looking at it from Michael's perspective, he just finished a full and healthy season and proved to the doubters that he can still play at a high level. so say he did accept the Tribe's QO for 2019, and then he suffers another freak injury. he won't have that safety net of a QO after 2019 to fall back on because
a player can only get one qualifying offer in his career. not only that, but if he did have any type of injury in 2019, he won't get the long-term big money offers he's gonna get now in this offseason. and this isn't even taking into account his age. he'll be 32 next May and if some team wants him right now for three or four years guaranteed, he's probably going to take that as long as the salary is fair. so it makes no sense for Michael to agree to the qualifying offer. the only way he returns to the Indians is if they can negotiate a new, long-term deal that satisfies both parties and i don't see that getting done. there's no way the Indians can offer him what other teams will money-wise or security-wise. and that's the sad truth.😞 and i get it. he should take the money and take care of his family, even though him leaving Cleveland will break my heart.💔
so let's get into what's come out about Michael in October after the Indians were eliminated from the postseason. some of my thoughts are mixed in with the news as well.
October 10: Indians manager Terry Francona, President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti, and general manager Mike Chernoff held a media availability session today. during a facebook live video on the cleveland.com page, Hayden Grove said the player exit interviews were yesterday (October 9) and there were a lot of tough conversations, a lot of hugs and a lot of tears. he mentioned that the hugs were a little longer and the conversations were a little harder this year because the team is going to be different next season due to several guys most likely leaving in free agency.
at the very end of the now-archived video, you can see Michael's matte black Ford Raptor still parked in his usual parking spot in the players parking lot (where Hayden was filming).
Jordan Bastian's blog on bastian.mlblogs.com confirmed that Michael was one of the players who had his exit interview yesterday. when asked how rewarding it was to see him have the year he had and see the gamble of betting on him last winter, Antonetti expressed, "i couldn't be any happier for Michael. we talk about what it means to be a good teammate and a great competitor and a great leader--Michael embodies all of those things. so, when we sat here last offseason talking about that difficult decision, we bet on a lot of those things. and we felt that even if Michael didn't come back to full health, he could still have a meaningful impact on our team. and what we were able to see this year is through Michael's hard work, all of the hours and hours he spent trying to get back healthy and his determination to come back and perform at a high level, he was able to go on and be a huge part of our team, play a ton and perform at a really high level. and i think that speaks directly to Michael's work ethic. he had a huge impact on our team. as we told him when we met with him yesterday, he and a couple other guys helped re-establish for us what it means to be a great teammate. because, it's always easy to be a good teammate when things are going well, but no matter what adversity Michael or Josh Tomlin or Cody Allen ever experienced over the past few years, they were just as good a teammate if not a better teammate when they were personally struggling than they were when things were going well. i think that speaks to their character and who they are as people."
Antonetti also acknowledged that it will be a "very challenging" decision whether or not to extend a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer to any of their free agents. "there's a ton of factors that we'll have to weigh. obviously their performance this year, their track record of performance, what we anticipate what the market might be, what our financial position might be. there are a lot of things that will go into those decisions. we'll take the next few weeks to work through that."
Antonetti further revealed that the outfield is an area they will spend a lot of time addressing in the offseason. "some of it depends on how we align our returning players. also, obviously, it will be impacted by substantial departures."
in regards to having players step up as veteran leaders in the clubhouse, Tito declared, "i think every so often, you'll have somebody come through like a [Jason] Giambi or a [Mike] Napoli, and you take advantage of it. i think quietly we had guys in their own right that were so special. guys like Tomlin and Brantley are pretty special people. you want those guys to have their voices heard in the clubhouse. they are special."
October 11: in Terry Pluto's cleveland.com article, he wrote that he would love to keep Brantley, but expects him to be "enticed away by a lucrative long-term deal elsewhere. i can't name the last time the Indians had a significant player reach free agency, then re-sign with the Tribe. if they reach open market, they are gone."
October 12: an article on cleveland.com by Joe Noga stated Michael's free agency compares with Yoenis Cespedes, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, and Justin Turner, per Spotrac.com. the site also predicted Michael will end up with a deal in the four-year, $77 million range ($19.2 million AAV).
Bastian's article on mlb.com/indians noted that none of the Tribe's high-profile free agents are sure-fire bets to receive a qualifying offer, but that Michael might top the list. (remember, JB was not a fan of bringing Michael back last season, so his more negative take isn't surprising. Michael won't take the QO because he knows he's going to get a big deal somewhere, so i don't see how or why the Indians wouldn't extend one.)
also on this date, i got an email from indians.com and it informed me that Michael had been named to the 2018 Silver Slugger Award watch list. that's nice to see but the reality is, he's not really gonna be in the running. three outfielders will be chosen and, unfortunately, right fielders, center fielders, and left fielders are all grouped together. so you might end up with three CFs, or two RFs and one CF and no LF, or some other combination like that. considering how many heavy hitting OFs were in the American League this year, and that Michael only hit 17 homers and had a .468 SLG, i don't believe he has much of a chance to win. the Silver Slugger winners will be announced on November 8, so we'll see if i'm correct.
October 14: an article on mlbtraderumors.com by Connie Byrne ranked the top five free agents at each position based on their expected wOBA (weighted on-base average) and average exit velocity on line drives and fly balls. among outfielders, Michael's .362 xwOBA was 2nd best behind only Bryce Harper's .386. Michael's actual wOBA for the 2018 season was .359, btw.
October 15: Bastian's Indians Inbox came out on mlb.com/indians and it contained several inquires from fans wondering if Michael would be with the Indians next season. this about threw me for a loop considering how people were wanting the exact opposite last offseason... Nathan Carder, @nathan_carder on twitter, tweeted, "what are the realistic chances Michael Brantley is back next year? he was a steady force in a shakey outfield." (he misspelled shaky, not me, btw.) Bastian wrote, "given the season Brantley just turned in, i could see the Indians floating that one-year [qualifying offer] deal for the left fielder. the Indians rolled the dice on his $12 million club option last winter and Brantley posted a 3.5 WAR (per Fangraphs). in terms of free-agent dollars, that showing was valued at $28 million, according to Fangraphs. the Indians have question marks at all three outfield spots, so trying to retain Brantley, who has been with Cleveland for parts of 10 seasons, makes a lot of sense."
JB again repeated his stance about it making sense to try to retain Brantley when Tim Harmon, or @oldwriter1 on twitter, asked for his thoughts on an outfield of Brantley, Leonys Martin, and Andrew McCutchen with Greg Allen as a fourth outfielder.
in addition, when referring to a fan's question about Jason Kipnis' future, Bastian noted that if Kip isn't going to be traded, then his position on the field isn't clear. JB stated if the Indians want Kip to play center, then maybe they don't tender a contract to Martin. but, if Brantley isn't coming back, then maybe Kip slides over to left field.😳 (good luck learning to play off that 19-foot wall, dude. you'll never be as good as Michael was.😛)
October 16: in the afternoon, it was disclosed that Michael was a finalist for the Players Choice Awards' 2018 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award! he was nominated along with Edwin Jackson of the Oakland Athletics and David Price of the Boston Red Sox. the winner, set to receive a $20,000 grant that will go to charity, won't be unveiled until November 27, so we have a while still before that news comes out.
however, Sporting News didn't leave any suspense when they straight out revealed that David Price won their AL Comeback of the Year Award on the same date. Michael received 13 total votes, seven behind Price and three less than Jackson. here's the thing that confuses me though. both Comeback awards claim to be voted on by the players, so if they didn't think Michael made the best comeback on the SN ballot, does he even have a chance to win the Players Choice Award?🤔
additional information about both Comeback Awards can be found in the separate blogs i wrote here:
Brantley Finishes 3rd For Sporting News' 2018 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award
Brantley Named Finalist for Players Choice Awards' 2018 AL Comeback Player of the Year
furthermore, Paul Hoynes' latest Hey, Hoynsie was published on cleveland.com. David Frederick from St. Augustine, Florida, wrote in, "is Michael Brantley gone? given the all-too-frequent inability of his Indians' teammates to hit with runners in scoring position, he's the one player capable of elite-level performance. now that he's played a full season, he needs to be retained to keep the championship window open."
Hoynsie responded that the Indians and Brantley said nice things about each other after the ALDS sweep. and while Brantley said he'd like to stay, few, if any, popular free agents are retained. he admitted the biggest question for him is who the Indians will make a qualifying offer to among their many free agents. Hoynsie went on to point out how Michael actually bat .254 (36-for-142) with RISP this year, but is a career .313 batter (299-for-954) with RISP.
October 17: in the new Cleveland Baseball Talk Podcast on cleveland.com, Noga and Hoynsie discussed which of the Tribe's free agents could receive a qualifying offer. Noga said Michael would be the only obvious choice for one and Hoynsie agreed. Noga then went on to say it would be crazy if Michael accepted that offer, but if he did, it would screw the Indians up in terms of their payroll. Noga guessed Michael will get a three- or four-year deal in the $70 million range or more. if the Indians do extend the offer to Michael and he rejects it, their return would be a draft pick right after the first round if he signs a deal for over $50 million.
October 18: Anthony Castrovince wrote an article for mlb.com containing arguments for and against a club extending a qualifying offer to some of the guys in the free agent class. players accepting the offer is pretty rare nowadays, as 95% of those who were extended QOs since 2012 turned them down, and this process is mainly exercised so a team can get a draft pick, not to extend relationships with their free agents. in regards to Michael, Castrovince pointed out there would be risk for the Indians to make the offer to "a player who logged just 101 games played in 2016-2017." then he remarked how Michael's healthy and productive 2018 season make him "ripe to test the market" before he turns 32. so the conclusion was to extend the offer to Michael since his high contact rate, which ranked tops in the league this year, offsets his age and past injuries. besides that, because Michael has high incentive to turn down the QO, the Indians should offer it. also of note, Castro informed readers that a player can only be offered a QO once in his career, so if Michael gets it, this could be his one and done.
when discussing free agent Andrew Miller, Castrovince noted the Indians' budget might be stretched too thin to make a one-year offer of $17.9 million.
October 19: Trevor Bauer did a Q&A with Bastian, which was posted on bastian.mlblogs.com. the very last thing Bauer was asked was what his thoughts were on how the team might look next year if some players are lost in free agency. here's part of his answer: "it would be interesting to see if we put a slightly worse--and by 'worse,' i mean, on paper worse. like, you might not have Brantley and Brantley is a multiple-time All-Star. so, basically, anyone who replaces Brantley in left field is going to be 'worse' on paper, right? so, i don't want it to get misconstrued that the players are worse. unproven, perhaps, is a better word."
okay, well, i see his point, but this is actually something i've been thinking about myself. how are the Indians going to adequately replace Michael? they definitely don't have the money to bring in a guy of the same caliber, and if they are looking for a new left fielder in free agency, then they really should just try to get a deal done to bring Michael back because no one else out there can do what he can. Michael is someone who can play every day; he isn't a platoon player because he has the ability to hit both right- and left-handed pitching. he's also someone who's going to bat .300 for the year for you because he's consistent at the plate (when healthy, of course). and he's such a pure hitter with a smooth swing and one of the best contact hitters in the league. so who do you replace him with to get similar production out of left field? seriously, what is this team planning to do? i mean, are they going to have to platoon yet another OF spot? they don't have one every day outfielder on their team right now. not one. that's not ideal. let's face it, the type of guy who could fill Michael's shoes is a player the Indians just can't afford, and that includes the man himself. so the Indians will likely invite a bunch of part-time OFs to spring training on cheap, minor league deals in their attempt to fill LF and hope something sticks that way. and the result will probably be worse, on paper and for real. sorry, Trev.
October 20: a new Hey, Hoynsie on cleveland.com, Bobby from Albuquerque, New Mexico, asked Hoynsie if the Indians' organization would let some or all of their free agents go and start a 'semi-rebuild,' or re-sign some. Hoynsie responded that based on their track record from years past, he would be surprised if any of the 10 free agents return. however, he did share a more positive outlook regarding Michael, stating he imagines they make him a qualifying offer or "maybe they can work out a deal to keep him. they're going to need to help in the bullpen and outfield, but i doubt they'll make a free-agent splash." and that supports what i wrote in the previous paragraph about finding an equivalent replacement for Michael in left--it ain't gonna happen.
at least the Indians included a Michael Brantley stencil for your Halloween pumpkins this year to brighten the day!
|photo courtesy of mlb.com/indians/fans/pumpkin-stencils|
October 21: Pluto's article on cleveland.com was sobering. he again noted that the Indians have to decide if they want to extend Michael a qualifying offer, and if they do, they have to be prepared for him to possibly accept it, because it would be a $6 million raise from his 2018 salary. then Pluto divulged that he heard whispers of Michael being in line for a 3-year, $45 million-ish type deal from some team (i thought he'd get more than that based on how Fangraphs estimated Michael's production this year as worth $28 million and the Sportac prediction), and because of his injury history, Michael should pursue a long-term deal like that, but it won't come from the Tribe. he said the Indians aren't going to spend much money on free agents (and i assume that includes their own) and it's futile to even discuss that. he also expressed that the outfield "screams for help via a trade."
when thinking of a replacement for Michael in left field, Pluto picked Kipnis. (ugh, not this again.) he boldly claimed Kipnis could probably do a "decent job defensively" there. (okay, well now i'm convinced. eye roll.) this, in turn, would have a domino effect on the entire defense: if the Indians can't trade Kip, they'll put him in left, keep Jose Ramirez at 2nd base, and then that opens up 3rd base for Yandy Diaz. Pluto also put it out there that while this isn't being discussed publicly, it's under serious consideration and he expects Kip to be in the outfield next year. TP has the inside track and i believe him when he reveals things like that. doesn't mean i'm a fan of it though.
and i'm very sorry i read the comments on this article, with fans spitting their incorrect "facts" and basically saying let Michael walk cause he's trash and can't hit in the playoffs and should never have been an All Star in 2017 or 2018. we'll see how much the opinions change when he's really not in a Cleveland uniform next year and your new platoon left fielders aren't even batting an average of .265. the cleveland.com section has had a reputation of being atrocious for YEARS and that's because the majority of level-headed intelligent people like me choose to stay away from the idiocy and so the idiocy wins out. it is what it is. moving on.
October 22: when Bastian examined in-house options for center field in an article for mlb.com/indians, he mentioned that if Michael departs, Kipnis could take over left field. "my guess is he could handle left field just fine," Francona assumed during the end-of-season conference on October 10. "but, we would need to see where we're at and what our needs are."
October 24: Noga and Hoynsie did another Cleveland Baseball Talk Podcast for cleveland.com and in this one, they focused on the outfield for 2019. Noga began by stating chances are pretty strong that Michael will leave the Indians in free agency even if they offer him the qualifying offer because it's not beneficial for either side for him to take. Hoynsie took it from there, bringing up how when Francona named Kipnis as being a potential option for left field at the end of the season meeting, he thought Tito was just kidding. Hoynsie wondered if Kip could play a full year in the outfield and didn't personally know if Kip was their best internal option for LF, but did insist that if he's gonna hit like he did in the second half of last year, you can live with his defensive shortcomings. he would like him better in left than center, because it's a shorter throw and he won't have to cover as much ground. all that said, Hoynsie still thinks they'll try hard to trade Kip during the winter. in addition, when discussing the other OF options, he did compliment Michael by saying they were all 3rd or 4th outfielders and the Indians don't have a guy who can carry the OF like Michael did. (that's what i've been saying, too.)
October 25: an article by Mark Feinsand appeared on mlb.com/indians naming one free agent player from each team (minus the Miami Marlins) who their team might want to re-sign. he picked Andrew Miller for the Indians to be part of a one-two punch with Brad Hand in the bullpen, attributing his mediocre season to injuries.
this video also appeared on mlb.com, noting that Michael has become a free agent and providing some clips from his 2018 season.
Rawlings announced their Gold Glove Finalists for 2018 and the three they selected for AL LF were Andrew Benintendi of the Boston Red Sox, Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals, and Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees. Michael had a better fielding percentage than all three of those guys, first off. and second, why on earth is Gardner even in this conversation? if this is mainly focused on a player's defense (which i don't fully believe--i think if a guy has 30+ homers and six errors in the field, he's still probably gonna get a couple of votes), then i don't understand why Michael wasn't one of the finalists.
let me refresh your memory with his LF stats: 221 putouts, 6 assists, 1 error, and 2 double plays in 228 total chances. he finished the season with a .996 fielding percentage in 134 games and 1136.1 innings played. he also ended 2018 on a 74-game errorless streak in the outfield.
among AL left fielders, Michael's 6 assists in 2018 ranked 7th. Michael's 2 double plays ranked tied for 1st with 5 other players. he also played the 2nd most games (134) and 2nd most innings (1136.1) of all AL LF.
so it looks like he was robbed again, but we Brantley fans are used to it by now.😞
Indians who were finalists include Corey Kluber, Yan Gomes, Francisco Lindor, and Jose Ramirez. Lindor and Ramirez each totaled 14 errors this year. i just don't understand how some players who commit so many errors can be considered for this "premier defender" award.🤷
Tyler Naquin also posted a photo of himself and Michael before a game on his instagram and captioned it, "to Michael Brantley for having a few years trying to get to full health.. then coming back stronger for an awesome 2018! ain't scared of some hard work. great dude. better teammate!🤘"
sadly, that sounds like a goodbye message.😟
October 26: in Bastian's Indians Inbox on mlb.com/indians, he reiterated Kip could be the replacement for Michael in left field. that issue came up when a fan suggested trading Yonder Alonso and giving 1st base to Yandy Diaz. JB recalled how Tito emphasized that they need to give Diaz a shot, before declaring the most natural way to do that would be to have him play 3rd and move Ramirez to 2nd. and then if Michael is not re-signed, Kip would become an option to play left.
October 27: Hoynsie's cleveland.com article also explored Diaz establishing himself at 3rd, with Ramirez at 2nd, and Kip in left field next year.
Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated ranked the Top 50 free agents on si.com and listed Michael at #8. he claimed Michael's best fit would be with the St. Louis Cardinals, who have virtually no left-handed threats in their lineup besides Matt Carpenter.
October 29: as a result of the Boston Red Sox defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers last night to win the World Series, all players qualifying for free agency became free agents at 9 am ET today, according to Jon Morosi.
the Indians have a five-day window to negotiate new contracts with their free agents. the deadline to extend qualifying offers is 5 pm ET on November 2, per Bastian's article on mlb.com/indians, in order to receive draft-pick compensation if the QO is rejected. free agents are eligible to sign with new teams as of 5 pm ET on Friday (November 2), Morosi reported. if the Indians offer Michael a QO, he'll have until November 12 to accept or reject it.
in the evening, Hoynsie remarked in his cleveland.com article that Michael is probably the leading candidate to receive a qualifying offer from the Indians; however, since the QO became part of the basic agreement, only five of 73 free agents have accepted it. that's not even 7%. in addition, the Philadelphia Phillies were apparently scouting Michael "heavily" at the end of the regular season. (not a National League team! plus, the Phillies suck, Michael, please don't sign there!)
also, on the transactions page of the Indians' website, it included Michael as electing free agency.😢
October 30: after the Indians declined Brandon Guyer's $3 million club option for 2019, Bastian again named Kipnis as an option for left field in his mlb.com/indians article. so did Ryan Lewis in his article on ohio.com, noting that the Indians have internal options, though he admitted replacing Michael could be an especially difficult task.
"i think the outfield will be an area that we will continue to work through over the course of the offseason," Antonetti specified. "it's probably the area on our team with the least certainty. exactly what that composition of players will look like, we have a few months to figure out. but, as we're currently situated today, we have more left-handed hitting options than right-handed hitting options there."
Feinsand wrote an article for mlb.com analyzing each club's biggest offseason need and of course he picked the outfield for the Indians. "with Michael Brantley headed for the open market, the Indians will be on the lookout for his potential replacement." then he named these three possible FA targets: Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones, and Brett Gardner.
furthermore, Feinsand, listed Michael as a potential target for the Colorado Rockies, whose biggest need is an impact bat. other teams who also are said to require an impact bat include: Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, and San Francisco Giants. Michael was not listed as a target for these teams, but that doesn't mean they won't try to pursue him.
on a happier note, the FOX Sports Ohio youtube channel put together a video of Cleveland sports-themed Halloween costumes and they included a Dr. Smooth look. that's probably the final video we'll see anyone create with Michael in it before he's officially signed by another team.😭
well, that's all for now. keep checking on my twitter feed @clevelandgirl23 for news on whether or not the Indians extend a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer to Michael. the decision is less than two days away.😔
i also want to thank everyone who followed along with my #CelebratingMichaelBrantley series this year. the "finale" was Monday, October 29 and i won't be posting any more. but don't worry. if you missed any of the amazing things that i spotlighted from Michael's career with the Indians, just click the hashtag and search back through the thread. thanks for all the wonderful memories, Michael!🎉💗
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