As baseball executives around the country delay pulling triggers on trades or free-agent signings, the Angels have quietly become one of the most active teams of the offseason.
The Angels on Friday agreed to sign veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy to a one-year contract, according to sources familiar with the situation. The deal, which is worth a guaranteed $3.35 million plus bonuses based on games started at catcher and plate appearances, is pending a physical.
The Angels will have to make a corresponding move on their full 40-man roster to finalize their deal with Lucroy.
Lucroy, 32, spent last year leading a cobbled-together Oakland A’s pitching staff that, like the Angels’ own corps, was decimated by injuries. He made himself valuable to A’s pitchers, including right-hander Trevor Cahill, whom the Angels signed last week. Lucroy helped guide the group to a 3.81 earned-run average, low enough to rank 11th in baseball.
Lucroy had not been in the early plans the A’s laid out for their 2018 season. A free agent for the first time in his career, he didn’t ink a deal until opening day was two weeks away.
Lucroy became a free agent again in November, but this time he didn’t have to sit all offseason waiting for an assignment. He found a match in the Angels, a team that had set a goal of finding a veteran catcher soon after the 2018 season ended. The Angels spent nearly two months with only two catchers on their 40-man roster in Jose Briceno and Kevan Smith, neither of whom has played a full season in the major leagues.
Lucroy hasn’t played in more than 126 games since he became an All-Star for the second time in his career in 2016, yet he possesses the experience the Angels lost when they traded catcher Martin Maldonado last July.
A third-round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2007 draft, Lucroy has hit 206 doubles, 23 triples and 100 home runs and posted a .758 on-base-plus-slugging percentage over nine major league seasons. Over 126 games last year, Lucroy batted .241 with a meager .291 on-base percentage that ranked 11th of 15 catchers with at least 400 plate appearances.
Lucroy doesn’t seem to present a substantial offensive upgrade, but the Angels chose to take a flier. Lucroy was worth 4.6 wins above replacement, according to the Fangraphs version of the statistic, in 2016, so he’s not too far removed from his last All-Star campaign.
Regardless, Lucroy will shore up what had been the weakest remaining portion of the Angels’ roster, as general manager Billy Eppler already filled holes in the starting rotation by signing Cahill and Matt Harvey before Christmas.