Rumors indicate the Houston Astros are trying to work out a reunion with Michael Brantley.
Many expect this offseason to be painfully slow, but the Houston Astros don’t seem to be wasting much time on what seems to be one of their priorities. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required) reported that the team is “trying to work out a deal” with Michael Brantley, and there is mutual interest in a reunion.
Brantley has been one of the best and most consistent hitters in the Houston lineup over the past two years, hitting a combined .309/.370/.497 with 55 doubles, 27 homers and 112 RBIs in 194 regular season games. He was an All-Star in 2019 and has hit a combined .311 in the postseason for the Astros. It’s no surprise they want him back.
The team declined to make an $18.9 million qualifying offer to Brantley this offseason, but they clearly have interest in retaining him at a lower price. They initially signed him to a two-year, $32 million deal prior to the 2019 season, and in this environment and given that Brantley will turn 34 next May, the Astros are probably looking to sign him for a little less money. MLB Trade Rumors pegged him to end up with a two-year, $28 million deal.
Seems To Be The Plan
George Springer is the big ticket free agent, but it’s looking more and more likely that he will be moving on to another team. Springer supposedly desires to leave, and the Astros may not be willing to give him the premium salary and long-term deal that other clubs might. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality we face.
With that being the case, retaining Brantley is the next-best thing. Kyle Tucker can take over in right field on an everyday basis with Brantley playing left, so the Astros would then have to go find a starter in center field — perhaps Jackie Bradley, Jr., in whom they are known to have interest.
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Some have suggested that Brantley would go to a team with an opening at DH given that he started 26 of his 45 games at DH in 2020. That was largely due to the absence of Yordan Alvarez and the fact that the Astros had four quality outfielders in Springer, Brantley, Tucker and Josh Reddick. Brantley also got some extra time there thanks to some nagging injuries.
Provided he’s healthy, there’s no reason Brantley can’t still play the field every day. He actually tallied five defensive runs saved in 2020 despite only playing the field in 19 games; by contrast, Gold Glove nominee Tucker had only three defensive runs saved in 40 starts in left. Brantley also had 11 defensive runs saved in left in 2019, so he’s perfectly capable of playing a good outfield.
The Astros are surely aware of that, and they also recognize that Brantley’s smooth, professional swing should age relatively well. I doubt the team will sign him for more than two years, but he should still provide good value in that time. The loss of Springer will hurt, but if the Astros can at least keep Uncle Mike, they should be in prime position to contend for a title next year.