The Indians were one of eight clubs on Lucroy's no-trade list, a factor that might have been overcome had Cleveland offered financial incentives or torn up Lucroy's $5.25 million club option for next season, making him a free agent one year early. A source confirmed reports that the Indians, already incurring a cost of four players -- three on their MLBPipeline.com Top 30 prospects list, including highly regarded catcher Francisco Mejia -- declined to do either, and also declined to assure Lucroy he would be their primary catcher in 2017, his contract year. With the sides at an impasse, Lucroy vetoed.
"We know that this is part of the process," Brewers general manager David Stearns said. "It's why we engage with multiple teams throughout the entirety of the negotiation process."
No further talks with the Indians regarding Lucroy are expected, Stearns said, but the Brewers will continue to evaluate possible trades for Lucroy and others.
The non-waiver Trade Deadline is Monday at 3 p.m. CT.
"When you're dealing with life-altering decisions like this, there are lots of different factors that come into play," Lucroy said. "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."
For many, that outlook will appear contrary to Lucroy's comments in January, when he suggested he wanted the Brewers to trade him to a contender. Asked to explain that apparent inconsistency, Lucroy said, "Well, 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."
Brewers manager Craig Counsell raised the memory of last July 29, when a Deadline deal similarly fell apart for the Brewers. They were poised to send Gomez to the Mets for pitcher Zack Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores, but the Mets nixed the deal over concerns about Gomez's medicals.
Counsell cautioned against the notion that Lucroy was choosing money over winning.
"If that's the only two things you think go into a player's head, I think that's really wrong. I think that's really a mistake," Counsell said. "That's just flat-out wrong. Players, he's got a contract, he's got a decision to make, and those are his rights."
Stearns presented the trade to Lucroy immediately after the Brewers' 5-3 win over the Pirates on Saturday, and Lucroy said he was awake until 4 a.m. working through his options with agent Doug Rogalski and the Indians. On Sunday morning, Rogalski called Stearns to say Lucroy was exercising his veto right, and Stearns passed word to the Indians.
The American League Central-leading Indians, meanwhile, made another blockbuster trade, acquiring Yankees reliever Andrew Miller on Sunday morning for multiple top prospects. It appeared none of those players overlapped with the Lucroy deal.
Like Saturday, the Brewers held Lucroy out of Sunday's starting lineup as a precaution while Stearns explored alternative trades.
If it had gone through, the centerpiece of the prospect package coming to Milwaukee for Lucroy would have been Mejia, a 20-year-old switch-hitting catcher who No. 4 on MLBPipeline.com's list of the Indians' top prospects, and he would have changed organizations amid a 42-game hitting streak that spans two levels of Class A. He is baseball's fifth-best catching prospect on the MLBPipeline.com list.
According to MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal, the Brewers also would have gotten 20-year-old shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang (Indians No. 10 prospect) and 23-year-old center fielder Greg Allen (No. 20). A source told MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo that the Brewers would have also received Shawn Armstrong, a right-handed reliever who turns 26 on Sept. 11 and is on Cleveland's 40-man roster.
"Certainly if we were at the point where we were strongly considering pursuing a deal, we were pleased with the return," Stearns said. "But Jonathan's a very good player, as well, and if he's on our team going forward, we'll be happy to have him."
The Mets were also deep into talks with the Brewers for Lucroy, reportedly offering catcher Travis d'Arnaud, outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo and one other prospect. Lucroy has additionally been linked to the Mariners and Tigers, who are also on his no-trade list, as well as the Astros, Cubs, Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox. Preliminary talks with the Cubs and Dodgers were first reported Sunday by MLB Network's Jon Heyman.
Lucroy is hitting .300 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs in 94 games. He is baseball's third-most productive catcher as measured by weighted runs created plus, which accounts for ballpark effects and era. Lucroy's 120 wRC+ trails only Wilson Ramos of the Nationals (145) and Buster Posey of the Giants (123). Adding to his value, he is under club control for the next season and a half on a club-friendly deal that pays $4 million this year with a $5.25 million club option for 2017.