Outfielder Michael Brantley agreed to a two-year, $32 million contract with Houston on Monday, sources familiar with the deal told Yahoo Sports, bringing his steady left-handed bat to the top of an Astros lineup that’s already regarded as one of the most dangerous in the American League.
Brantley’s versatility and bat-to-ball ability greatly appealed to the Astros, who have a team full of those types and the plan is for him to rotate among left field, first base and designated hitter.
Michael Brantley is in agreement with the Houston Astros on a two-year, $32 million deal, sources tell Yahoo Sports. Straight two-year deal, no options. Still some work for it to be official, but the terms are in place.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 18, 2018
The 31-year-old Brantley resurrected his career in 2017 after missing nearly all of the previous season with a shoulder injury and followed up with a second consecutive All-Star Game appearance. In an era rife with strikeouts, Brantley is a clear antidote, punching out in only 10.7 percent of his plate appearances since debuting in 2009 and playing a vital role on three postseason teams.
Originally the player to be named later in the 2008 deal that sent CC Sabathia from Cleveland to Milwaukee, Brantley blossomed from a contact-oriented hitter into a threat with consistent gap power. He complemented a .309 batting average last season with a .364 on-base percentage and .468 slugging percentage, and while his 17 home runs and 76 RBIs do not scream classic corner outfielder, Brantley’s steadiness makes up for whatever thunder his bat may lack.
While his play in left field is average at best – and more often below – the short term of Brantley’s deal mitigates concern of him aging off the position. Moreover, in a free agent class where the crème-de-la-crème seek 10 years (Bryce Harper) and at least five (A.J. Pollock), Brantley was a cost-effective alternative whose health issues allowed teams to pursue him without a long guarantee.
Cleveland’s passing up on tendering Brantley a $17.9 million qualifying offer also emboldened clubs’ pursuit of him – primarily because Brantley would’ve been a candidate to accept the offer and then because had he not, teams would’ve been loath to surrender a draft pick and offer Brantley a $16 million-a-year salary.
For Brantley and the Astros, it ended up a perfect match. He got his two years and $32 million. They got a new left fielder with a career .295/.351/.430 line in nearly 4,500 plate appearances and coming off a pair of strong seasons. And in a slow winter, baseball got another of its marquis free agents signed.
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