The Braves catching situation continues to be an atrocity, perhaps since the 2014 season, and the organization is actively seeking a dependable option as a backstop for the coming seasons.
The eras of Brian McCann and Evan Gattis are gone, and the Braves situation has been a bit cloudy since the trust of John Coppolella arrived in Atlanta and began their rebuilding process. Last season, A.J. Pierzynski was signed to be a leader and a mentor to the young pitchers, and that was successful in 2015. However, at age 39, the story is not the same.
Pierzynski is currently hitting .206 this season and having numerous defensive miscues, which have been detrimental to the team’s success. Therefore, many believe the Braves have already planned to evaluate the catching situation and potentially acquire a primary guy. However, that becomes even more of a priority now as Tyler Flowers, the “backup” catcher who has been depended on in many situations, broke his hand prior to the All-Star Break and is expected to be sidelined until September.
As a result of the injury, Anthony Recker was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett. Recker was fairly reliable down at the minor league level and also had impact in his previous stint with the Mets. However, at 32 and known as nothing more than a low-value backup at the position, the Braves need to go a level higher and try to scour the catching ranks and try to land a reliable, multi-faceted starting catcher. The Braves have been actively searching to fill this need, and president of baseball operations John Hart says it’s of high importance.
“Right now, I think we’d have to stand in line to get our catching position solved,” Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. “We’re certainly going to look at catching, but I don’t know that we’re going to find the right guy to step in right now. But don’t think for a minute we’re not examining the catching situation.”
A name that has popped back up on the Braves radar is Jonathan Lucroy, currently with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was on the organization’s radar last season, but less aggressively pursued after sustaining a concussion last season. However, he is being pursued again after a successful season to this point. At 30 years of age, he can serve as the veteran presence to the young arms as they begin their tenures in Atlanta. However, having a few years left in the prime stage of career brings the Braves some legitimate offense at that position for the next few seasons.
Lucroy is batting .303 this season and has a quality reputation both on-the-field and in the clubhouse. While no fan should expect an acquisition of this caliber to turn the Braves around from the worst team in baseball to a playoff contender, he will be a vital part of future teams in SunTrust Park if acquired.
If the Braves hope to land the All-Star backstop, it may come at a steep price. Not only will multiple prospects have to be dealt, but the organization also must feel confident that he can be re-signed, as he has a $5.25 million option for the 2017 season.
If Lucroy comes at too steep of a price, they may look elsewhere. At this time no names are known, however a big-name catcher currently affiliated with a World Series contender shouldn’t be expected.
Nonetheless, with top catching prospect Lucas Herbert potentially being three or more years away from seeing Major League action and the hope of having Tyler Flowers in a true backup role next season, a move needs to be made and the organization has 16 days to make their addition.