Texas Rangers rumors: Derek Norris, not Jonathan Lucroy, is the most likely catcher to be acquired at the trade deadline, according to Ken Rosenthal, who says Norris is a "near-lock" to be dealt.
Lucroy is a better player than Norris, but the Milwaukee Brewers' asking price for Lucroy is reportedly very steep, and while he's just under team control through 2017, the Brewers have reportedly shown an interest in extending the 30 year old, who has bounced back from a down 2015 season and has a .300/.360/.484 slash line on the year. It would likely take parting with Joey Gallo or Jurickson Profar, at a minimum, for Milwaukee to part with Lucroy, based on the most recent indications of their price, and it seems unlikely the Rangers would do that.
Texas, of course, currently has Robinson Chirinos as their starting catcher, and he's a solid option, but has durability issues that both limit how many starts he picks up when he's healthy, and has resulted in him spending more time on the disabled list than you'd like. Of the other three catchers on the 40 man roster, Bobby Wilson is currently backing up Chirinos, and has garnered praise for his game-calling and work with pitchers, but he doesn't hit much at all. Bryan Holaday, meanwhile, is on the disabled list, and the Rangers went out and got Wilson mid-season because they apparently weren't enthused about the work Holaday, who is also a glove-first guy, was doing. Meanwhile, Brett Nicholas is in Round Rock, and is hitting well, but his overall defense and game-calling is apparently seen as being insufficient to get him back up to the big leagues.
Thus, the search for catching help, the interest in someone who can share time with Chirinos and step into the everyday role if he gets hurt, and thus Derek Norris. Norris was acquired by the Padres before the 2015 season in a deal that sent R.J. Alvarez and Jesse Hahn to the A's. Norris isn't hitting this year -- he is slashing .196/.256/.365 in 2016 -- but has a history of being a decent hitter for a catcher, and his defense and pitch framing has shown significant improvement since coming to San Diego.
The Padres have Austin Hedges ready, and don't really need to keep Norris -- who has two years of team control left after 2016 -- around as a backup once Hedges come up, so dealing him makes sense. For the Rangers, it would give them a Chirinos/Norris pairing going forward, with Nicholas in AAA as depth, which solves the catching situation for a couple of years while strengthening the team right now.
Of course, the key question is what someone is going to give up for a middling catcher...I'd have to think the Rangers would be reluctant to part with a Yohander Mendez or an Ariel Jurado, given how thin the pitching in the upper minors is. Ronald Guzman would seem to be someone the Padres would ask for, and we remember how well it worked out the last time the Rangers dealt a first baseman who appeared to be blocked to the Padres...
So anyway, this is something to keep an eye on, especially given San Diego g.m. A.J. Preller's familiarity with the Rangers system and his role in acquiring many of the Rangers' prospects. I'd still love to get Austin Hedges, but if that isn't possible -- and it doesn't appear it is -- Norris might not be a bad option.
UPDATE -- And right after I do this post, Evan tweets this:
Gotten no indication Rangers are pursuing in-depth conversations re: SD catcher Derek Norris.— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) July 30, 2016