One game into his return from a concussion and a broken nose, injuries suffered in a violent home-plate collision in Houston on July 7, Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy absorbed another unexpected blow Friday.
The 10-year veteran was designated for assignment, the Angels choosing to go with defensive specialist Max Stassi, who was acquired from the Astros on Wednesday, and veteran backup Kevan Smith behind the plate.
Stassi, 28, Smith, 31, and Lucroy, 33, all are out of minor league options, so one had to be the odd man out. Lucroy will be a free agent and did not appear to be in the team’s plans for 2020. Stassi and Smith, a more offensive-minded catcher, are under club control for three more years.
“We had to make a difficult decision to make sure we maintained as much control as possible, and while we want to help the 2019 team, we also have to be mindful of what the depth chart looks like for next season and beyond,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “Ultimately, this was right for the organization.”
Lucroy, who signed a one-year, $3.35-million deal last winter, hit .242 with a .681 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, seven homers, eight doubles and 30 RBIs in 74 games.
After missing three weeks following his collision with Houston’s Jake Marisnick, Lucroy returned Wednesday and went two for four with a double in a loss to Detroit.
But Lucroy appeared to regress defensively. He allowed a major league-high 46 wild pitches and seven passed balls in 542 innings this season.
The other 29 teams will have seven days — beginning Saturday — to claim Lucroy off waivers. If Lucroy is not claimed, he will become a free agent.
The Lucroy move, combined with the team’s inability to acquire a much-needed starting pitcher before Wednesday’s trade deadline, indicated to some that the Angels, who entered play Friday 6½ games back in the American League wild-card race, don’t expect to make a playoff push.
Eppler said he didn’t wave a white flag with the move.
“We feel the tandem of Stassi and Smith doesn’t put us in a position where we’re taking a step back, by any means,” Eppler said. “Kevan has been a big offensive contributor and the pitching staff has done well throwing to him, and Max’s defensive reputation would demonstrate that he can be a contributor as well.”
Lucroy is the third player signed to a one-year deal by the Angels last off-season who did not last. Closer Cody Allen ($8.5 million) and starting pitcher Matt Harvey ($11 million) were released.
Max Cleveland time
Wednesday’s trade, consummated just before the 1 p.m. (PDT) deadline, caught Stassi, who spent seven years in the Astros’ organization, by surprise.
“My head’s spinning right now,” he told Houston reporters after the deal was announced. “I can’t think.”
Stassi had time to get his bearings. The Astros were in Cleveland on Wednesday. The Angels arrived in Cleveland on Thursday and are staying in the same hotel the Astros did.
Stassi didn’t even have to change his hotel room. He had the same cubicle in the Progressive Field visiting clubhouse on Friday that he had Wednesday. And he had dinner Thursday night with Angels pitching coach Doug White and bullpen coach Andrew Bailey to go over scouting reports and the repertoires of his new pitchers.
“That was huge,” Stassi said. “You hear a lot of stories of guys getting traded, being in Chicago and flying to San Francisco, showing up in the sixth inning and pinch-hitting and then thrown into the lineup for a day game the next day.
“It definitely made the transition easier. Being in the American League West and knowing all these guys, playing against them, knowing what they’re about, how good this team is . . . it’s pretty exciting.”
Left-hander Andrew Heaney (shoulder inflammation) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Friday and will either throw a simulated game or make a minor league rehabilitation start before being activated. . . . Though top prospect Jo Adell was promoted to triple-A on Thursday, manager Brad Ausmus said “by no means is it a foregone conclusion” that the outfielder will be among the team’s big league call-ups in September. . . . Left-handed Adam McCreery cleared waivers and was sent to Salt Lake.