MESA, Ariz. — Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, whom the A’s reportedly have signed as a free agent, has a big fan on the other side of the Bay.
Lucroy spent three seasons in Milwaukee with Will Smith, the Giants reliever. When asked about their time together, Smith associated Lucroy’s ability to handle a pitching staff up there with elite names like Buster Posey and Salvador Perez, two catchers Smith has also had the chance to work with in his career.
“He controlled our starters and the bullpen real well,” Smith said. “He knew what we worked with and what we liked to throw with two strikes. He did his homework. He’s a good guy to have back there.”
Smith said the studious Lucroy was often seen wandering the Brewers’ clubhouse with a notebook in hand, reading scouting reports and ending up in the video room to break down film of opposing batters.
Lucroy’s ability to frame the ball was also described by Smith as top-notch, recalling multiple times when the catcher was able to bring back pitches in the lower part of the zone for strikes.
“It definitely gives you more confidence,” Smith said. “Lucroy could get that low pitch for you. He’s just really good at what he does.”
For an A’s starting rotation whose oldest expected member will be 27, veteran leadership behind the plate would be ideal. Smith believes Lucroy, 31, brings that much-needed leadership both on the field and in the locker room.
“He’s a great guy in the clubhouse. He was fun. When we would hit one of our bad stretches of the season he would be one of the guys that would get us out of it and try to make some guys laugh and have a little fun,” Smith said. “To a lot of people he might seem quiet and not really talk much, but when he’s around the guys, he’s a good teammate.”
Smith also happened to play with Lucroy when the catcher was at his peak with his offensive numbers, as he made the National League All-Start team in 2014 and 2016.
The 2014 season, which saw Lucroy bat .303 with 13 home runs and a major league-leading 53 doubles to finish fourth in NL MVP voting, was unlike anything Smith said he has seen from a catcher.
“That year he was just on fire. It felt like everything he hit was a double,” Smith said. “Anybody you can bring to a team that can hit well, any manager will take that.”
Lucroy’s offensive numbers slipped a bit with the Texas Rangers last season before getting dealt to the Colorado Rockies in July, where he hit .310 in 46 games.
Lucroy combined to hit just .265/.345/.371 with six home runs and 40 RBIs in 423 at-bats.
But no matter what type of numbers Lucroy puts up at the plate, Smith said the value he brings to the club alone with his knowledge of the game is going to make his signing worth it for the A’s.
“The fact he can control a staff the way he does and he cares about his blocking and framing is invaluable,” Smith said. “He’ll make any lineup better.”