Astros should extend qualifying offer to Michael Brantley

The Houston Astros should extend a qualifying offer to Michael Brantley.

The offseason is nearing, and the Houston Astros have plenty of matters to attend to. Probably the biggest thing to watch is how they’ll address impending free agents George Springer and Michael Brantley, and the first order of business is to decide whether to extend them a qualifying offer.

For those unfamiliar with it, teams can extend qualifying offers to their impending free agents, which the players can choose to accept or reject. If they accept, the player is under contract with the team for one year at a predetermined salary. If they reject the offer and sign elsewhere, the team will recoup draft pick compensation.

This year, the MLB qualifying offer will be $18.9 million, which is an increase over last year’s mark of $17.8 million. In Springer’s case, the Astros will of course make the offer, but he will certainly decline since he would be in position to get a higher salary over multiple years in free agency. But that might not necessarily be the case with Brantley.

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Worth the Risk?

To say that Brantley has been a worthwhile acquisition would be an understatement. Former GM Jeff Luhnow inked him to a two-year, $32 million deal prior to the 2019 season, and he’s delivered to the tune of a .309/.370/.497 line with 55 doubles, 27 homers and 122 RBIs in 194 games. He’s also performed well in the postseason, hitting a combined .311 in the playoffs with the Astros.

Brantley made $16 million in 2019 and the prorated portion of $16 million in 2020, so if he were to accept a qualifying offer, he would get a raise for 2021, but not an obscene one. In many ways you could say he’s earned it. Of course the Astros might not want to commit $18.9 million to him, even if it’s just for one year.

For one, Brantley is 33 and will turn 34 in May. He’s also had to spend some time at DH due to a couple of nagging injuries the past couple of years. With Yordan Alvarez set to return in 2021, the DH spot won’t be available, for the most part. He will have to play the field, which is fine when he’s healthy. He’s proven to be a solid defender.

The Astros also might rather commit big money to Springer, in which case they may not want to run the risk of Brantley accepting the qualifying offer. But considering they’ve lost their first and second round picks in next year’s draft due to the sign stealing scandal, the possibility of getting draft pick compensation might be too good to pass up.

The Astros could, of course, sign Brantley to an extension before making the qualifying offer, which would negate the issue completely. But assuming they don’t, I think they should absolutely extend the offer. Either he rejects it and signs elsewhere, and you get much-needed draft picks, or he accepts it and you get him for one more year. The $18.9 million price tag might be a little more than they’d like to pay him, but it’s worth the risk nonetheless.