Luc and Maldo: possible trade bait

> The Brewers signed catcher Blake Lalli to a minor league deal earlier today. The deal includes an invite to big league Spring Training,

At first, I just presumed this was a move to give the Brewers catching depth in case something were to happen to Jonathan Lucroy or Martin Maldonado. But it got me thinking about a topic that I’ve been pondering ever since Maldonado established himself at the big league level while filling in for Lucroy.

The Brewers have two catchers who are capable of starting in the Majors in Lucroy and Maldonado. That’s a luxury not many teams have. But, while it’s great to have, you have to wonder if the Brewers are dangling either of them on the trade market.

It’s sort of the same situation the Packers had at the end of last season. They had two quarterbacks who could have starting jobs in the NFL- Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn. Rodgers was- and still is- clearly the incumbent. Flynn was a great back-up, but, when free agency called his name, he decided to walk. The point is, if a guy knows he’s good enough to start at the big league level- whether it be baseball or football- he’s going to want that opportunity.

The difference with the Brewers’ catching situations is that both Lucroy and Maldonado are still controllable for a good amount of time. Lucroy just signed a five-year extension last year, while this will be just Maldonado’s second year in the big leagues, so he’s got a long ways to go before free agency.

But I wouldn’t at all count out the Brewers trying to use one of the catchers as trade bait in exchange for, say, bullpen help. The Brewers signed Lucroy to a very financially friendly deal. At first glance, that could be Lucroy giving the Brewers a discount because he wants to stay in Milwaukee, but you have to wonder if the Brewers have other ideas. Luc’s contract is certainly one another team wouldn’t mind picking up. Maldonado, meanwhile, still has years of team control, and won’t hit arbitration for a few years either.

So, the Brewers have two very talented catchers- both offensively and defensively- who have extremely friendly financial situations. There isn’t a doubt in my mind other teams have at least inquired on one of them.

Amazing the discussion some random minor league signing can draw out.

> Norichika Aoki has decided to sit out the World Baseball Classic coming up this spring. A few other Japanese players around baseball, such as Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma, have decided to do the same.

> David Price and R.A. Dickey won the American and National League Cy Young Awards, respectively.

Despite the fact Dickey won the award practically unanimously, there’s some controversy that Clayton Kershaw should have won the award again. Kershaw certainly had the stats to back it up- he led the league in ERA for the second straight year, had just six fewer innings than Dickey, and one less strikeout than Dickey. However, Kershaw got just 14 wins (obviously not his fault, he played for a disappointing team). And Dickey had a ton of hype around him all year because of his “feel-good story” and the fact that he’s a knuckleballer.

Personally, I chose Dickey to win the award, but not because of his story or the fact that he’s a knuckleballer; neither of those things impact that his raw stats were amazing. Not to mention Dickey played for a worse team than Kershaw and still managed to rack up 20 wins.

I also chose Price to win his award; his 20-5 record and 2.56 ERA were captivating enough for me. Justin Verlander had another great year- 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA. But a lot of Price’s raw numbers (ERA, wins, etc.) were simply better than Verlander’s, which impacts voters’ decisions. And, Price pitches in a much tougher division.

> The MVP awards are going to be handed out tomorrow, but Ryan Braun isn’t going to win.

> Minor moves: 

Tigers: Signed Torii Hunter to a two-year deal.
Marlins: Claimed Scott Maine off waivers from the Blue Jays. (In exchange, the Jays received the rest of the Marlins’ roster.)

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