Cleveland Guardians rumors: Are they interested in a Michael Brantley reunion?

Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Indians / David Maxwell/GettyImages

The Guardians have been active this offseason, signing both first baseman Josh Bell and catcher Mike Zunino, but it's very likely that Cleveland isn't done quite yet.

There are plenty of ways the Guardians can continue to improve, and one route could see them linking up with an old friend in outfielder Michael Brantley.

Cleveland was noted by Jim Bowden as a potential landing spot for Brantley in a recent article in The Athletic, along with other contending teams like the Astros, Blue Jays, and Mariners. You might be wondering how Brantley might fit into this current iteration of the Guardians, but given the revamped offensive philosophy of the team, it would actually be a perfect fit.

As Cleveland fans certainly know, Brantley has always had an elite eye at the plate. He's never even come that close to striking out 100 times in a season and he's ranked in the top 1-2% in MLB in strikeout rate four times in his career. Though he doesn't have a ton of pop, he has managed to hit 20+ home runs twice. If Cleveland were thinking of a reunion, it would be mostly for his exceptional batting average and on-base percentage, along with the bonus of adding yet another veteran presence to the clubhouse who is already familiar with the organization.

Brantley spent ten years with Cleveland, coming over in the CC Sabathia trade with Milwaukee in 2008. In his career with the then-Indians, Brantley averaged a .295/.351/.430 line and a 115 OPS+ before signing with the Astros ahead of the 2019 season and spending the next four seasons there.

Sure, Brantley is now 35 years old and will turn 36 in May, and he's begun to slow down with injuries, but he's never lost his abilities at the plate. In 2022, before undergoing season-ending surgery in August to repair his right shoulder, Brantley was slashing .288/.370/.416 with five home runs, 14 doubles, 26 RBI and a scrumptious 125 OPS+. Oh, and he had 31 walks to just 30 strikeouts. So yeah, he'd fit in just fine in this Guardians lineup.

And when you really get down to it, why wouldn't you want to add a guy who has a career OPS+ of 117? With his age and repaired shoulder, Brantley can likely be had at a very reasonable rate for, say, two seasons.

Honestly, though, imaging Brantley as a part-time outfielder/DH, and possibly even first baseman if the necessity arose, is pretty tantalizing. With Bell now added to the mix as well, this would be an incredibly tough lineup to strike out, somehow even more so than it was in 2022.