Athletics

Why Jonathan Lucroy's value goes far beyond the stats for red-hot A's

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Why Jonathan Lucroy's value goes far beyond the stats for red-hot A's

When the A's signed Jonathan Lucroy back in March, they knew they were getting a solid defensive catcher with a stellar reputation for working with pitching staffs. But the 32-year-old veteran has proven even more valuable than they ever imagined.

Through all the injuries to Oakland's starting pitchers, including nine DL stints and four Tommy John surgeries, Lucroy has held the rotation together. The A's have had to use 13 different starting pitchers, second only to the Rays (and let's be honest, they don't really count since they have decided to start relievers). In comparison, the first-place Astros have used the same five starters the entire season.

“He's a true quarterback and leader behind the plate,” A's manager Bob Melvin said of Lucroy. “The younger (pitchers) don't even think about shaking him off because he's so well prepared.”

“He's a student of the game,” added starting pitcher Mike Fiers, who played five seasons with Lucroy in Milwaukee. “He does his homework before every game.”

Lucroy has helped the A's to a team ERA of 3.83, fourth best in the American League. That's especially impressive considering that 60 percent of the starting rotation began the season in the minor leagues. So what's Lucroy's secret?

“I try to get them to simplify as much as I can,” he said. “I've caught a lot of guys who overanalyze things and make it harder on themselves than it should be. I just get them to worry about execution and throwing strikes. That's it. ... The more you simplify it, the more you just throw strikes, get ahead of hitters, and execute, the more successful you're going to be.”

Lucroy has also helped the pitching staff with his arm, throwing out 20 would-be base stealers this season, tied for the most in MLB. He has been extremely durable, starting 88 games at catcher to lead the AL. But perhaps his biggest impact has been in the clubhouse.

“Since the day he got here, he's been one of the bigger personalities and one of the leaders of the team,” Melvin praised. “He has just been a great addition.”

“There are no egos in here,” Lucroy said. “Guys are pretty humble and down to earth. There's no one player in here who wants more attention than anybody else. We don't even want attention. We just want to go out and play hard and win. ... I've never been on a team that's like that before, where it's been so prevalent throughout the clubhouse, that same kind of train of thought. It's pretty cool to see and be a part of. I think that's one of the biggest reasons why we're successful.”

Khris Davis contract extension 'an ongoing conversation' with A's

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Khris Davis contract extension 'an ongoing conversation' with A's

LAS VEGAS -- While the A's focus at the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings understandably is on free agents, they haven't forgotten about their most valuable player.

Khris Davis is set to become a free agent after next season, and A's general manager David Forst said Monday that the team still is discussing a contract extension.

"It continues to be an ongoing conversation," he said. "Khris is going to be here in 2019 no matter what, so the sense of urgency right now is making sure we build the rest of the roster. But Khris is a huge priority for us, and that conversation is always ongoing."

Davis earned a team-high $10.5 million last season, and he's expected to receive a major raise in arbitration. MLB Trade Rumors projects the number to be $18.1 million.

While completing next year's roster is the focus right now, Forst has made it clear to Davis that he is a top priority.

"His representatives know," Forst said. "Not that much time has passed since the last time I talked to Khris' representatives. So it is constantly ongoing."

Davis, 30, has recorded 40 or more home runs and 100 or more RBI in each of his last three seasons, joining Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx as the only two players in A's history to accomplish the feat. Since 2016, Davis leads all of baseball with 133 homers.

"I envision myself winning a championship in Oakland," Davis told NBC Sports California last season. "We've got a great group of guys I like to be around and just grow with them on a daily basis. I like where I'm at right now."

MLB rumors: Jonathan Lucroy, A's far apart in contract negotiations

MLB rumors: Jonathan Lucroy, A's far apart in contract negotiations

LAS VEGAS -- A's general manager David Forst said the team definitely will add another catcher this offseason, but it's looking like it might not be 2018 starter Jonathan Lucroy.

Lucroy and the A's are far apart on potential salary figures, The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported Monday, citing sources. According to Slusser, the 32-year-old would accept a one-year deal for the right price, but the A's are offering under $5 million, and he wants more than that.

Lucroy earned $6.5 million from the A's last season, but Spotrac lists his current market value at just $2.3 million because of his subpar offensive numbers. He slashed .241/.291/.325 with four home runs and 51 RBI in 126 games.

Of course, Lucroy's value goes far beyond his offensive production. Last season, he helped Oakland's pitching staff navigate through numerous injuries, and he provided stellar defense behind the plate. Lucroy led the majors in runners caught stealing, though he also allowed the most stolen bases.

[RELATED: A's staying patient in pitching pursuit as MLB Winter Meetings begin]

Lucroy has shown he is willing to be patient in free agency. He didn't sign with the A's until March last offseason. But this year's catcher market is much deeper, and he could struggle to get his desired salary from anyone.

Some of the other free-agent options at catcher include Wilson Ramos, Yasmani Grandal, Martin Maldonado, James McCann, Matt Wieters and Nick Hundley. The A's also could pursue a catcher via trade.

Currently, Josh Phegley is the only catcher on Oakland's 40-man roster, though the A's have Sean Murphy and Beau Taylor under contract in the minors.