hello, Brantley fans! how's your offseason going? good i hope. earlier today, i posted a quick and unexpected, albeit very pleasant surprise involving Michael. now i've got a monthly news post for ya, except it's not so much "news" as it is complaints and speculation. this blog starts off on a positive note, then evolves into disappointment from fans over the Indians' decision to keep Michael for $12 million.🙄
in addition, it contains numerous article blurbs stating that Dr. Smooth could be in for a position change in 2018. that prompted me to take some time and make a compelling argument detailing why Michael should remain the Tribe's left fielder next season and not move to 1st base. so let's get into it!
for information about Michael from October (following the Tribe's elimination from the postseason), check out my Brantley News from October 2017 blog.
November 3: the Cleveland Indians announced that they
picked up Michael's $12 million club option for 2018. after lauding Michael as an integral part of the team for a number of years, Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti explained their reasoning to a greater extent in Jordan Bastian's
article on indians.com. "there's a high likelihood of success with the [ankle] surgery that he
had performed. so, we're very optimistic that Michael will be able to
contribute for a meaningful part of next year. and, as we've seen, when
he's on the field, he's a very productive player, and we think there's a
good chance that he'll be on the field for the majority of next year."
still, Antonetti did not want to commit to where Michael might play in the field next season or if he'll even play the field at all. "i think first and foremost we
just want Michael to get healthy and continue his rehab this offseason," he indicated via Ryan Lewis'
ohio.com article. "and as he gets further in that process, we can begin thinking about
alternatives and where he may fit best on the team. i think the one
thing we know is he's a really productive offensive player when he's on
the field and in the batter's box and that he's got some versatility."
more notes and quotes can be found in the separate blog i wrote entitled Indians Exercise Brantley's $12 Million Option for 2018!
November 5: as i included in the above linked blog, many many MANY fans did not support the Indians' decision. the rants ran rampant in Paul Hoynes' Hey, Hoynsie article on cleveland.com. Jack from Westlake, Ohio, wanted to know what Paul Dolan was thinking [signing Michael] and commented he should have spent that money on Jay Bruce. Hoynsie pointed out that the $12 million saved would have paid only a part of Bruce or Carlos Santana's contract. he then added, "if Brantley can play 110 to 130 games next year, i think this will prove to be a good move. if not, there will be a big target on the backs of Dolan and Chris Antonetti."
my thoughts: whoa there, buddy. don't make it sound like Indians fans will riot if Brant has another rough season. sadly, most Tribe fans just don't care enough about Michael anymore and certainly not enough to stop going to games over something like that. not when guys like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Bradley Zimmer, and Corey Kluber are on the roster. i disagree with Hoynsie on this.
Donna, @PrincessWahoo on twitter, also inquired if picking up Brantley's option was a good gamble. Hoynsie replied with "given what it would have cost the Indians to go out and try to replace Brantley on the open market, i think it was a gamble they had to take. still, it comes with an element of risk, especially for a player who will miss the bulk of his offseason conditioning while recovering from surgery on his right ankle."
my thoughts: yeah but, because Michael's only dealing with the ankle now and not his shoulder, i imagine he'll be able to swing the bat later this offseason, prior to going out to AZ for spring training, unlike this past year.
for those who still think Michael is undeserving of his contract, Terry Pluto shared this in his Terry's Talkin' article on cleveland.com: MLB Rumors projected Michael would have received a two-year deal in the $20 million range if the Indians had declined their option on him and he became a free agent.
November 10: Bastian's Indians Inbox came out on indians.com and again, it was filled with fans who were unhappy that Michael was retained. (for the record, i tweeted him to find out if Michael was going to spend the offseason rehabbing in Cleveland. Bastian chose to ignore that and instead focus on three questions in regards to the displeasure of Michael coming back. that was pretty eye opening to me, but i digress.)
so first there was a question and comment from Michael, @mklaus14 on twitter: "why was signing Brantley at 12 mil such an easy decision for the front office? Santana/Bruce seemed more vital." Bastian began with repeating how Antonetti claimed picking up both Michael and Josh Tomlin's team options were easy decisions. "in both cases, they're easy decisions when you think about the people and performance and look at them as individuals. but our job is to look at a broader context and think about the individual circumstances with each player, and then also the broader context with the team."
Bastian dissected the quote in two parts. he construed that Antonetti was referring to the kind of leader Michael has developed into behind the scenes. he's now a veteran and has embodied the selfless approach that Terry Francona has tried to instill. he's also been a positive influence in the clubhouse, even when he was on the disabled list.
then Bastian recognized how the performance aspect is more complicated because Michael has missed time over the past two years, yet prior to that was an MVP level player. furthermore, JB declared that signing Michael didn't necessarily mean Cleveland couldn't bring back Santana or Bruce (though i think they both would have been too expensive even if the Tribe let Michael go), and he complimented that finding a player of Michael's potential (when healthy) on a one-year deal at that price would be very difficult.
next, Matt on twitter @mattgoody2 posed the question, "they couldn't have offered Brantley an incentive based deal and retained him?" after Bastian gave his own opinion on the subject, he looked at it from Cleveland's perspective, and informed that declining the option would have made Brantley a free agent, which increases the risk that he would explore his options on the open market and possibly sign elsewhere. under that scenario, the offseason could have potentially devolved into a complete disaster if the Indians then swung and missed with Santana and/or Bruce.
i gotta say, of all the deals the Indians have made over the course of my 20+ years of being a fan, to see this one get so much objection is startling. the Tribe has made WAY worse deals and signings in the past. (cough cough Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn cough cough)
lastly in JB's Inbox, Tony on twitter @tonygoldchain wondered if there was any chance the Indians would try Michael out at 1st base. there was no definitive answer to this, but here's what Bastian wrote: Cleveland's defensive alignment remains a bit convoluted, and it could be some time before we have more clarity. Santana is a key piece to the puzzle. if he signs with another team, then maybe asking Brantley to split his time between first base and designated hitter would make sense. Edwin Encarnacion could team with him in those roles. that could open the door for Jason Kipnis to play left and for Jose Ramirez to stay at second base. Yandy Diaz and Lonnie Chisenhall could also be options at first. there are a lot of moving parts, and few clear answers right now.
November 11: the backlash continues and this time we got another complaint from a William in Wauseon in Hoynsie's new Hey, Hoynsie on cleveland.com. William was "totally shocked" that the Indians picked up Brantley's option for three reasons: 1. the perspective of the injury factor, 2. the lost payroll that could have been used to help keep Carlos Santana or Jay Bruce, and 3. how it affects Jason Kipnis. (i never realized how low on the totem pole Michael Brantley was in the eyes of some fans. holy cow.) he also remarked that left field appears to be the only position for Kipnis to play next year and doesn't know what the Indians are thinking unless they plan on trading Kipnis, which he believes is not a great idea following a down season by him.
my thoughts: so William's not okay with the Indians bringing back a guy who was injured for much of last year, aka Brantley, but he is worried about where a guy who was injured for much of last year, aka Kipnis, is going to fit on this team next year.🙄
Hoynsie couldn't offer much of an explanation, just that Antonetti seemed confident that Michael would return next season in time to play the "majority of the season." Hoynsie agreed that the best spot right now for Kipnis is left field, but acknowledged some people in the organization feel Kip could be back at second base, and there is the possibility that he could be traded.
November 12: in Pluto's new Terry's Talkin' on cleveland.com, he discussed the Indians' outfield for 2018. assuming that Santana was not returning, he insisted that Michael is a real option at first base and Kipnis can play left. if it's coming from Terry, there's a good chance it turns into a reality. remember, he was the only writer who outright proclaimed that the Indians would be picking up Brant's full $12 million option and not declining or trying to restructure it.
November 13: Anthony Castrovince's indians.com article corroborated that "the Indians have expressed openness to the idea of giving Brantley some reps at first base to protect his body." Castrovince additionally publicized that the general expectation is Brantley will fully recover from his November ankle surgery. (Michael's surgery was in October though.)
"we feel really confident that that surgery has really successful outcomes," GM Mike Chernoff divulged at the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Florida. "[Brantley] should be in games by Spring Training. we expect him to be healthy for the large majority of the season."
November 21: another Indians Inbox by Bastian on indians.com featured more suggestion of Michael playing at 1st base in 2018. when Ryan from Cleveland (@RyaninCLE on twitter) queried if the awkward movement of Kipnis to left field and Brantley to first so Ramirez could play second base was worth it, Bastian maintained it's not just a Ramirez vs. Kipnis issue--it's about the larger roster puzzle and which defensive alignment makes the most sense when considering a variety of factors. then Bastian referenced how Cleveland is also trying to determine what's best for left fielder Michael Brantley, whose past two years of injury issues might necessitate a switch to first base and designated hitter.
then @paulcavanaugh asked who the possible replacements for Santana and Bruce are, and part of Bastian's solution was Brantley could possibly split time with Encarnacion between first base and DH.
November 22: from a video on mlb.com that aired on MLB Network, Castrovince again mentioned Michael as being an option to play 1st base (at the 1:14 mark) and you could tell by host Robert Flores' reaction that he'd never even considered that. (all of the baseball world's gonna be shocked by this if it comes to fruition, by the way, and there's the proof.)
November 25: in another Hey, Hoynsie on cleveland.com, Mark from Stow, OH, pondered if it would be feasible for Kipnis to come into spring training as a prospective third baseman, or could he come to camp as a left fielder if Santana leaves and Brantley moves to first base, and is all of this moving around too much to ask of an established veteran such as Kipnis? (but it's okay to move established vet Michael? smh.)
Hoynsie's response: "i'd say yes to third base and left field. the key, as you pointed out, is for Kipnis and the Indians to have an idea where he's going to play before the start of spring training. that way he could have part of the offseason and all of camp to get used to his new position. Kipnis made the switch from the outfield to second base after he was first drafted. last season he showed he could move from second base to center field. it wasn't perfect, but the Indians had enough confidence in him to play in center field in the ALDS. granted, we don't know if the Indians intend to trade Kipnis or not this winter. but if he's still here when camp opens, having the time to make a position change will be critical for him."
my thoughts: why is it so imperative that Kip gets all that time to prepare to play a new position, but Michael can make a move to 1st without any offseason practice and when he's probably going to miss half of spring while still rehabbing that ankle? seems like Brant's getting zero consideration in the matter and everything is being centered around Kipnis.
November 30: the Indians disclosed that Michael will be attending the 6th annual Tribe Fest on January 20, 2018. for ticket information and prices and every other detail about this event, please read the blog i posted this afternoon: Brantley Confirmed for Tribe Fest 2018.
he RSVP'd way earlier than usual (last year he waited until two weeks before the date), so he must be thinking his ankle's gonna be feeling pretty good by then.👍
at this point, all i've seen is speculation about Michael moving to 1st base, but the fact that it's coming up continually means the Indians might be set on that happening. i've already written about this a little in other blogs, but i'm not ready to let our best arm in left field go, and certainly not without a fight. so, may i present you with...
Why Michael Brantley Shouldn't Move to 1st Base
by his #1 fan (ME!)
let's begin with the facts. Michael's only ever played the position in the minors, never in the big leagues. he last played 1st base when he was in Double A with the Huntsville Stars in 2008! between his time on the Single A West Virginia Power in 2007 and Stars in 2008, Michael played a total of 53 games (with three errors) as a 1st baseman. that's it. and based on that, somehow the Indians, numerous fans, and practically every writer out there thinks Michael's gonna be an amazing 1st baseman and are more than willing to remove his lethal arm from left in order to create a spot for Jason Kipnis. i'm not having it.
because Michael is in the process of recovering from right ankle surgery, right now it appears as though he will probably miss at least half of spring training, like he did in 2017. so, if he's not even going to play a full spring, he once again is going to be at a disadvantage trying to find himself and his timing at the plate after being out for so long. do you really think it's a good idea to also ask him to re-learn how to play 1st base while he's rehabbing from ankle surgery? and then you think he'll be a great 1st baseman with the Indians and not a defensive liability over there? really? changing Michael's position in what is going to be his walk year is best for him? are you sure? asking him to take on that kind of task is setting him and the team up for failure, imo. then all the Brantley haters can allege they were "right all along" about Michael being a bad player.
if Michael recovers from his ankle surgery, which i'm confident he will because he successfully recovered from his biceps tenodesis (surgery), then i don't know why "fans" want the Indians to move their best arm in left field to 1st base. don't forget, Michael led all the outfielders in assists in four of the previous five seasons, including 2017. in addition, Michael is currently the only every day, non-platoon outfielder that the Indians have. he shouldn't be "punished" if Carlos Santana decides to sign somewhere else and the team chooses to keep Jose Ramirez at 2nd base, leaving Kip without a position.
and to the fans who are scared that Michael can't run
anymore, please elaborate on your thinking because i don't understand.
if Michael can't run, then he can't play period. so how do you think
putting him over at 1st base or turning him into the main DH is going to
help? a hitter who doesn't play the field still has to run the bases
so... that line of thinking doesn't make sense. and may i remind
everyone that Michael did not hurt his ankle in left field. he
originally sprained it by landing on 1st base awkwardly when trying to beat out a ground ball in May. that's what caused this whole thing. it
never healed right and his continued playing/running on it eventually
proved to be too much and on August 8, the ankle deltoid ligaments gave out on him. he just as easily could have re-tweaked his ankle
running to 1st again or running the bases. therefore, he does not need
to be relegated to the role of a designated hitter.
the message i'm getting from those in the know with the Indians is that because they have
nowhere to put Kipnis other than left field, Michael has to move to 1st
base. that's really not fair, first off, not when Michael has more years with the team than Kip. here's an idea. if there's no room for Kipnis
anymore, then why don't they get rid of him? his contract for the
next two years is pretty brutal, at least in the context of Indians
payroll, that is. and, as much as fans bemoan that Michael has become
injury-prone over the last two years, you could say the same about Kip.
we don't know if he'll be healthy or productive in 2018 either; he
could have more hamstring issues or something else. you can't consider him a lock to play a full season right now, so maybe the conundrum of where he's going to play won't end up mattering much. this might sound
harsh, but i am Brant's #1 fan. Kip's #1 fan can fight for him; i'm
fighting for Brantley.
now don't mistake this as me having no confidence in Michael's ability to play 1st base. i'm sure he could. if that was the only thing he needed to work on and could do it in a regular offseason and full spring, i'm sure he'd kill it. but the truth is, aside from never playing 1st in the majors, he barely had any reps there in the minors and never played one full season at the position. he's going to need a lot of practice because this isn't something he's gonna be able to jump right back into seamlessly, especially when he should be solely concentrating on rehabbing his ankle this spring. look at how long it took for Santana to become average to now above average at 1st base. it's not easy and i don't know why you'd want to risk mistakes and errors there when the Indians could simply find another guy with Major League experience as a 1st baseman. besides that, if people didn't want to see Michael diving in
left field, why are they now okay with him having to dive around the
infield near 1st base in order to stop balls from going into right
field, something he'd have to do on the regular if he wants to
be good at this position? i just want what's best for Michael Brantley and i don't think this is it. you'd be doing a disservice to not only Michael, but also the team.
yes, it's true that the Indians have a very strong combo
with Francisco Lindor at short and Ramirez at 2nd. but then you'd have
questionables at 1st and 3rd, plus a guy still learning his position in
left in Kip. that's another thing--how do you even know Kipnis is going
to be good at fielding balls
off that tricky left field wall at Progressive Field that Michael has
spent years perfecting? Michael having to learn 1st and Kip having to
learn left field seems
like the team is relying on too many "if" factors. why not leave
well enough alone?
if the Indians go with the old infield of Kip at 2nd, Lindor at short, and Ram at 3rd, that's still a
really good infield defense (minus the current question mark at 1st).
then they'd have excellent arms in Michael, Bradley Zimmer, and
Lonnie Chisenhall around the outfield.
in conclusion, if you want the Indians to put their best defensive alignment on the field, then you need to leave Michael and his cannon arm in left field. thank you.
don't agree with my points? leave a comment below.
keep following me @clevelandgirl23 on twitter for news and ankle updates before Michael reports to spring training. and if you're not on my subscription list yet, you can join by entering your email address in the box underneath the Blog Archive sidebar over on the upper right side of the page. that way, you'll always get notifications when i post new blogs and never miss a thing!📧