Michael Brantley has been a Cleveland Indians fan favorite since becoming the team’s starting left fielder. However, with his recent health struggles, is it time for the Indians to part ways?
Since signing his deal, he has played in 394 of a possible 648 games in four seasons which rounds to about 61 percent. This is not a great look for a left fielder that is looked at as one of the best players on the team.
In Brantley’s only fully healthy season, 2014, he had a slash line of .327/.385/.506 with 20 homers and 97 runs batted in. This was a sign that the contract was well worth it.
Fast-forward to the end of 2015 and that is where things go south. Brantley injured his shoulder on a diving catch and his season ended there.
Brantley underwent shoulder surgery and was expected back in time for the 2016 campaign. After a long rehab process, Cleveland put him back in action.
The comeback did not last long as another trip to the DL came quick. The second injury effectively ended his season as he missed the magical run to the World Series after playing in only 11 games in the season.
Brantley underwent biceps tendonitis surgery and the expectation of missing the beginning of 2017 was real. After flying through the rehab process, with which the Indians were very cautious, Brantley began the season on time.
Brantley seemed back to his old self as he put up a .299/.357/.444 slash line. But Brantley’s luck soon ran out as he suffered another injury.
Brantley injured his ankle on a play against the Rockies on August 8 and immediately fell to the turf. After needing help off the field, he did not return to the game.
Brantley missed the next two months as he rehabbed his ankle. He made it back in time to be put on the American League Division Series roster as a DH.
After the season concluded, Brantley underwent ankle surgery yet again and will miss four to five months. This will put his return at the start of the 2018 season.
The Indians have a big decision to make regarding Brantley, as keeping him involves picking up an $11 million team option.
The Indians could very well choose to buyout his option for $1 million should they see fit. This may be the best option as painful as that may sound.
Brantley’s injury history is more than enough to warrant getting out of paying Brantley the $11 million in 2018. Brantley is simply not on the field enough for that amount of money.
The Indians could elect to buy Brantley out for the $1 million and offer him a lesser contract with a lower risk to the team. Michael will need to prove he can stay healthy after his recent struggles and that allows Cleveland to offer a one or two-year deal.
The Indians could also choose to let him walk if he does not like their offer. They could also just bet on him remaining healthy in 2018 and pick up his option. There are a few different free agent options coming in 2018 including Jay Bruce. Bruce has stated he would not mind coming back and he could be an option.
Regardless what the Indians decide to do, the decision is a big one and will have a large impact on the shape of the roster in 2018.
Personally, I love Brantley and his play but if he cannot stay healthy he becomes a liability. I would like to see them execute a buyout with the intent to resign him for less money and give him a “prove it” style deal.
If Brantley can come back and stay healthy with a productive 2018 season, the Indians could talk a big money extension next offseason. He will need a good season and a healthy campaign if he is to get one more big deal.