Jonathan Lucroy explains why he exercised his no-trade clause

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The Brewers and Indians reportedly had a deal in place on Saturday that would have sent All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy to Cleveland, but the catcher exercised his limited no-trade clause.

Lucroy, in January, said, “I want to win and I don’t see us winning in the foreseeable future. I want to go to a World Series. That’s what all players want. Rebuilding is not a lot of fun for any veteran guy.”

So why would Lucroy then veto a trade to the first-place, 60-42 Indians? MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy and Curt Hogg explain that, in order for Lucroy to agree to waive his limited no-trade clause, he wanted the Indians to agree to new financial incentives or nullify his $5.25 million club option for the 2017 season. The Indians didn’t agree to either option, so Lucroy refused to waive his limited NTC.

Lucroy elucidated on his decision-making process:

When you’re dealing with life-altering decisions like this, there are lots of different factors that come into play. Mostly it’s family, and the other half of that is your future in this game, your career. There are a lot of things to take in, and whenever those things don’t line up, decisions have to be made that might be tough. That’s the way it’s got to be, because in my eyes, we have to look out for our best interests.

The backstop continued, saying, “I’m looking for long-term, not short-term gain. Short-term gain is great, but long-term is more important for me and my family’s happiness, and that’s what we’re going to go with, no matter what.”

Lucroy’s logic makes a lot of sense. His potential $5.25 million salary for 2017 would make him drastically underpaid. Consider that the qualifying offer is expected to be close to $17 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. If Lucroy didn’t have that club option, and if the Brewers were to hold onto him, the club would almost certainly make the qualifying offer. In that event, Lucroy would be able to seek a multi-year deal elsewhere or accept the QO, which is about three times more than the option would pay him.

Becoming a free agent after the 2016 season, as opposed to the ’17 season, makes a big difference for Lucroy as well. He’s 30 years old and has put together another All-Star caliber campaign. If he were to hit free agency — especially in what is considered to be a weak free agent class going into the offseason — he would have the leverage to secure a healthy contract. Many things can happen next season which would limit his ability to match that potential. He could get hurt. He could underperform for any number of reasons. Teams’ catching needs could dry up relative to other positions, or there aren’t as many good fits as there are now.

That Lucroy invoked his right to refuse a trade to Cleveland and stood by his decision is also important from a labor perspective. Owners have done a good job of teaching fans — and some players, too — that players exercising their contractual rights is a selfish maneuver. For example, Josh Hamilton rejected a trade to a National League team last year because he wanted to go back to the Rangers. Hamilton was criticized for that and was deemed selfish, which Mike Bates captured at SB Nation. The prevailing belief was that Hamilton was being selfish for putting his own needs before those of his team, which was the L.A. Angels at the time. That’s the same team which, as Bates reminded us, treated Hamilton poorly publicly and privately after he had a relapse with drugs.

For a converse example, think of how often players are praised for “leaving money on the table,” such as when Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies in December 2010.

Lucroy didn’t owe it to the Brewers to agree to move elsewhere just to facilitate their rebuilding process, particularly if it affected his family’s future. Hopefully, Lucroy setting an example today helps players feel more confident in using the full extent of their rights as contractually agreed upon.