Due to the lack of certainty regarding the status of his health, it’s safe for everyone to assume that Michael Brantley won’t return to the field in 2022.
All Click was able to say was, “We’re hoping he’ll be able to get back with us”.
The Astros’ team doctors know more about Brantley’s health than anyone else. On the flip side, between his history with this same injury, his age, and the lack of transparency in the updates that have been given lately, this situation has gotten to the point where fans and the team’s coaching staff should assume that his season is over.
Brantley has not played since June 26 because of right shoulder discomfort. He was placed on the 10-day IL since then, and his status has been in limbo ever since. Prior to that injury, he was having another fine season, slashing .288/.370/.416 for an OPS+ of 125. He also had 31 walks to just 30 strikeouts. Brantley’s consistent ability to hit for average and avoid strikeouts has made him a 5-time all-star, with two of those nominations coming in an Astros uniform. He’s 35 years old now and hasn’t posted an OPS+ under league average in a full season since 2011 when he was 24.
This shoulder injury is the one thing that has managed to put a damper on an otherwise great career. He had surgery on it once following the 2015 season and again in 2016. Now that it has resurfaced, questions are swirling regarding Brantley’s future in Houston and in baseball altogether considering his age. Following the trade deadline, GM Click said that he was “optimistic and hopeful” that Brantley would return at some point in 2022, but that’s as much detail that has been provided in his absence which has spanned nearly 7 weeks.
It was seen as a possibility that the team knew long ago Brantley was going to return this season which is why they didn’t trade for an outfielder at the deadline, but the writing appears to be on the wall. Newly acquired Trey Mancini, a primary 1B/DH, is already starting to practice in left field. Chas McCormick has been a pleasant revelation as an above-average bat. Utilityman Aledmys Diaz is on such a tear that he’d be good enough to start in left field on almost any other team in baseball. Not to mention, Yordan Alvarez can still play the position whenever Dusty Baker wants someone else to play at DH.
The Astros can replace Brantley this season in plenty of ways without getting worse. At this stage, it’s safest not to bank on a change in this situation that, as far as the public knows, has been stagnant for weeks, not only for the sake of the team but also for Brantley’s career. The team’s fate in the postseason may affect his chances of coming back this year, but they also snagged the top spot in the AL last night and plenty of potential Brantley replacements are hitting well enough to stay in the lineup. Regarding his status, fans can continue to hope for the best, but those who haven’t should start expecting the worst.