Cool Hand Lucroy and Miller Time in Cleveland

There was a cup of coffee early Sunday morning where Cleveland baseball fans thought club GM Chris Antonetti had traded for both Milwaukee All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy and Yankee relief stud Andrew Miller. The Land wondered if they weren’t still drunk from the Cavs’ NBA Championship parade. Cleveland had literally sold the farm (system) for two All-Stars. What was this aggressive baseball club and what had they done with the Tribe?

The Lucroy deal, it turns out, was not to happen. More on that in a bit.

Even had Cleveland landed Lucroy, though, Miller would have been the real prize. To pry Miller from New York, Cleveland had to overpay. In return for Miller, Cleveland shipped out OF Clint Frazier, the team’s top prospect, and three other prospects, including the awesomely named Justus Sheffield.

Three top-20 prospects and a speculative add in return for a guy whose going to pitch 80 innings a year, max? Of course it’s an overpay.

Not to say it was the wrong price, nor that it was a bad deal. Quite the contrary. To put it in perspective, if you want to drive a Bentley off the lot, you’re going to have to fork over Bentley cash. Would a Toyota Camry get the job done? Probably. But if you have the capital and the opportunity, you drive that Bentley off the lot and straight through the Playoffs.

Given the Cubs’ payment for Chapman, the market demanded Cleveland overpay for two-year control of an elite lefty reliever. And given that price tag, it may be a blessing that Lucroy vetoed a trade to Cleveland.

In the span of two hours on Sunday morning, Cleveland sports chatter went from “F*** yeah! Lucroy” to “F*** Lucroy!” Tweets begged the question of why he would nix a deal to play for a World Series contender

The answer, of course, is fair value and money. Isn’t it always? When every other Buckeye decried Lucroy as a villain greater than Voldemort, I couldn’t help but think, “Good on you, Lucroy.”

In signing his deal with Milwaukee, Lucroy knew he could end up being paid well under his fair market value. For this precise reason,  Lucroy negotiated a no-trade clause. In addition to preventing trades to losing clubs, no-trade clauses become fringe benefits to a contract. It’s like taking  slightly lower salary for your company in exchange for more vacation days each year.

Underpaid and then traded by Milwaukee, Lucroy leveraged his no-trade clause to request compensation more in line with his All-Star performance. He asked Cleveland either restructure his current deal or excise the $5m team option for 2017. Cleveland refused on both fronts. Further, sources indicate they wouldn’t even guarantee Lucroy would be the team’s starting catcher once Yan Gomes returned from the DL.

Cleveland may boo him for it, and Milwaukee’s front office may grumble over prospects lost, but Lucroy did exactly what he should have. It seems everyone is for the Free Market until a catcher vetoes a trade. Lucroy is a top-tier catcher, he can manage a staff, and hit for power and average. He should be payed as such.

Whether or not Lucroy’s gamble pays off will have to be seen. Seconds before the deadline, the Texas Rangers, who are not on Lucroy’s no-trade list, pried Lucroy and reliever Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers.

It’s hard to be salty when Cleveland has all five of their 10+ WAR starting pitchers, Cody Allen, and now Andrew Miller under team control until 2018. A healthy Michael Brantley could be a better addition than anything on the trade market. Even should this not be Cleveland’s year, Cleveland has OF stud Bradley Zimmer on the farm. The window is wide open, boys; time to drive that Bentley to the promised land.


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