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March 29, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Extending Lucroy

by R.J. Anderson


IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Re-signed RHP Dustin McGowan to a two-year contract extension worth $3 million with a club option for the 2015 season worth $4 million. [3/26]

You don’t see pitchers with 21 innings over the previous three seasons sign extensions often, but here we are. Prior to last September, McGowan’s most recent major-league appearance came in July 2008. McGowan spent that three-year gap recovering from multiple shoulder surgeries to repair a torn rotator cuff. Those three little words have ended careers before, so McGowan’s return is a testament to his dedication and disposition.

Said attributes seem to be the driving force behind the Jays’ decision to extend McGowan. Of course, there is more to re-upping McGowan than receiving a boost in the press and clubhouses. The Jays also stand to gain value if McGowan can return to his previous form, or take up a new form in the bullpen. For now, a foot injury will sideline McGowan, but that could be a blessing in disguise. It allows him to rehab in the minors to start his season. McGowan is out of options, so the Jays will have to pass him through waivers should they wish to send him to the minors otherwise.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Signed RHP Shawn Camp to a minor-league deal. [3/26]

Released LHP Trever Miller. [3/26]

Camp joins the Cubs after being released by the Mariners. Here is what I wrote about him earlier this offseason:

You have to credit Camp for hanging on this long. Drafted in the 16th round in 1997, Camp is a small righty with a high-80s sinker and platoon splits to back it up. Pitchers with that profile are common, making Camp’s survival after a rough start in the majors (230 2/3 innings and a 5.27 earned run average over his first four seasons) all the more puzzling, but he has turned things around since landing with the Jays in 2008 (257 2/3 innings and a 3.63 earned run average). Camp can frustrate when his groundballs bleed through the infield or his manager neglects to micromanage his appearances, but he has a place in a big-league bullpen so long as the sinker keeps working.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Re-signed C-R Jonathan Lucroy to a five-year contract extension worth $11 million or $13 million depending on his service time, with a club option for the 2017 season worth $5.25 million. [3/26]

Daniel Rathman noted on Wednesday that Lucroy joins the ever-expanding ranks of decent young players signing extensions. Decent sums up Lucroy. His first full season in the majors produced a .265/.312/.391 line with 12 home runs. Being a below-average offensive catcher in a rookie season is tolerable, though one wonders how much growing room the soon-to-be-26-year-old Lucroy has remaining. Approach last year’s line with a healthy dose of skepticism. Analyzing eighth-place hitters in National League lineups is difficult and leads to questions such as: Can you ding Lucroy for 25 of his 29 walks coming ahead of the pitcher’s spot? And what about 20 of his 29 extra-base hits? We don’t have satisfying answers for those questions.

Lucroy is unlikely to develop into an offensive dynamo and that’s OK. Where Lucroy excels is behind the plate, not at it. His framing skills are exquisite and his athleticism translates into above-average blocking. While Lucroy doesn’t throw out runners much beyond the league average, the overall package makes for an above-average defensive backstop. Add in the fun miscellany, like Ron Roenicke loving to have Lucroy squeeze, and the package yields a decent player.

The contract, like the description, fits Lucroy. Milwaukee is guaranteeing Lucroy at least $11 million for an additional year of control. A spiffy addition to Lucroy’s contract is the clause that bumps his pay if he qualifies for Super Two status, thus protecting the catcher from losing more earning potential by signing an extension now. Lucroy’s extension may lack the sizzle that the pacts with Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun brought last spring, but it should prove to be a prudent decision on the Brewers’ part

NEW YORK METS
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Signed RHP Chris Young to a minor-league deal. [3/26]

Rare is the right-handed starting pitcher who succeeds without average velocity or mass groundballs. Young endures due to his long stride and maximum arm extension, a recipe sure to enliven any plain-Jane fastball. Survival might not be an option for Young much longer; not because teams have turned blind eyes and deaf ears to his style, but because his body is not fond of the baseball lifestyle. 

Young made four starts in 2010 and another four in 2011. His most recent 50-plus-innings season came in 2009. He most recently topped 100 innings in 2008, and hit the 150 innings plateau in 2007 and no season since. Young’s shoulder is a mess and it isn’t often that cases like his get better with age, shy of a new medical procedure. Nevertheless, the Mets are bringing Young back for another season. This marriage makes all the sense in the world on paper, with Young benefitting from Citi Field and the Mets benefitting from cheap production. Alas, injuries will probably rob Young of an opportunity to thrive; and eventually those injuries will rob us all of a pitching abnormality.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

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