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.