Washington Nationals: Is Jonathan Lucroy a worthwhile target?

The Washington Nationals are weak behind the plate, especially after Matt Wieters. Could Jonathan Lucroy be a fit?

The Washington Nationals are among the most well-rounded teams in the league. They have a great offense, defense, starting rotation, and bullpen. However, that is not to say that there is no room to improve.

Last year, the Nats’ catching tandem of Matt Wieters and Jose Lobaton was arguably the worst in the league. Wieters will return and play a prominent role again in 2018, but Lobaton has since joined the rival Mets.

As of right now, Miguel Montero and Pedro Severino are battling to become Wieters’ backup. While Montero has been an All-Star in the past and Severino has a promising future, neither of them are great options for 2018.

If the Nats decide that they are not comfortable with Montero or Severino backing up Wieters, they could sign Jonathan Lucroy.

Lucroy, a 31-year-old backstop, was an elite catcher as recently as 2016. Unfortunately, everything fell apart for him last year.

2017 was an extremely unorthodox season for Lucroy. He began the year playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, which he had never done before. He won a ring, but his season preparation suffered because of it.

Then, once Lucroy finally reported to spring training, it was the first time in his career not beginning the season with Milwaukee. He spent the first six and a half seasons of his career with the Brewers, but was traded to the Rangers in July of 2016.

Lucroy struggled a bit in the first half of 2017, batting .242 with four homers in 77 games. He was then traded once again, this time to the Rockies.

Lucroy’s numbers improved in Colorado, but this should be taken with a grain of salt. With the Rockies, he hit .367 in 27 games at Coors Field and .238 in 19 games on the road. This is a relatively small sample size, but it appears that he was the beneficiary of hitting at Coors Field.

Although Lucroy had a down year in 2017, there is reason to believe he can return to form.

First, he did not get the opportunity to go through his typical season preparation due to his participation in the WBC. Playing in the WBC has a tendency to hurt players in the regular season, which could have been the case with Lucroy. However, he will not get to go through his typical season preparation this year either because he remains unsigned three weeks before Opening Day.

Lucroy may have also been the victim of bad luck. His BABIP, .286, was the lowest of his career and was 36 points lower than his All-Star campaign the year before.

Finally, Lucroy would get to work with Kevin Long if he signs with the Nats. Long is considered to be one of the best hitting coaches in the league and has transformed hitters in the past. Just ask Daniel Murphy what Long is capable of.

If the Nats can sign Lucroy for cheap, which they likely could, they should sign him. He was an All-Star two years ago and provides a great veteran presence.

If he can return to form with the Nats, he will complement Wieters perfectly. If he cannot return to form, he is probably just as good as Montero and Severino.

In an effort to keep Wieters fresh for the whole year, the Nats plan to use their backup catcher more than most teams. Because of this, they must employ a capable backup. Montero, Severino, and Lucroy all come with question marks, but Lucroy is the safest option.