The offseason overhaul of the Milwaukee Brewers continued over the weekend with a five-player deal that included shortstop Jean Segura heading to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Could catcher Jonathan Lucroy be the next to be dealt?
Lucroy has been the subject of speculation all winter, and he added fuel to the fire a few weeks ago by telling Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a trade might work out well for both sides.
The 29-year-old Lucroy will make a modest $9.25 million over the next two seasons. His offensive production declined in an injury-plagued 2015 season, but Lucroy did bounce back with a strong second half (.289/.347/.461 slash line).
In Sunday's Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo cited "a few baseball folks" who feel "something's brewing" with Lucroy, noting the Astros and Nationals may be interested in adding the 2014 All-Star.
In Houston, Lucroy would step in behind the plate with Jason Castro getting more time at first base. According to previous reports, the Nationals were interested in an offensive upgrade at catcher over Wilson Ramos (.229/.258/.358).
Meanwhile, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio told Haudricourt on Sunday he fully expects Lucroy to be with the club when spring training begins.
Some teams may still have questions about Lucroy's slow start in 2015 and his possible decline as an elite defender, so a solid first half could make him an even more valuable trade target by the middle of the summer.
Here is more from the rumor mill as the calendar turns to February:
Desmond Jennings: The Rays have a hole to fill in the bullpen after sending Jake McGee to the Rockies, and that need can be addressed by trading from their surplus of outfielders, suggests Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Jennings could be the odd man out in an outfield that includes Steven Souza Jr., Kevin Kiermaier, Corey Dickerson and Steve Pearce. Jennings was limited to 28 games last season due to injuries and may have to prove he is healthy before any deal is done. Topkin says the Rays would like to deal first baseman James Loney, but have found no takers for his $8 million salary.
Scott Schebler: Acquired by the Reds in the three-team deal that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox, Schebler will be in the mix for left field and could be part of a platoon, reports C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Schebler made his big league debut for the Dodgers last season and hit three homers in 40 plate appearances. Adam Duvall and Rule 5 draftee Jake Cave, among others, will compete for the wide-open job in left field.
Chase Utley: When Utley re-signed with the Dodgers earlier this winter, it was under the assumption that Howie Kendrick would be playing elsewhere. That plan changed dramatically last week when Kendrick re-signed with the Dodgers to be their primary second baseman. MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick, however, says Utley will still get his share of at-bats at third base since the Dodgers will be cautious with Justin Turner as he returns from microfracture knee surgery.
Josh Bell: The Pirates’ top first base prospect is not a candidate to open the season with the major league club, but could be promoted sooner than later, reports Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Bell hit just seven homers at Double-A and Triple-A last season, and the Pirates would like to see more consistent power. John Jaso was signed to a two-year deal to occupy first base until Bell is ready.
Travis Ishikawa: Bob Dutton of the News Tribune reports a minor league deal between the Mariners and the first baseman/outfielder now appears unlikely. Dutton suggests a recent agreement with free agent Gaby Sanchez may have prompted the Mariners to pass on Ishikawa, a career .255 hitter who split last season between San Francisco and Pittsburgh.
Michael Brantley: Although Brantley said last week that he's targeting Opening Day for his return from shoulder surgery, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer cautions that his actual return date still remains unclear. "Until Brantley is cleared to swing a bat, it's impossible to know about his return," Pluto writes. The Indians will have Brantley play the field and run the bases in drills and also play in some minor league spring games, but they aren't worried about him being ready for April 4, according to Pluto.
Kyle Lohse: The free-agent right-hander is a target for teams looking for a potential bounce-back pitcher, Cafardo also reports. Lohse, 37, had an awful season with the Brewers last year but posted a 3.45 ERA in his first two seasons in Milwaukee (2013-14). Cafardo lists the Marlins among the clubs keeping tabs on Lohse, which isn't a surprise given Miami's reported interest in other reclamation arms like Tim Lincecum and Bronson Arroyo (before he signed with the Nationals).