Lowdown: Locking In Lucroy

Dave Shovein examines the Angels landing Jonathan Lucroy and the suitors for J.T. Realmuto in Monday's Offseason Lowdown

Locking In Lucroy

The Angels suffered a major drop off in their defense behind the plate and in their handling of their pitching staff last season after Martin Maldonado was dealt to the Astros in a mid-season trade.

They won’t be having the same problem in 2019.

On Saturday, the Angels went out and signed free agent backstop Jonathan Lucroy to a one-year, $3.35 million contract. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who was the first to report the deal, Lucroy can earn as much as $4.525 million with incentives.

The 32-year-old backstop, and two-time All-Star, is widely regarded for his pitch framing skills and for his handling of a pitching staff. He also used to be among the top offensive performers at the catcher position, but he’s had a very rough go of things at the plate over the past two seasons. He's coming off of a miserable season offensively in which he slashed a mere .241/.291/.325 with four homers and 51 RBI in 126 games with the Athletics.

From a fantasy perspective, he should see the bulk of the playing time behind the plate in Los Angeles and should hit in the bottom third of the Halos’ lineup. Overall, the fantasy community doesn’t have much faith in a possible rebound, as his current average draft position has him outside the top 300 players overall and outside the top 20 options at the catcher position.

Realmuto Rumblings

If we look past the ongoing saga for the top two free agents on the market, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, there’s another big fish available that’s expected to land with a new club next season.

J.T. Realmuto has made it perfectly clear that he’s not interested in signing a contract extension to remain in Miami long term. The Marlins have been fielding plenty of inquiries on their All-Star backstop and look increasingly likely to deal him.

There have been at least seven clubs that have been linked to Realmuto in recent weeks. A few of those suitors, have already addressed their catching needs elsewhere -- the Mets with Wilson Ramos and the Angels with Lucroy. That leaves the Astros, Dodgers, Braves, Padres and Brewers.

The Astros seem to be the most active in discussions to this point. The Marlins are demanding either pitcher Forrest Whitley or outfielder Kyle Tucker to headline the return package and so far, the Astros are not willing to part with either of them.

There’s enough serious interest now that the Marlins should be able to enact some sort of a bidding war between the interested parties, driving up their potential return. If they opt to hold onto him until the trade deadline, there’s no guarantee that they’ll have the same type of interest.

They aren’t forced to make this move though. Realmuto still has two years of arbitration-eligibility remaining and is under team control through the 2020 season.

The most likely scenario, is that they wait until Yasmani Grandal, the top remaining catcher on the free agent market, signs. Then, with no other high-end catching options available to be had, they extort the best possible deal out of the remaining teams that are looking for a major upgrade behind the dish.

E6 on the Move Again?

Jerry Dipoto is always up to barter. It looks now like he could be trying to set a record on how many first baseman he can acquire, and deal, in one offseason.

Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported Saturday that the Rays, White Sox and Astros have been in contact with the Mariners regarding potential deals for Edwin Encarnacion.

The Rays have been linked with Encarnacion ever since they were involved in the three-team deal that sent the slugger from Cleveland to Seattle a couple weeks ago. The low-budget Rays would expect the Mariners to cover most of his salary in a potential trade and would therefore have to send back a larger haul of prospect value.

The White Sox appear to have the most money to spend and would probably be willing to take the bulk of Encarnacion's salary off the Mariners' hands, but would give up a correspondingly lower amount of prospect value in exchange.

It’s unclear on the Astros’ level of interest in the veteran slugger, or whether or not they have the financial flexibility to make it work, but they’re reportedly feeling it out as well.

Encarnacion batted .246/.336/.474 with 32 home runs and 107 RBI for the Indians last year. He has averaged 38 home runs and 109 RBI per year over the past seven seasons.

Quick Hits: The Blue Jays acquired veteran left-hander Clayton Richard from the Padres on Sunday in exchange for minor league outfielder Connor Panas and cash considerations… The Blue Jays designated the well-traveled Oliver Drake for assignment in a corresponding move… The Diamondbacks snagged left-hander Robby Scott from the Reds for cash considerations… Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Angels maintain interest in free agent right-hander David Robertson. Signing in Los Angeles would certainly be a boon to his fantasy value, as it’s one of the few destinations where he is likely to serve as the closer… Morosi also notes that the Brewers “remain prominent” in trade talks regarding Yankees’ right-hander Sonny Gray… The Rangers, Angels and Nationals have all expressed interest in free agent utilityman Josh Harrison… Morosi further reports that the Phillies, to this point, have been unwilling to give Dallas Keuchel the five-year contract that he desires… The Blue Jays signed right-hander Matt Shoemaker to a one-year, $3.5 million contract… The Rangers re-signed Adrian Sampson to a minor league deal… The Angels brought back Alex Meyer on a minor league pact. He isn’t expected to resume throwing until February, but makes for a nice low-risk signing… The Red Sox brought back Carson Smith on a minor league contract as well… Marc Carig of The Athletic reports the Astros have been discussing a potential trade for Seth Lugo with the Mets… Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggests the Red Sox could extend Mookie Betts as early as this offseason… Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says Robbie Ray may be the next player traded by the Diamondbacks this offseason… MLB.com's AJ Cassavell writes that the Padres are "very much a part of trade talks for the Yankees' Sonny Gray."... Ryan Cook agreed to a one-year, $1.3 million contract with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball.