WASHINGTON — The Rockies on Sunday dug up some roundabout reinforcement for their exceedingly young pitching staff, acquiring 31-year-old catcher Jonathan Lucroy in a trade with Texas, the Rangers confirmed.
The Rockies didn’t confirm the trade during their doubleheader against the Nationals. The Rockies side of the deal will be for a player to be named later, according to a major-league source.
Lucroy, a two-time all-star, joins his third team in two seasons after twice being involved in trade- deadline deals. The Milwaukee Brewers sent him to Texas last summer in a multiplayer trade that involved two top-50 prospects.
Now in his eighth season, Lucroy is a career .280 hitter with 94 home runs, including 24 homers in 2016. He is hitting only .242 this year with four homers and a .635 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). That would rank him last among Rockies regulars.
Lucroy, though, is valued for his defense. A kind of godfather of modern pitch framing, he held together a Milwaukee pitching staff for six and a half seasons, including an all-star year in 2014 when he finished fourth in National League MVP voting. He once was the best in baseball in gaining called strikes but has dipped in recent seasons, now below both Rockies catcher Tony Wolters and former Colorado catcher Nick Hundley.
When the Rangers acquired him last July, Lucroy had wide interest as the best available position player on the market. He was the starting catcher for Team USA in March, playing with third baseman Nolan Arenado and relievers Jake McGee and Pat Neshek, when the Americans won the World Baseball Classic in Los Angeles.
Lucroy and Neshek are players with expiring contracts acquired by the Rockies in a week, a signal of their intention to get into the postseason at the risk of sacrificing future potential.
Former Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd, now an analyst for the MLB Network, once said that “young pitching and young catching is a recipe for disaster.”
The Rockies seemed to recognize that early this season, after 26-year-old catcher Tom Murphy suffered a broken forearm. They were set to use two rookie catchers this season, including Wolters. Instead, they replaced Murphy on the big-league roster with veteran journeyman Ryan Hanigan. But Hanigan, 36, isn’t a full-time catcher.
Four rookie pitchers have excelled in an evolving Rockies rotation, but not without struggle. Between right-handers Jeff Hoffman, 24, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela, both 22, and lefty Kyle Freeland, 24, Colorado’s rookie starters carried a collective 4.46 ERA before Sunday’s doubleheader. Freeland has been the best of the bunch, with a 3.64 ERA.