Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians, OF (2009-2018)
Following the 2018 season it wasn’t really a question on if Michael Brantley would get a big contract. The question was “Where?” Despite being injured for most of the Tribe’s World Series run in 2016, Brantley came back stronger than before, being an All-Star in 2017 and 2018 heading into free agency.
As for the Cleveland Indians at the time, they were coming off their third consecutive 90+ win season and were poised to return many of the key pieces. However, one piece that seemed out of the picture was Brantley.
The notoriously cheap front office wasn’t going to pay Brantley his deserved top dollar and instead they let him walk in free agency with nothing in return. Instead, Brantley signed with the team that eliminated the Tribe in the playoffs. In December of 2018, the Houston Astros inked Brantley to a two-year, $32 million deal.
In the grand scheme of sports, $16 million is reasonable for the talent of Brantley. While he had a fair share of injuries, his back-to-back All-Star appearances showed he was more than healthy. Since signing with Houston, he’s been an All-Star each year there’s been a vote, being 2019 and 2021. He’s also currently leading all of baseball in batting average with a mark of .329. That seems well worth $16 million.
Brantley signed essentially the same deal prior to this season to stay in Houston, being another two years for $32 million total. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians have been searching for any sort of stability in the outfield since the first game without Brantley. While the price was a bit higher than the front office is accustomed to spending, there’s no doubt Brantley would be a tremendous difference maker on this team.