MLB Free Agent Profile: Michael Brantley

MLB Free Agent Profile: Michael Brantley

by November 17, 2020 1 comment

After having one of his best seasons in 2019, Michael Brantley put up another solid performance in 2020. Though he missed 14 games due to a quad injury, he remained one of the key bats in the Houston Astros’ lineup during the abbreviated season. Brantley had a .300/.364/.476 triple-slash over 46 games and added five homers, 22 RBI, and a 134 wRC+.

Now, he looks to earn another multi-year contract after playing the last two seasons with the Astros. Here is a look at what to expect from the outfielder’s market this offseason.

Details

Brantley was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh round of the 2005 MLB Draft. He started out playing Rookie ball for the Helena Brewers of the Pioneer League and Arizona Brewers of the Arizona League. He hit .347 and stole 14 bases in 44 games for Arizona and batted .324 in 10 games for Helena.

In 2006, Brantley was assigned to the West Virginia Power of the Class A South Atlantic League. He remained there until halfway through the 2007 season, when the Brewers promoted him to the Huntsville Stars of the Class A Southern League. In 2006, he hit .300 and stole 24 bases over 108 games. He then hit .335 in 56 games before earning the call-up in 2007. He hit .251 over 59 games for Huntsville in 2007, before hitting .319 with four homers, 40 RBI, and 28 stolen bases for them in 2008.

The Player to Be Named Later

On July 7, 2008, the Brewers acquired CC Sabathia for Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, and a player to be named later (PTBNL). The choices for the PTBNL was narrowed down to Brantley and Taylor Green. The Indians and Brewers agreed that if the Brewers made the postseason, the Indians would have the choice at who it was. The Brewers made the playoffs and the Indians chose Brantley.

In the Cleveland organization in 2009, Brantley played for the Columbus Clippers of the Class AAA International League. He hit .267 before earning a September call-up to majors on Sept. 1 of that year. He went on to reach base safely in his first eight Major League games. Due to an injury to Grady Sizemore, Brantley took over in center field and hit .313 with 11 RBI over 28 games.

The outfielder then started the 2010 season in left field because of an injury to Russell Branyan. He went up and down from the big-league club to AAA several times before finally playing the rest of the season from Aug. 6. Brantley was placed into the Indians’ leadoff role and hit .292 the rest of the year. His season ended in prematurely in 2011 after requiring surgery on the hamate bone in his right hand. Prior to that, he had hit .266 with seven homers, 46 RBI, and 13 stolen bases in 114 games.

Brantley shifted back to center after another injury to Sizemore in 2012. During that season, he had a career-high 22-game hit streak. He also earned the nickname “Dr. Smooth” from Indians sports writer Dennis Manoloff for his smooth swing and calm approach at the plate. He set career highs in batting average (.288), on-base percentage (.348), slugging percentage (.402), doubles (37), and RBI (60) in 2012.

After that season, Brantley had surgery to correct a sports hernia. Eventually, he was moved back left field after the Indians signed Michael Bourne to play center prior to the 2013 season. In August, Brantley set an Indians franchise record for consecutive games without an error by an outfielder with 213.

Contract Extension

Prior to the 2014 season, the Indians signed Brantley to a four-year, $25 million contract extension with an option for a fifth season valued at $11 million and a $3.5 million signing bonus. The new contract paid immediate dividends as Brantley had his best season of his career in 2014. He made his first All-Star Game after hitting .322 with 15 home runs and 63 RBIs during the first half.

On the final day of the season, he picked up his 200th hit of the year, becoming Cleveland’s 18th player in history to reach the milestone. He finished the season hitting .327/.385/.506 and a career-high 20 home runs. Brantley won the Silver Slugger Award and placed third in the American League MVP award behind Mike Trout and Victor Martinez.

Brantley underwent shoulder surgery following the 2015 season but was able to return in April. However, in August he required another surgery which would end his season. The slugger also missed most of the 2016 season and nearly half of the 2017 season. The Indians exercised his 2018 option and he returned to form, making his second All-Star Game. Brantley hit .306 with five home runs and 31 RBIs in the first half, and went .309/.364/.468 with 17 home runs for the season while having the highest contact percentage on his swings in the major leagues (90.9%).

New Threads

The Houston Astros signed Brantley to a two-year, $32 million contract on Dec. 17, 2018. In his first season with the team, he batted .311/.372/.503 with 40 doubles (5th in the AL), 22 home runs, and 90 runs batted in over 575 at-bats to boost Houston to the World Series. Additionally, he led all left fielders with a Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) rating of 10. In 2020, Brantley played through the quad injury and appeared as the Astros’ designated hitter in 26 of his 46 games of the pandemic-shortened campaign.

Ideal Contract

Brantley would fit with plenty of teams who need left-handed corner outfield contact hitters. He will likely get a two or three-year contract worth about $15 million per year.

Top Landing Spots

New York Yankees

The Yankees need better production at the left field and designated hitter spots. They could also add more balance to their lineup by adding a left-handed contact bat. Brantley would be a huge upgrade over Brett Gardner, whose 2021 option the team declined to pick up.

Houston Astros

Brantley was a key bat in the Astros lineup the past two seasons. With George Springer also a free agent, they may have to decide between the two and let the other walk. Springer likely has the brighter future going forward. They could pay up for both of them and would have to pay a season’s worth of luxury tax, but they are the glue that keeps the Astros lineup together.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays infield is set, however they still need reliable bats in the outfield. Brantley would be a solid veteran contact-hitter for the young Jays, while adding clubhouse leadership as well. Place him in the middle of their lineup and they could really make strides over the next couple of years.

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