between the change in agencies, not getting a qualifying offer from the Indians, and being a so-called best fit for several ballclubs, there was quite a bit going on in November. and of course i had many opinions about the rumors, too. so let's just jump right into it!
November 1: there is now a Michael Brantley Rumors page on mlb.com dedicated to all the latest predictions and such. it again noted that Sports Illustrated thinks Michael will go to the St. Louis Cardinals despite his "lengthy injury history." (well that's not exactly true.) that said, Michael would likely have to play right field with the Cards due to their other outfield spots already being occupied. Michael's never played one game in right in either the majors or minors, so i don't know if that's really a realistic projection.
Jon Heyman's article for fancredsports.com contained an expert's guess that
Michael will get a three-year, $45 million deal worth $15 million per season, while Heyman would give Michael three years for $42 million at $14 mill per year.
meanwhile, La Velle E. Neal III wrote an article for startribune.com on which free agents the Minnesota Twins should consider targeting. Michael was included because Joe Mauer is expected to retire and the Twins need a reliable bat, which Michael proved in 2018 that he still has. Neal also declared Michael could play either corner outfield spot or be the team's designated hitter. apparently i never realized left and right field were easily interchangeable.
when the Rumors page presented this article, however, the writer contended Michael has dealt with injuries for much of his career. okay, this person needs to take math class in school again because this is very incorrect. Michael only missed a year and a half out of 10 MLB seasons with significant injuries--just about all of 2016 and about half of 2017. any other injury Michael had did not cause him to miss significant time. so what happened in 2016 and 2017 is "much of his career?" sure, Jan.🙄
November 2: at exactly midnight, an unauthored article went up on mlb.com/indians listing players from each team who could receive a qualifying offer before the 5 pm ET deadline. for the Indians, four free agents were named, including Andrew Miller first with Michael second, Cody Allen third, and (surprisingly) Lonnie Chisenhall as the fourth possibility.
in the afternoon, it was announced that the Indians did not extend a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer to Michael, who was said to be their most likely candidate for one. basically, there were two reasons for this somewhat shocking decision. first, they didn't want to commit so much money so soon into the offseason because their payroll for the returning players is already quite high. and second, they don't know if they can trade Jason Kipnis (due $14.7 million in 2019) or not and if they can't, then they can't afford Kip and Michael in the same outfield for that combined price ($32.6 million) because it would restrict their flexibility to make other moves. and it seems like they're hellbent on Kipnis playing in the outfield next year, so Brant gets left out. isn't that nice?
here's how Chris Antonetti, President of Baseball Operations, explained the decision in a conference call according to Jordan Bastian's article on mlb.com/indians: "ultimately, the first week of the offseason, as we looked at our path ahead, it wasn't the best decision to potentially allocate [$17.9] million dollars right now.
"i talked to Michael this morning and reiterated that [the Indians still have interest in re-signing him]. that interest is undoubtable. we could not have any more respect for any individual than we have for Michael. he's the guy that epitomizes, as i've shared before, all of the things we look for in a player. he's exceedingly productive on the field, he defines professionalism in the clubhouse and he's an extraordinary teammate. the interest and desire is there. what we will have to work through is can we make the pieces fit? how, with the balance of our roster and all the other decisions we have to make? and Michael will have to assess how we fit within what his market might be."
read that as, "we want to bring you back, but we don't have the money. have a nice career!"
more details can be found in my separate blog, Brantley Does Not Receive One-Year, $17.9 Million Qualifying Offer from Indians.
after the 5 pm ET deadline for QOs, a list of the Top 50 free agents appeared on mlbtraderumors.com with Tim Dierkes, Steve Adams, and Jeff Todd predicting where they might end up and on what kind of deal. Michael, considered the best corner outfielder on the market along with Andrew McCutchen aside from Bryce Harper, was #10. the guys estimated Michael would get a three year, $45 million deal and linked him with the Atlanta Braves. they voiced concern over Michael's health, noting his shoulder, biceps, and ankle surgeries between 2016-2017, which he's fully recovered from, but... they insisted Michael should still get a three year deal from somewhere and that the Indians could bring him back if they can fit him into their budget. (spoiler alert: they can't.) most of the other free agents also had several other teams that they could sign with listed, but Michael did not.
now let's get into some outfielders that are rumored to potentially take Michael's spot in the Indians' outfield. right underneath Michael was McCutchen at #11 on the list. he was predicted to go to the Chicago Cubs for three years, $45 million. then it said he could also be a fit with the Indians. if both free agents are really going to cost around the same price, then why would the Indians try to sign McCutchen and not just re-sign Michael? this doesn't make sense and i believe Michael will probably get more than the MLB Trade Rumors fellas are assuming.
center fielder A.J. Pollock, a guy who had more injury issues than Michael in the past five years, is another player the trio felt could be a potential suitor for the Indians to replace Michael, although he did receive a qualifying offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks. they predicted he'd get four years at $60 million and end up with the San Francisco Giants though.
finally, the trio wrote Adam Jones would get a one-year, $8 million deal with the Tribe. he's primarily a center fielder whose defense is on the downtrend and he vetoed a trade at the deadline last year because he did not want to move to right field last year and be a platoon player. the Indians just signed Leonys Martin to a one-year, $3 million deal to play center field for 2019. does that sound like a fit to you? especially if they have to put Kipnis in left field because he wasn't able to be traded and the Indians have to play him, then how can the Tribe bring in another "big" outfield name? this article stressed me out.
an ESPN Insider article by Keith Law was published on espn.com ranking his Top 50 free agents as well. Law has Michael as the fourth best FA on the market behind Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and Patrick Corbin, and third best among position players. Law believes Michael should be a 3-4 WAR player over the next few seasons.
and the final bit of information to come out on this date came from Devan Fink on twitter with some breaking news. "sources: agent Kenny Felder has resigned from The Legacy Agency and will be going to Excel Sports Management. taking George Springer, Lewis Brinson and Michael Brantley with him. big news in the agent world." Fink followed that up with "Brantley, for one, is a free agent this offseason. could affect how his offseason plays out."
this stunned me more than the Indians not extending the QO. as far as i knew, Michael's agency was Double Diamond Sports Management and his agent was Joshua Kusnick. and i'm pretty sure Josh himself was talking about Michael still being his client before the 2018 season began. so i was left very confused. it also made me nervous that going to this bigger agency would perhaps benefit Michael by getting him a bigger deal than he would have gotten had he remained with DDSM, which would be great for him, but could take Cleveland out of the running as a result.😕😟
after doing some research, i got a partial answer. Kusnick did a Q&A AMA on reddit.com way back on February 4 and user evan24742 wanted to know which current major leaguers he represented. Kusnick named some players, then concluded with "a part of Michael Brantley." when Evan asked what that meant, Josh replied, "i had to partner with TLA for reasons beyond my control." so sounds like Michael went to The Legacy Agency at least before the 2018 season and somehow took his first agent Josh with him. but now that Kenny Felder and Michael moved to Excel, does Josh still have a part of Brant? not sure.
November 3: a fan, Roger Luca from Tallahassee, Florida, asked Paul Hoynes what the likelihood is that the Indians re-sign Michael in a Hey, Hoynsie on cleveland.com. Luca pointed out that it seems to make sense because Michael was the one steady contributor in an outfield that changed a lot last season and suggested a two-year deal. Hoynsie first responded by stating he thought the Indians and Michael would make a good match and acknowledging Michael has spent his entire big-league career with them and there is a lot of respect for him in the clubhouse and front office. Hoynsie then kept it real by saying if a team is going to give Michael a Carlos Santana type of contract (three years for $60 million), then he won't be playing in Cleveland next year. even though Michael was not extended a qualifying offer yesterday, Antonetti said they still wanted to re-sign him, but he is going to draw a lot of interest on the free agent market.
when another reader inquired what free agent outfielder would be a good fit for the Indians, Hoynsie picked switch-hitter Marwin Gonzalez, claiming his versatility and offensive production would make him a good fit on the Tribe.
in Terry Pluto's article on cleveland.com, he unearthed that he'd been hearing some media speculation about the team making a big contract pitch to retain Michael OR go after another name free agent, but that he doesn't see that coming. Pluto reasoned that the Indians declined to give him the qualifying offer because of budget constraints, so it would be a shock if Michael returned because he'll probably be in line for a 3-year contract elsewhere.
November 4: Mark Feinsand picked the best free-agent target for each team and his mlb.com article had Adam Jones as a replacement for Michael, noting his best days might be behind him but he would be "energized by a move to a contender" and provide leadership. Michael, interestingly, was not named to be a "best" FA target for any team...
November 5: Jim Bowden named his Top 35 free agents for theathletic.com and Michael was at #9. Bowden predicted he will get a three-year deal worth $39 million, at $13 million per year and thinks the best fits for Michael are the Indians, Giants, Seattle Mariners, Colorado Rockies, and Texas Rangers.
in Bastian's Indians Inbox on mlb.com/indians, Greg Mahrer from Indianapolis, Indiana, tweeted "do you think they'll resign Brantley, Miller, and Allen? and is their priority list in that order? Bastian agreed that is the order he'd put them in. he stated the Indians highly value Michael's production on the field and leadership in the clubhouse and with their entire outfield unsettled right now, if there's a way to retain Michael, JB thinks the club will attempt to. but he also warned that could be difficult to do if Kipnis and his $14.7 million contract remain in the fold and he stays in the Tribe's outfield, or more specifically, left field, plans.
a small article by Jeff Todd was posted on mlbtraderumors.com with more info about Michael's new agency. first off, it proclaimed he hired Excel Sports Management to represent him in free agency. um, the tweet from Fink didn't say that, it said Michael's agent moved to a new agency and took Michael with him. so i guess that's considered hiring a new agency? Todd and Fink both used different wording which each mean different things. maybe the story got misinterpreted by someone. i don't know. but if this is the case, then maybe Michael was with Kusnick all year and they recently parted ways after the Tribe lost in the American League Division Series. if y'all have the facts, please leave a comment below. i'm not going to try to get into it anymore, cause this isn't really my business. i'm just here to collect and pass on the news and, you know, calculate numbers.
Todd went on to presume Michael's new reps will "no doubt pitch their client as a high-quality performer with the bat who showed recently that his particular skills haven't waned." but then he got into how Michael's defense isn't well regarded and he's vulnerable to left-handed pitching, and that's when i knew this guy clearly wrote this based off Michael's numbers this year. yeah, he struggled for several months in 2018 against lefties, which i documented, but in his last couple of healthy seasons, he's really excelled when facing southpaws. and everyone knows sabermetrics haven't been kind to Michael, but he's still the best left fielder the Indians have had in well over a decade. finally, Todd brought up Michael's inability to remain healthy. eye roll. i can't.
November 6: Jon Paul Morosi's article for mlb.com unearthed how yesterday evening, one player agent discovered that conversations with clubs are more realistic now than ever before this early in the offseason. Morosi then predicted Michael could be one of a few free agents to sign a deal before Thanksgiving because the Indians chose not to extend a qualifying offer and that alone can speed up a player's timetable to sign since no team will need to forfeit a draft pick in order to sign him. great, so if the Indians need to wait around to see if they can trade Kipnis first before offering Michael a deal because they can't commit that much money so early in the season, then Brant is as good as gone FOR REAL.
Morosi called Michael a natural second option behind Harper among teams looking for a corner bat, like the Giants. he also named the Houston Astros as another possible destination for Michael because they would like to add a left-handed hitter and are not in on Harper. omg, Michael you please NOT sign with the cheaters who swept your (former) team out of the playoffs this year?
the Brantley rumors page added that Michael is arguably the best corner outfielder on the market after Harper, and the teams that know they aren't going to pursue Harper but still need outfield help may have Michael circled as an option as he and Harper project to receive vastly different contracts in both length and AAV. Morosi furthermore expects Michael's new average annual value to exceed his $12 million salary from 2018 and that he should get at least a three year deal from his new ballclub.
Hoynsie's evening article for cleveland.com was very direct in declaring Michael was not expected to return to the Indians. he recounted that Michael reportedly received offers from the Braves, Phillies, and Chicago White Sox. when asked late in the season what he would say to the Indians if he didn't re-sign, Michael replied, "i would thank them for the honor of playing here. i grew from a young man to a man here."
November 7: Braves reporter Mark Bowman made it clear the Braves are interested in Michael via an article and video on mlb.com. he said they could put Michael in right field if they don't want to move Ronald Acuna, Jr. "more importantly, part of the value they see in Brantley is he could be their leadoff hitter. i think that Brantley is one of the guys that they're, one of the few free agent outfielders that they've targeted so far. there's possibility that they could go the trade route to fill this need but he's the one that, for right now, that's the one that has some traction."
at the GM meetings in Carslbad, California, Morosi spoke with Antonetti and asked if he saw Michael as a strong candidate to return and how does he view future in this video on mlb.com/indians. "well, the desire's definitely there. we couldn't have any more respect for any player than we do for Michael Brantley for what he's meant to our team on the field, the character of the person and what he represents as a teammate. so there's the unquestioned desire, but Michael has done his part to put himself in a really good position heading into free agency and where that will lead him, we'll have to see. "
Morosi continued by querying what did he see in the changes that Michael made health-wise to get himself back on the field and really producing as well as he had in a number of years here in 2018? "i think it was all just about health. and Michael deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the way he approached his rehab and he persevered through some injuries and, i think we all saw the byproduct of all that work this year with just how successful he was on the field."
Antonetti also insinuated that they told Kipnis his most likely position next year may be the outfield.
November 8: despite being on some "Silver Slugger watch list," per an Indians email on October 12, Michael was not even one of the six OF finalists for the award.🤷
Hoynsie and Joe Noga discussed where Michael might land in their Cleveland Baseball Talk Podcast on cleveland.com. Hoynsie first repeated it doesn't look like they Indians are gonna be able to re-sign Michael. "he's received interest from Atlanta, the White Sox, and the Phillies are kind of in on him and it doesn't look like he's gonna be coming back to the Indians."
at the end, Hoynsie shared that he heard Michael doesn't want to switch leagues. "if the Phillies and Atlanta are the frontrunners, i wonder if there's an American League club that would take a chance on him. i would imagine he doesn't wanna go to the White Sox."
Noga sounded extremely concerned and unhappy that Michael's aim was to stay in the American League, reacting with, "watch him go to the White Sox and just torch the Indians and sort of lead their youth resurgence there. they've got a couple of young players that are pretty good. i would not want to see Michael Brantley 19 times a year if i were the Cleveland Indians' pitching staff."
"i can't imagine at this point he wants to go through another rebuild in his career if he can, if he can avoid it," Hoynsie speculated.
"win-now mode, Philly fits, Atlanta fits," Noga rattled off. "they could both afford to take on a $17 million, $18 million a year player, so we'll see."
Heyman's article for fancredsports.com went through 10 big storylines from the GM Meetings and #10 touched on the player-agent shuffle. here's some info on why people left TLA: "the Legacy company's baseball arm seems to be disbanding as the federal government investigates alleged wrongdoing and its stock price plummets as potential buyers haven't found the books up to the claims of the company. (yikes!) Legacy once was arguably the second biggest agency behind BorasCorp so this is quite a change." Heyman also noted longtime agent Kenny Felder moved to Excel, "which is led by Casey Close and now appears to be in the top two in terms of size (though Wasserman and CAA may still have a claim to that, too)." the one thing in this story that differed from what Fink tweeted a week ago is that Springer was looking around and may go to Excel; Fink had him following Felder. just wanted to include that here.
Sean Holland believes the Chicago Cubs might be seeking a free agent with a lower cost than Bryce Harper and Manny Machado to boost their offense. his article on cubsinsider.com denotes that Andrew McCutchen has been linked to the Cubs, but Michael could also be an option since they're both expected to get similar deals. Holland explains Michael would provide a stable bat and since he did so well as a two-hole hitter for the Tribe, he'd be a great fit to bat 2nd for the Cubs, who've had a tough time getting production from that spot in the lineup. "a contact hitter in a lineup still prone to the strikeout would certainly help smooth out any offensive rough patches." he also talked about Michael's past injuries and him not being a home run threat, but did give him credit for being a gap hitter.
in addition, the writer for the Brantley rumors page expressed it would be surprising if the Phillies or White Sox signed Michael this early into the offseason because both teams have interest in Harper and that situation probably won't resolve itself for a while.
November 9: Bowden's article for theathletic.com broke down one need for each team and when talking about the Rockies, he named Michael as a fit, stating offense in the form of an outfielder would make sense. the Brantley rumors page continued with how spacious Coors Field and the thin air of Denver could be very inviting for a hitter of his caliber, and that he could use the large gaps between outfielders to his advantage.
Bowman posted a Braves Inbox on mlb.com and his tune changed a little from two days ago. a fan, @koos_C on twitter, asked what kind of contract would Michael receive from the Braves. Bowman claimed "a source" earlier in the week named Michael and Wilson Ramos as the Braves' top free agent targets, but he says they are simply among the options Atlanta is evaluating to fill its two definitive needs and that we're still in the courting stages where teams show interest in many free agents just to get a feel for the potential interest and cost. Bowman additionally brought up Michael's shoulder surgeries from 2015 and 2016, then referred to him as "a health risk who is on the wrong side of 30" and views him as nothing more than secondary option. wow, i hope Michael passes on their offer then, shit.
the thing that concerned me is how in another fan question, Bowman described how the Indians could have interest in CF Ender Inciarte, whom the Braves might have to give up in a trade for Corey Kluber. then if the Braves get a starter, they could move Ronald Acuna, Jr. to center field from left, as he looked more comfortable in center.
sigh. if the Indians do a trade with the Braves for an OF, then they should contact Michael, tell him to sign with Atlanta and they'll then trade back for him. is the front office even thinking of these things or just me?
November 10: Pluto's article on cleveland.com publicized "there is nearly a zero chance Michael Brantley will return to the Tribe."🗡💔 he doesn't believe the Indians will stick with the starting outfield of Jason Kipnis--Leonys Martin/Greg Allen--Tyler Naquin, and the most logical way to fix it is with trades. [i still stand by my if you trade Kipnis, you can re-sign Michael idea.]
in a new Hey, Hoynsie on cleveland.com, Frank Galas from Campbell, California, was confused as to how the Indians didn't offer Michael a qualifying offer because "all the walleye in Lake Erie" knew Michael wouldn't accept it, and why the Indians wouldn't at least get a draft pick. he questioned if the front office didn't offer him the QO as a favor to not limit his opportunities. Hoynsie didn't agree with Frank's assumption, noting they felt there was a chance that he would take the qualifying offer, as Michael knows his injury history better than anyone else. Hoynsie went on with how Michael hitting the free agent market without being restricted by a QO is a good thing for him, but he doesn't think that was the driving force behind the decision not to make him the offer. he concluded by stating that at this time of year, most decisions are based on money, not sentiment.
Connor Byrne wrote an article for mlbtraderumors.com highlighting the Astros' offseason outlook and mentioned that if they can't get Harper, they could still better its outfield with a free agent by acquiring a high-profile corner bat like Michael or McCutchen.
November 11: Mark Polishuk wrote on mlbtraderumors.com it's too soon to say whether Atlanta will end up strongly pursuing Michael, though he is a fit for the team on paper as he could replace Nick Markakis in the outfield.
November 12: in Bastian's Indians Inbox on mlb.com/indians, @SarahRissler on twitter asked "why not extend the qualifying offer to Brantley? if he declines, we get a draft pick. now we get nothing." considering the QOs were handed out 10 days ago, i'd be more concerned with why the Indians won't try to free up payroll to get the money to bring him back but... JB first explained how the qualifying offer process works. the Indians' front office evaluators had to determine not only if Michael was worth $17.9 million for one year, but also the likelihood that he would accept the QO. if their analysis showed that he might accept it, then the team had to be sure they could fit that salary into its payroll. Bastian reminded everyone that the Indians had to decide five days after the World Series ended, and because they knew they probably needed to shed salary in order to add salary this winter, committing nearly $18 million was problematic that quick into the offseason, especially with a bunch of other roster issues being unsettled. so while the team lost out on draft pick compensation, they could not risk locking in that type of salary so early in the offseason.
FLASHBACK: this basically proves how the team lied last year when the picked up Michael's $12 million club option. they had to know back then that going into this offseason they wouldn't be able to pay any of their free agents the QO salary. yet, they still spit out this BS that they wanted Michael on their team for 2018 and beyond.
from October 13, 2017, Antonetti said this, according to Bastian's blog on bastian.mlblogs.com: "it's a significant decision for us, but as we told Michael, we've always envisioned him being part of the organization, not only for 2018, but beyond. that's been our mindset from the beginning." lies.
Bastian also answered a fan's inquiry about Adam Jones being in the Tribe's price range [to help replenish the hole left by Michael and other free agent OFs] by agreeing that yes, he looks like a fit on the surface, but the Indians may not be much of a player in free agency unless something changes with the payroll.
the Brantley rumors page again noted that Michael's strong 2018 season put him in position to receive a lucrative multi-year offer and it won't be with the Indians, who are shopping some of its veterans for short-term financial relief and younger, cheaper assets.
November 13: Ryan Fagan composed a "this guy or that guy" debate on sportingnews.com. regarding outfielders not named Bryce Harper, he pit Michael and A.J. Pollock against each other. he noted that both have had issues staying healthy, but Michael is older and Pollock has a QO attached to him, meaning the team that signs him will need to surrender a draft pick. the case for Michael was he was healthy "for most of the 2018 season." (um, he was healthy for all of it and just got extra days off as a precaution but whatever.) and he put up numbers that you'd expect from a healthy Michael. he also lauded that he's "the kind of future-coach-veteran who makes a positive impact in the clubhouse even when he's on the DL." as for Pollock, he went into how he's had several injuries over the years involving broken bones. Fagan's verdict was Michael might be the better bet for a team that doesn't want to lose a draft pick for Pollock, even though he has the higher upside.
November 14: various people from MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM made predictions as to where Michael will end up. while the "experts" still say Braves, here's what the MLBN radio crew believe:
Jim Bowden - Chicago Cubs
Matt Diaz - Atlanta Braves
Jim Duquette - Atlanta Braves
Mike Ferrin - Atlanta Braves
Jeff Joyce - Philadelphia Phillies
Brad Lidge - Cleveland Indians
CJ Nitkowski - Washington Nationals
Eduardo Perez - Atlanta Braves
Steve Phillips - San Francisco Giants
Ryan Spilborghs - Philadelphia Phillies
Mike Stanton - Philadelphia Phillies
Casey Stern - Chicago Cubs
Phillips also predicted a 4-year, $64 million deal for Michael.
|photo courtesy of @MLBNetworkRadio on twitter|
okay, is Lidge going to donate the money that the Indians need to re-sign him? that's the worst prediction on here.
the Brantley rumors page also insinuates that Michael to the Braves is the best fit because they have two outfield spots locked up (Inciarte in center and Acuna in a corner), but are looking to fill free agent Nick Markakis' spot in right. the page noted Michael offers much of what Markakis provided: solid on-base skills at or near the top of the lineup, good contact-making ability, capable defense in the corner outfield with a strong arm and a veteran presence. Michael's tools allow the Braves to move Acuna in the lineup and outfield, too, if they want because Michael can be a strong leadoff hitter for them.
November 15: Bowden repeated his stance that Michael will go to the Cubs in his "One Move Each MLB Playoff Team Must Make To Get Back To October" article on theathletic.com. he feels Michael would be an upgrade over Kyle Schwarber on defense and that his being a heavy contact hitter could help eliminate some of the offensive inconsistency the Cubs dealt with in 2018.
Michael Moore was surprised the Indians did not offer Michael a $17.9 million qualifying offer, but assumed it was so they could offer him a three-or-four year deal for less money per season. he also couldn't imagine Michael selling himself short and accepting that one-year deal had it been extended. Moore predicted in his free agent profile article on 247sports.com that Michael's market value is approximately $15.7 million a year and he'll get a four-year, $63 million deal. he said Michael should receive a contract between three and five years and that he won't pass that up. Moore expects Michael to sign a four-year contract somewhere between the $55 million and $70 million range, although a three-year, $45-50 million deal wouldn't shock him.
Moore noted there's a strong market for outfielders and called Michael, who will be at the top of many teams' lists, the third-best OF in the free agent class. lastly, Moore hopes that the Indians will be the team to offer Michael a multi-year deal after coming to the realization that their current OF options aren't great and that they currently don't have a guy on their roster who can replace him at the top of the lineup.
November 16: in the Cleveland Baseball Talk Podcast on cleveland.com, Hoynsie again remarked that it didn't look like Michael was coming back. when discussing the Indians possibly trading Corey Kluber, Hoynsie wondered who would be the leader if he's gone and also noted how Michael was a big leader among position players. he and Noga answered a question from Victor of Mayfield Heights about why the Indians didn't offer a QO to Michael. (omg, it's been two weeks now, let that go.) Noga informed that after the deadline passed, Antonetti told them in a conference call that there's no communication or no prior knowledge about whether a guy will or won't accept a qualifying offer, so Noga speculated probably the only reason they didn't extend it is they were worried Michael would take it. and if they were planning on not spending $17.9 million on one player, they wouldn't extend it because it'd be a risk that he'd take it. Hoynsie agreed and thought there was a chance Michael might take the offer and they have limited dollars to work with this winter and they wanted to go in a different direction. they love Michael and he liked it here, it's the only big league team he's ever played with, but from everything in print, Michael's probably gonna get a multi-year deal and that's not going to happen here. given Michael's injury history, the Indians may have thought he'd take the one-year QO and try to get back-to-back healthy years behind him and then go out into the free agent market again.
he and Noga also conferred over which teams might sign Michael. Noga heard the White Sox and, like in their previous podcast, was terrified at the prospect of the Indians having to face him 19 times a year in the same division. Hoynsie said the White Sox are in on a lot of people and Michael might be a backup plan to be a cornerstone of their franchise. Atlanta has shown some interest and Philadelphia, too. the Phillies were scouting Michael at the end of the regular season. Noga thought Michael might be Philly's backup plan if they can't get Harper. Noga thinks Philly will get one of those two outfielders.
also, Keith Costas did "blind" resume comparisons of two players over the past five years with Ron Darling and Matt Vasgersian on MLB Network's Hot Stove. here are the numbers they looked at:
.283 AVG, .343 OBP, .502 SLG, 127 OPS+
.311 AVG, .371 OBP, .475 SLG, 127 OPS+
the first set is Manny Machado's and the second is Michael. Costas said Michael may be a good option to hit in the middle of the lineup somewhere if teams don't want to commit a quarter of a million dollars. you can see more in this video on mlb.com.
November 17: Anthony Castrovince wrote in an article for mlb.com that Michael could have a homecoming with the Milwaukee Brewers, the team that drafted him in 2005 in the 7th round and then traded him as the player to be named later in the CC Sabathia deal with the Tribe. Castro acknowledges it's a reach because the Brewers have a lot of bodies in the outfield and at 1st base (oh no, not the let's move Michael to 1st base thing again), though he notes that the threat of potential excess didn't scare them off last season. he calls the Brewers a middle-of-the-pack offensive club that was in the lower-third in contact percentage in 2018 and the club could find a way to fit Michael and his high-contact skillset into the lineup.
the Brantley rumors page specifies that the Brewers ranked 12th in runs scored in MLB this past year and tied for 20th in contact rate, while Michael finished first in contact rate among all qualified hitters.
Mike Petriello posted an article about improving the outfield on mlb.com, suggesting their best free agent fit is McCutchen. he turned 32 last month, his speed hasn't declined yet, and he's remained durable. he's projected to have a .363 OBP and .461 SLG. Petriello noted he's expected to receive a two- or three-year deal at a reasonable price, wouldn't bust the budget, and is good for two or three wins as the right fielder. if the Indians can't afford Michael for two or three years, how could they afford McCutchen? i'd rather bring Brant back, despite Cutch being a right-handed batter.
A.J. Pollock is another player Petriello considered, calling him a less likely but still good fit. he's another right-handed bat and good defender, but the Tribe probably won't go after him because he has a qualifying offer attached to him and will be looking for a big deal that Cleveland won't be able to pay. Petriello believes the Indians should sign both McCutchen and Pollock actually. what is he smoking?
he further names Adam Jones and Carlos Gomez to his list, though they are second-tier options who may not be upgrades, and Nick Markakis and Carlos Gonzalez probably wouldn't work due to being left-handed hitters.
there's more in the article regarding trading for outfielders, but i'm not going to list all that here.
November 18: Daniel Kramer's mlb.com article calls Michael MLB's best contact hitter. though he made sure to point out Michael's "well-chronicled injury history," "stark platoon splits," and, based solely off defensive metrics and not having actually watched him in left field, Kramer labeled him a below-average defender and claimed all of this could give teams pause. smh. i'm not getting into this again.
his article went on to present some facts. Michael has swung at over 7,000 pitches in his career, making contact 91.2% of the time, ranking 7th among 560 qualified hitters from 2009-2018, per fangraphs.com. the six players ahead of him didn't even play in the majors in 2018. and while the average contact rate in MLB had dropped since Michael's debut, he's maintained his mark.
|photo courtesy of Kramer's article on mlb.com|
Kramer next shines a light on Michael's 4.8% whiff rate on in-zone pitches in 2018, citing it as the lowest out of 294 hitters with a minimum of 350 in-zone swings. of the 726 swings that Michael swung at in the strike zone only 35 missed his bat, according to Statcast. besides that, Michael bat .372 on in-zone pitches in 2018, putting him in the 94 percentile among 222 qualified hitters.
the last thing Kramer exposes is how Michael rarely strikes out, while MLB as a whole has set records in strikeouts in each of the last 11 seasons. Michael's career 10.7% K rate is the 21st-best among qualified hitters over that time span, per fangraphs.com.
Kramer then picked five teams that might want Michael and listed why:
1. Braves - they have a void in the outfield thanks to free agent Markakis. Michael has better on-base skills, more power, and is younger than Markakis. plus, he could become their leadoff hitter.
2. Rockies - they have outfield holes and need at least one run-producing bat, but although his pull power would fit well in Coors Field, his defense could be suspect.
3. Cubs - with their anemic offense, Michael checks a lot of boxes. despite his defensive limitations, Michael would be an improvement over Schwarber in left and give them a true leadoff hitter.
4. Phillies - if they can't sign Harper or Machado, Michael would be a good fit. he could play either corner, bat at the top of the lineup, and create production opportunities for the other hitters.
5. White Sox - they have one of the youngest lineups in MLB and Michael would offer a veteran presence who's also very familiar with the AL Central.
November 19: readers of MLB Trade Rumors predicted where free agents will end up. regarding Michael, here are the results that came in via Tim Dierkes:
Braves (30.8%), Indians (10.1%), Giants (9.5%), Phillies (4.9%), Cardinals (4.5%), White Sox (4.2%), Nationals (3.6%), Cubs (3.0%), Mariners (2.9%), Astros (2.8%), Diamondbacks (2.6%), Rockies (2.4%), Oakland Athletics (2.3%), New York Mets (2.3%), Toronto Blue Jays (1.9%), Los Angeles Angels (1.4%), Twins (1.4%), Rangers (1.2%), San Diego Padres (1.1%), Tampa Bay Rays (1.0%), and Los Angeles Dodgers (1.0%).
some of these are clearly just wishful thinking for fans of their own teams, i'm sure. but the Brantley rumors page made a case for the Giants, stating an under-the-radar signing of Michael would be a good one for Farhan Zaidi, the new President of Baseball Operations, to make as his first key decision.
in addition, someone asked Derrick Goold (i think) on stltoday.com what the odds were that a team tries to get ahead of the market on Michael before Harper comes off the board, or is it almost certain that Michael will be awaiting that domino to fall. the answer given was that the odds seem pretty low at this point. the Cardinals are looking for a free agent left-handed bat, which Michael is. but for the Cards, it's all about price and length of commitment and their interest in Michael is far more complex than Harper because in order to make room for Michael, the Cardinals would have to make a series of moves. if the Cards aren't alone in that view of Michael, then there are two possible outcomes: a team sees him as their answer and makes the move ahead of the market, or more teams see a series of things that have to happen first, in which case Michael's interest will grow if he's patient for those things to happen.
November 20: according to an unauthored article on mlb.com in the afternoon, it was announced that David Price was named MLB's 2018 AL Comeback Player of the Year. this award, officially licensed by Major League Baseball, is given annually to the player who has re-emerged on the field during the season. the mlb.com beat writers from all 30 ballclubs voted for the winner off a list of 30 candidates--one player per team. other than stating the specifics of Price's season, the article did not mention if Michael was close behind him in the voting or not. so since i don't know where he placed in the voting, i did not write a separate blog about this because there's literally no other details to provide. i feel so sorry for Michael and can't believe all his hard work was not rewarded with this honor. such a shame.
November 21: Morosi tweeted that the Cardinals are maintaining interest in Michael, according to a source, even with their interest in more expensive Harper, per comments by Cards President Bill DeWitt III to Goold. Goold then took a bit of offense to that, correcting and clarifying how multiple sources told him it would take a series of moves to find a fit for Michael with the Cardinals, meaning they would have to miss on other targets and trade/shuffle players (such as Dexter Fowler) before and after engaging in the pursuit of Michael. also, in response to an Indians fan, Goold revealed he talked to Michael at the All Star Game about his feel for St. Louis and that there would be many moving parts to make this work.
November 23: according to Bernie Miklasz's article on theathletic.com, the Cardinals are looking to improve the team's contact and situational hitting. Miklasz suggested the lineup could benefit from the added presence of Michael, one of the premier contact hitters in the game. if the Cards miss out on Harper, Michael would be an appealing upgrade to Fowler and round out the outfield already consisting of Marcell Ozuna and Harrison Bader. plus, he'd fit in with manager Mike Shildt's desire hitting approach.
November 24: in Hoynsie's latest Hey, Hoynsie on cleveland.com, Tom Munley from Sagamore Hills proposed something similar to what i've been thinking the Indians should do for weeks. he asked if the Indians have given any thought to trying to trade Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco for a quality outfielder and catching or outfield prospect and using the money they saved to retain Michael. Tom goes on to admit he suggested this for sentimental reasons (i hear ya) and it would be nice to see a player actually wear the Tribe uniform for an entire career. Hoynsie killed the dream, however, with his reply of "in regards to Brantley, i think that ship has sailed." though he did mention the concept of creating some capital to try and improve the team is one of the reasons behind the Indians listening to offers on some of their veterans.
another reader also asked about getting McCutchen because he wouldn't cost too much. Hoynsie said that'd be more likely to happen at the trading deadline. but from what i've read, McCutchen and Michael are supposed to end up with similar deals so if the Indians have that kind of money, i'd rather see Brant back here. duh.
in his latest article for stltoday.com, Goold further explained the whole Cardinals have interest in Michael thing. he revealed how he approached Michael at the All Star Game in July to talk about his pending free agency and what his view was of St. Louis as a market and team. true to form, Michael really didn't want to get into that, preferring to focus on the rest of Cleveland's season first and free agency would be a topic for the winter. that said, Michael did share that he couldn't close out the possibility of any market--especially if it had a team that intended on contending. Michael was quoted as stating, "we'll see what options are out there."
in regards to the report that the Cards "maintain interest" in Michael, Goold proclaimed that's what front offices do on November 23 and could be said of a lot of free agents. Michael stands out from other options because of him being a left-handed hitter and potential 2-hole hitter or middle of the order hitter, but he's not a corner infielder (which i guess is their priority right now).
Goold recalled two sources told him that it would take "a series of other events" for the Cards to have interest in signing Michael. they didn't offer specifics, but he assumed it would only come to be if they didn't acquire other players first and only if they moved some of the outfielders they already have. even if the Cardinals go after Harper, they'd have to make moves for him. so if they can't make moves for Harper, then they'd still have to find a way to make moves for Michael.
Goold went on with a comparison of Michael, who's going to turn 32 in 2019, and Fowler who just played as a 32-year old. Cardinals ownership hasn't been shy about its reluctance to sign players deep into their 30s when "you have to expect a decline." since 2014, Michael's numbers are better than Fowler's. so while Michael is a left-handed bat that they want, he comes with the kind of contract and moving parts they wish to avoid. they have to weigh upgrades versus incremental additions.
November 25: Buster Olney wrote how the Astros have actively held discussions with free agent outfielders who rank below Harper and that includes Michael. they have an opening because they don't view prospect Kyle Tucker and Tony Kemp as ready for full-time roles. Olney's espn.com article is for Insiders with a subscription only, which i am not. the Brantley rumors page, however, divulged that Michael's elite-contact skillset would fit right in to their lineup that hits for average and consistently puts balls in play. there would be room for Michael to slide into a corner OF spot alongside Springer and Josh Reddick with Jake Marisnick being a defensive replacement off the bench. the page also noted that Michael hasn't had the best numbers at Minute Maid Park, hitting only .240 in 81 plate appearances with a .643 OPS there. still, when Michael's healthy, he can hit .300 and has a combination of average and contact that has driven the Astros' opponents crazy in recent years.
November 26: Morosi's article on mlb.com made it clear that the Phillies will not wait for Harper and Machado to make decisions before going after other free agents. they have the money to add multiple big-name free agents, and sources said they are still interested in Michael. the Brantley rumors page expounded that the Phillies' outfield is in flux, with center fielder Odubel Herrera coming off a disappointing 2018 and left fielder Rhys Hoskins possibly moving to 1st base, his natural position, if Santana is traded.
MLB playoff shares were also publicized and, according to the article on cleveland.com from Hoynsie, Indians players who got a full share received $37,040.29. i'm assuming Michael was one of the 67 who was awarded a full share.
November 27: shortly before 8 am, [Michael's partial agent?] Kusnick posted his excitement on twitter over getting two fa deals deal before the winter meetings. his first deal was a minor league one the previous week that admittedly sent me into a tailspin until it was announced to be a minor leaguer. but i don't know who this second one is about. who else is Kusnick representing in free agency this offseason? or maybe the better question is, does he still represent Michael at all? i'm thinking he might not, but wanted to include this here anyway.
in the new Indians Inbox on mlb.com/indians by fill-in Castrovince, Cory, @CoryCleveland25 on twitter, asked for the best guess on where Michael lands. Castro's answer was the Cubs because they need offense and contact and they need to move Schwarber to the AL in a trade.
Castrovince also claimed acquiring McCutchen at a deep discount would be a best case scenario for the Indians. again, if Cutch is going to get about the same salary as Michael, i don't know why the team doesn't bring Brant back.
Duquette told MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM that the next signing for the Braves could be Michael. "i think they're gonna be in the bidding for, you know, certainly with Brantley." he went on to say Harper and Machado are probably not targets for Atlanta because of how many years they want. "but Brantley, as we have talked about many, many times... i mean, you know, there's going to be plenty of competition with him, St. Louis is gonna be there, too, but i look at him and say, alright, that team for sure would be the front runner."
the Brantley rumors page added how Michael's elite contact ability and penchant for compiling good at-bats could also prove valuable for Atlanta, since their young lineup was often impatient last season. in the field, the Braves would be able to fit him into a corner outfield spot if Markakis signs somewhere else.
at night, the MLB Players Association announced that Michael won the Players Choice Awards' 2018 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award! he receives a $20,000 grant for the win. i was pretty surprised he nabbed this honor because he previously lost to David Price for the Sporting News and MLB versions of this award on October 16 and November 20, respectively. i think it was well-deserved though, obviously. and as happy as i am to see him be recognized for all his hard work, it hurts knowing that that is the last award he'll win as a Cleveland Indian...😞
|photo courtesy of mlbplayers.com|
for more information and quotes from Michael about this win, please refer to the separate blog post i wrote: Brantley Wins Players Choice Awards' 2018 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award!
November 28: Hoynsie's cleveland.com article reporting that Michael won PCA's Comeback Player of the Year also reiterated that Michael is not expected to re-sign with the Tribe.
an article on mlb.com/indians by Bastian (which must have been written a while ago because he's now on the Chicago Cubs beat) listed the 10 biggest trades in Indians history and the CC deal was #4. after a disappointing 2007 postseason run, the Tribe's 2008 campaign got off to a rough start. so the club opted to part ways with their reigning AL Cy Young winner and upcoming free agent Sabathia, trading him to the Brewers for Michael, RHP Rob Bryson, LHP Zach Jackson, and 1B Matt LaPorta on July 7, 2008. LaPorta was supposed to be the main return, but he didn't pan out. instead, it was Michael, the player to be named later, who emerged as a three-time All Star, cornerstone of the franchise, and heart and soul of the Indians. Sabathia helped the Brewers reach the playoffs before joining the New York Yankees that offseason.
in an mlb.com article, Bowman wrote how one of the Braves' needs is an outfielder and while they shown some interest in Michael, they haven't closed the door on re-signing free agent Markakis (who Michael would supposedly replace), though he would likely get a contract from them that's "less than three guaranteed seasons."
Jeff Passan ranked this offseason's free agent class on sports.yahoo.com and had Michael at #11 out of 197. he wrote, "while the sentiment is that he could be had on a two-year deal, enough teams are interested that the 31-year old could get something longer term." Passan dislikes Michael's defense, but lauded his ability to hit in the 2 hole and contact-oriented swing.
November 29: from a fancredsports.com article by Heyman, the Indians like Michael and "he is believed to relish a return," but that's unlikely. Cleveland thinks Michael will get three years and that's not something they're prepared to offer him. it was also written that the Braves see Markakis as "a more likely fit than Michael Brantley." and in another article from Heyman on fancredsports.com, he clarifies there are "other decent outfield alternatives" to Harper, such as Michael and Pollock, for the Phillies to pursue.
November 30: Petriello's mlb.com article about teams that could be a good fit for Andrew McCutchen, naming the Indians at #1, claimed the free-agent outfield market behind Harper is somewhat thin. he then wrote Michael had a comparable season to McCutchen, but ultimately views Cutch as the better of the two due to Michael's injuries in 2016 and 2017. if the Indians can't afford to re-sign their own free agent, but can somehow sign McCutchen for a multi-year deal, that's messed up. if they plan to replace Brant with Cutch and think that's a job well done simply because he's a right-handed hitter, well, then they're not very bright.
so from what we know, Michael received offers from the Braves, Phillies, and White Sox. and, despite him not wanting to switch leagues, it really sounded like Michael was definitely going to sign with Atlanta for much of this month up until recently. after reading through everything, unless there's more information which we aren't privy to (which is very likely), it would appear as though Michael is most teams' second choice after Bryce Harper, or Nick Markakis in the Braves' case. knowing that, we might have to wait for some other chips to fall/free agents to sign before Michael makes his choice. my new guess is that a deal gets done during next month's Winter Meetings (December 9-13) in Las Vegas.
where do you think Michael will end up? let me know in a comment below.💭
MY UNREALISTIC SUGGESTION:
the Indians can't take on any additional payroll. things are so tight that they're talking about trading one of either Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, or Trevor Bauer. okay, then why not throw Jason Kipnis into whatever trade they try to make. but don't look for a starting outfielder in return; get a starter and some bullpen help and/or maybe a 4th OF type or maybe a young prospect. then you can get your starting OF by taking the freed-up $14.7 million from Kip's contract and re-sign Michael. i know it's probably easier said than done, but if the Indians haven't even thought about doing this to get Brant back, then they're seriously lost my respect.😒
ICYMI: you can check out the news about Michael from last month following the Indians' postseason elimination, spanning from October 10 -30 here:
Brantley News from October 2018
keep following me on twitter @clevelandgirl23 for all the latest news and rumors. i guess now i'll also be putting together a December News and Rumors post, at least until Michael finally decides where he wants to play next. i can understand why he's holding off because the most interest is coming from NL teams and his preference is to stay in the AL. he's probably not happy that Cleveland took themselves out of the running and so he's now stuck with finding a new place to call home. this must be agonizing for him and i'm sorry he has to go through it. hey Indians, trade Kipnis, keep Michael! sounds easy enough to me.🤷
if you're still not on my subscription list, you can join by entering your email address in the box underneath the Blog Archive sidebar over on the upper-right side of this page.📧
oh and i can't forget to say hello to a brand new viewer from Azerbaijan (which borders Armenia and Iran for those unfamiliar). welcome and thank you for stopping by to read all about Brantley!👋