owns a 1-3 record with a 3.72 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 19.1 innings (24 games). In his brief five-year career so far that includes two seasons with the Kansas City Royals before going to the Brewers in 2014, Smith has a 17-18 record with a .395 ERA and 297 strikeouts in 271.1 innings (213 games). While he may not be a shutdown and scary left-hander out of the 'pen, he would still be an upgrade for the Indians.
The reliever will make $1.48 million this season, become arbitration eligible in 2017 and will be a free agent in 2020.
With both of these players being able to fill tremendous needs for the Indians, why not package them in a deal with the same team and acquire them both? While it remains to be seen if this is purely just a rumor of the club is legitimately trying to trade for both of these players from the Brewers, with the trade deadline coming Monday, this would be an easy way to fill two holes in this club.