Monday, December 17, 2018

Brantley Agrees to Two-Year, $32 Million Deal with Houston Astros

this is a sad day for Tribe fans, but a good day for Brantley fans. and if you're both like i am, then i'm sure you're very torn. after being with the Cleveland Indians for 10 years, he is no longer ours. today, on December 17, it was announced that Michael Brantley has agreed to a two-year, $32 million deal with the Houston Astros.

photo courtesy of @MLB on twitter

Ken Rosenthal was the first to reveal a deal was close at 6:47 pm ET. Jeff Passan disclosed that Michael had been discussing two-year deals with a vesting third-year option, according to sources, before he reported the deal was a straight two-year deal with no options at 7 pm ET. evidently, there is "still some work for it to be official, but
the terms are in place," per Passan as well. Mark Berman confirmed the agreement, adding that MLB sources say Michael will take his Astros physical tomorrow, on Tuesday, December 18, and the deal is pending the successful completion of the physical.

another tweet from Passan explained Michael's versatility and bat-to-ball ability greatly appealed to the Astros, who have a team full of those types. the plan is for Michael to rotate among left field, 1st base, and DH. he also noted the top of Houston's lineup would contain George Springer, Michael, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman in almost any order with Carlos Correa, too. Brian McTaggart had Michael batting 5th in their order. in addition, McTaggart tweeted how AJ Reed wore Michael's #23 last season in his one and only big league game, implying that Michael would, in fact, be able to retain his number.

when Michael officially became a free agent, it was expected that he would receive a three-year deal that fell somewhere in the $45-60 million range. so the fact that he only signed for two is peculiar. it was also widely publicized that, for most of the offseason, the Atlanta Braves were very interested in him up until recently, when they made it known they did not want to sign Michael for the three years that he was supposedly looking for. and just last week, the Philadelphia Phillies apparently chose to sign Andrew McCutchen to a three-year, $50 million deal over Michael for health reasons. so he had a few chances to sign with a National League team, but now that Michael has agreed to a mere two-year deal, it's clear his preference was to stay in the American League and play for a contender.

EDIT: Michael's deal with the Astros was made official on December 19, per Taggart. according to Rosenthal, his contract includes a $2 million signing bonus and base salaries of $15 million for both 2019 and 2020.


photos courtesy of @astros on twitter
photo courtesy of @alysonfooter on twitter

during his presser, Michael said, "i'm very appreciative to be here, first and foremost," via Matt Kelly's article on mlb.com/astros. "i'm coming to a great team with a lot of great players and a great coaching staff. one of my main goals of this offseason was to get somewhere where i was comfortable and knew some guys, and have some fun this year. it's exciting."

"once you miss a few years to injuries, all you want to do is get back with your teammates," Michael continued. "i love this game so much; it's been great to me and my family. just being around the guys and traveling and competing every day is what you miss most. last year i enjoyed being with my teammates again and getting back into action. i'll miss the guys there [in Cleveland], but i'm looking forward to this new journey."

when speaking about his new team, Michael complimented, "they do a great job of putting you in a position to be successful day in and day out, based on what i've seen from the other side. i know how well they've done over the past couple seasons, because we've faced them so many times, and they're a great group of guys. i felt like this was an easy place to fit in; i'm pretty laid back, and i enjoy playing baseball. they look like they have a good time here."

for more, check out the following:
here is a video of Michael putting on his new (#23) jersey and Astros hat before the press conference from Alyson Footer's twitter account.
here is a video of Michael being introduced at the presser from mlb.com/astros and another video from the Astros' twitter account.
here is a video with Michael talking about why he chose the Astros and what he's willing to do from mlb.com/astros.
here is a video of Astros manager AJ Hinch talking about acquiring Michael from mlb.com/astros.
another clip of Michael talking about his new team with Julia Morales can be found on the AT&T SportsNet SW twitter account.


The Offseason Road Didn't Always Lead To Houston

now let's take a quick look back at the offseason road that led Michael to Houston.

on November 2, the Indians did not extend a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer to Michael for fear that he would accept it. President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti claimed they could not potentially dole out that amount of money to a player so soon into the offseason. his reasoning was because of how much money they were already committed to in guaranteed contracts for 2019 and the possibility of Jason Kipnis perhaps needing to play left field next year if he and his expensive $14.7 million salary are not be traded.

at the same time, however, Antonetti also stated the Indians were interested in bringing Michael back. "i talked to Michael this morning and reiterated that. 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." (source: Jordan Bastian's article on mlb.com/indians.)

after that news broke, i read many articles during the first few weeks of November containing projections of what kind of contract Michael might get and which teams he'd be a good fit for. not including the Indians, i saw the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, and Chicago White Sox all either had interest or were said to be in need of a bat like Michael's.

on the evening of November 6, one team was named to be out of the race while three others were brought to light as having already offered Michael a deal. Paul Hoynes' article on cleveland.com revealed that Michael was not expected to return to the Indians and had received offers from the Braves, Phillies, and White Sox.

by November 9, it didn't seem as though the Braves were that in on Michael, with their beat writer Mark Bowman calling him a health risk on the wrong side of 30 and a secondary option. so i'm glad he didn't go there.

the Astros really didn't come into the picture until November 25, when Buster Olney's ESPN Insider article on espn.com mentioned they had held discussions with free agents OFs including Michael.

in this beginning part of December, the feeling of the Braves not wanting to sign Michael unless he lowered his years and asking price, and the Astros potentially going after Michael continued. on December 6, it came out that Michael was willing to play 1st base for the first time in the majors, giving him an edge over some other outfielders.

during the Winter Meetings, there was much more talk about the Astros liking Michael's left-handed bat for their lineup and that's when it seemed as though Houston had emerged as the frontrunner to sign Michael. two days ago, Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Astros could add both Michael and Nelson Cruz in his article for theathletic.com. and today, the news of him going to the Astros came out abruptly. so there's your cliff notes version of the offseason rumors about Michael.

for more news and rumors from the offseason, as well as predictions about where Michael would end up ahead of this deal, please refer to my previous blogs:
Brantley News and Rumors from November 2018 and
Brantley News and Rumors from December 2018.


If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em: How Michael Left the Tribe

following the Indians' elimination from the American League Division Series (by the Houston Astros, no less) on October 8, Michael fielded questions from the media in front of his locker for the very last time. looking back now, i'm pretty sure he knew he'd never play another game with the Tribe again. here's some of what he said in a video on mlb.com/indians: "i'm very thankful for putting on a Cleveland Indian uniform, one. i'm very thankful for every player that i played in, played with in this organization that helped me get to where i'm at in this point. uh, it'll never be forgotten and i'll always be very appreciative for whatever everybody has ever done for me, including the fans. thank you, guys. i thank everybody."

when asked if he thought he would be back, Michael replied, "uh, we'll find out together. uh, i'm not sure, i mean, the game just ended. i got, i gotta sit down with my family and we'll make a decision and then we'll see what happens. i don't know."

in another video on the FOX Sports Ohio youtube channel, Hoynsie asked if this was Michael's last game with the Indians, what does he take away from it? "what do i take away from it? just that it's been an honor. it's been an honor to wear that uniform. it's an honor to, you know, every player that i played with in this organization, for all the help everybody gave me. it was always appreciated and it'll never be forgotten."

last offseason, before the Indians picked up Michael's $12 million club option for 2018, President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti claimed they wanted Michael around not just for this past year, but the future. "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." (source: Bastian's blog on bastian.mlblogs.com.) but the thing with that is, even back at that time, they had to have known they weren't going to have money going into this offseason to re-sign their free agents due to increases in guaranteed contracts and arbitration. so how was Michael ever going to be an Indian beyond 2018? seems like the front office straight up lied about all that.

after the Indians recently freed up approximately $18 million for 2019 thanks to trading some of their players, you would think they had the money to extend Michael an offer, especially one like this, which i'm still very surprised is only for two years. Michael let over six weeks of the offseason go by before taking a deal with another team and the Indians cleared more than enough payroll in that time period to make their own offer or at least match the Astros' deal. but they couldn't be bothered. the player who was supposed to be the heart and soul of the Indians didn't even get an offer from them. like what a joke. other teams would kill to have a guy like Michael on their club, and now Houston was lucky enough to get him. if you can't beat 'em, join 'em i guess.😞


Michael's Minor League Past & Previous Contracts

for those unfamiliar with Michael, let me provide a short history lesson. in 2005, Michael was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 7th round of the draft and officially signed with them on June 7. he started out in Milwaukee's Arizona League and later played for the Helena Brewers in the Pioneer League (both rookie leagues) that year. Michael played for the Single A West Virginia Power in the South Atlantic League in 2006. in 2007, he spent time with both the Power and the Double A Huntsville Stars in the Southern League, then remained in Double A for all of 2008.

Michael wouldn't stay in the Brewers organization past 2008 though. on July 7 of that year, the Indians agreed to trade Tribe starter CC Sabathia to Milwaukee in exchange for Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, and a player to be named later. the Indians got their PTBNL on October 3, and it was Michael Brantley. after spring training in 2009, Michael got his first taste in Triple A and played with the Columbus Clippers in the International League. when Major League rosters expanded on September 1, the Indians called him up and Michael made his Major League debut.

now let's talk money. Michael played for the league minimum through his 2013 campaign:

2010 salary - $400,800
2011 salary - $421,800
2012 salary - $495,300
2013 salary - $526,900

that offseason, he was eligible for arbitration for the first time. he filed on January 14 and exchanged numbers with the Tribe on January 17. Michael filed for $3.8 million, the Indians offered $2.7 million. but they never went to a hearing because on February 10, it was announced that Michael signed a four-year, $24 million contract extension with an $11 million club option/$1 million buyout for 2018. the annual breakdown is as follows:

2014 salary – $1.5 million + $3.5 million signing bonus = $5 million
2015 salary – $5 million
2016 salary – $6.5 million
2017 salary – $7.5 million
2018 salary – $11 million option/$1 million buyout

more information on this can be found here.

the terms of Michael's contract changed a little bit after he finished 3rd in the BBWAA's 2014 AL MVP voting. because he placed in the Top 5, his base salary went up by with an additional million dollars in the final two years of his deal. (source: Paul Hoynes' article on cleveland.com). so here were the new totals:

2017 salary - $8.5 million
2018 salary - $12 million option/$1 million buyout

more information on this can be found here.

Michael's first agency was Double Diamond Sports Management and he was working with agent Joshua Kusnick. he was still with DDSM when he signed his extension in 2014. at some point after that, Michael went over to The Legacy Agency, but i don't know exactly when that happened. because of Michael's move, Kusnick admitted he had to partner with TLA for reasons beyond his control and then only represented "a part of" Michael. following the 2018 season, Kenny Felder, Michael's agent from TLA, left Legacy (amidst some controversy apparently) and joined Excel Sports Management and that's the agency Michael is with currently.


What Do I Think?

let's face it, i wasn't going to be happy unless Michael re-signed with the Indians. so i'm going to try to remove that from my brain here and look at this more objectively, but it's gonna be hard.

i'll be honest: this new deal with Houston is pretty underwhelming considering he had an AAV slightly over $19 million and he was expected to get three years for at least $45 million. i also believed some of his past salaries were low. (i mean, $5 million during his MVP season? that's peanuts.) at least $15 mill annually is still a step up from what the Indians ever paid him.💰

it's just surprising for a couple of reasons. one, with the Atlanta Braves being too afraid to offer Michael anything over two years, i never expected him to sign somewhere else for just two years. two, how does Michael accept this offer after reportedly also being in the running for the three-year, $50 million deal that the Philadelphia Phillies signed Andrew McCutchen to last week? and three, this was probably going to be his one and only opportunity to make a big buck on the free agent market, so why did he only get two years at $32? it doesn't make much sense to me. how's this for irony: the Astros' team mantra is Never Settle, yet it would appear as though Michael settled in terms of money and contract length...

i'm glad Michael got what he wanted in regards to staying in the American League. (Paul Hoynes let everyone know on November 8 that Michael didn't want to switch leagues, which explains why he wouldn't take a two-year deal with the Braves.) with the Indians not an option, really the only other AL teams i heard that were ever seriously interested in him were the Astros and White Sox. so between the two, i can see why he'd want to play for the team that won the World Series in 2017. the White Sox evidently made an offer to Michael early on in the offseason, but what exactly that was will probably never be made public. maybe they would have given him three years for $50 million, but again, at this stage of Michael's career, even if he would have been the new face of the ChiSox, i understand why he declined their offer. (selfishly though because i'm pissed at the Indians for letting him go, i kinda wish Michael had signed in the division...) and unlike in Cleveland, he'll actually have a chance to win a championship now.🏆 or will he?

i don't like what the Astros did in the 2018 playoffs, planting a guy in the camera wells to take video of the opponents' dugout. and once that was brought to the attention of everybody in MLB, that was no longer allowed and guess what? the Astros did not win another postseason game. maybe it's just me, but i wouldn't want to play for or be associated with a team that had that black cloud attached to it. not only that, but because they pulled that stunt, they may now have a baseball jinx on them. (perhaps he went from the Cleveland Curse to an Astros Jinx.) and i'm not even going to get into Trevor Bauer's attestment that the Astros pitchers use tar. either way, Indians fans are not fond of Houston at all now, so Michael signing with them just pushes the knife further into our hearts.💔

at least he won't need to get adjusted to playing in the NL, which likely was his concern about switching leagues. that said, there will be other changes he has to go through now. if the Astros make Michael play 1st base, something he's never done in the majors and hasn't done since 2007-2008 in the minors, that could affect him. it's not that i don't believe in Michael's ability to re-learn 1st base, but i wouldn't mess with a good thing. infield positions are a lot different from outfield ones, it's not like he's simply moving from left to center or right. playing a "new" old position on top of changing teams definitely presents him with an extra challenge. i'd rather leave well enough alone.🤷

Michael's also going to have to figure out how to hit at Minute Maid Park because, for his career, he's a .240 hitter there. he's 18-for-75 in 18 games with five doubles, one home run, five RBI, six walks, two stolen bases, and five strikeouts.

here are his numbers per season:

screenshot cropped from baseball-reference.com

compare that to his .307 batting average (619-for-2019) at Progressive Field in 531 games. granted, he's played a hell of a lot more in Cleveland than anywhere else in his career, but it's something to keep in mind when he begins his career with Houston.

in addition, he's now going to be in the AL West Division, which features the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers. when healthy, Michael owned the four teams in the AL Central, but when looking over his numbers in the West (minus against the Astros, of course), they're not as strong with the exception of the Rangers. maybe with him playing his new rival teams in the West more, he'll accumulate better numbers. i will be sad not seeing him beat up on the Tigers every month anymore and also his new teammate Justin Verlander.😞

i used to take major issue when Michael wasn't batting in the top of the order/1st inning with the Tribe. well, sounds like Michael will be back to hitting in the middle again because the Astros have a lot of good hitters that they'll want up there ahead of him. i don't think a consistent .300 hitter should be batting any lower than 3rd unless he can also mash like 25 homers.

something else i can't help but wonder is, does this affect Michael's chances of making the 2019 All Star team as an outfield reserve? it certainly could, especially if some of the remaining free agent OFs sign in the American League before the offseason ends. Astros fans will likely remain loyal to Springer, but will they also vote for Brantley? idk. and if he moves around between left, 1st, and DH, he might not even be listed in the OF section. who knows. but considering the ASG is gonna be in Cleveland at Progressive Field next year, i'm sure he would love to go back and play in a Midsummer Classic there.

this just occurred to me also. Michael has had the highest batting average on the Indians in the last five seasons he was a qualifying player, years 2012-2015 and 2018. that streak will assuredly end with Houston, as they have like three other batters who typically hit .300, don't they? and Altuve has proven he can hit .340 in a campaign. i don't think Michael will get as much recognition for being a good player on that team now, tbh. it's like he went from being a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big pond--and everything is bigger in Texas, right?

Cleveland media members love to check in on a player after he's left the Tribe and compare his stats with his new team against the guy who came to the Indians to replace him. so i wanna warn everyone: if you're going to do this, you better take into account the inevitable acclimation period that every player faces when they change teams. lesser stats from Michael early on in 2019 doesn't mean the Indians were right to let him go and that he's now a bad player. ugh, here i go again already, preemptively defending him even before anything even happened. i can't help it, that's gonna be a tough habit to break.

and i don't know anything about the Astros' fanbase, but i've already seen a few pissed off people on twitter who aren't happy with this acquisition and several making jokes that Michael'll be hurt after a handful of games. those idiots have NO IDEA how lucky they are that he's now gonna be playing for their team. should Michael ever go through some kind of slump for a bit, or suffer an injury, well... if his new fans are anything like the Cleveland fanbase, then they're gonna turn on him so fast it'll make his head spin.😵💫 although, after Michael learned how some Indians fans were upset when the Indians picked up his $12 million club option for 2018 (what say they now that he's gone and our outfield is a joke atm?), maybe he'll be happy to play for a new home crowd regardless whether it's more of the same haters in H-Town or not.

speaking of injury, something else i'm unaware of is the medical staff for the Astros. if Michael does get hurt or needs rehab (or god forbid surgery), he's not going to have access to the same medical care/doctors that he did while with Cleveland. maybe that won't matter because all MLB teams can afford the best medical care around the country, but there will be a difference. Cleveland's crew knows Michael and his issues and how best to prep him for games and such pretty well. his new team docs aren't going to have that history with him. and they might have different ways of treating things, which could wind up being not the best option for Michael. i'm not saying Michael will get hurt (though many baseball fans would argue that point with me, i'm sure), but this is certainly another concern when joining a new ballclub.

Michael's whole life is going to change as he goes to a new city and new team with new teammates. granted, i bet that paycheck might make things a little easier, but just knowing that the only team he's been with for his 10-year career didn't even offer him a deal probably hurt him as much as it hurt me and all his other loyal fans in Cleveland. that's just awful and for me personally, it's something i won't be able to forgive easily or forget.

one more sad note: the Indians/fans won't even get a chance to see him in spring training because he'll be playing in the Grapefruit League in Florida now. it might be right in his backyard and near his family, but it sucks for everyone else.😢 the first Astros-Indians series in 2019 is scheduled for April 25-28 in Houston. Michael won't come back to Cleveland (unless he makes the All Star squad) until July 30 - August 1.

while i bet Michael was really happy to get himself signed somewhere before 2019 and before Christmas as well, i'm utterly devastated. he probably likes that he's in the south now and won't have to deal with the bitter cold temps during April Cleveland home games. sigh. congratulations and good luck, Michael, on your new team and in your new city. i hope everyone treats you well, i hope your family is welcomed into the Astros' family, and i hope you have lots of success. i'm going to spend the rest of the offseason crying and finding a way to come to terms with this new reality and trying to figure out how i can continue supporting a team that continues to do nothing but break my heart.💔

so that's it. it's really over, Tribe fans. it's the true end of the Michael Brantley Era in Cleveland. he's not ours anymore. 10 years went by way too fast. goodbye, Dr. Smooth.😭😭😭😭😭😭


now i want to hear from you. all of you.

Tribe fans, how are you feeling about Michael signing with Houston and for just two years? are you upset the Indians didn't make him an offer like this?

Astros fans, are you happy or pissed that Michael is now on your team? i've seen both reactions on twitter tonight.

and any Braves/Phillies/White Sox/other team Michael had been linked to this offseason, are you made that your team didn't land Michael?
leave all your thoughts in the comment section below! but no Brantley bashing, or your comment will not be approved.


of course i am going to write more in a formal Goodbye blog to Michael, because i typically always write a goodbye to Indians players who leave or are traded after spending a significant amount of time with the organization. but i want to wait a little bit before i do because i'm devastated and i'm mad at the Indians for not offering Michael any kind of contract, which i think is an extremely disrespectful way to to part ways with a man who spent 10 years with you. so i need to calm down and cry out a lot of tears before i can collect my thoughts and write a final goodbye to Michael...and my readers as well. this blog is titled "All Things Brantley, All Things Tribe" and that clearly doesn't make sense anymore. so stay tuned because Michael's life isn't the only one that's about to change...

if you wanna look back through all the offseason rumors i retweeted, you can @clevelandgirl23. i also have a few blogs that i plan to post in the last two weeks of this year, i'm just not sure when they'll be going up. so if you want to join my subscription list to get an email when something new goes live, just enter your email address in the box underneath the Blog Archive sidebar over on the upper right side of this page.📧

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