Astros 2019: A look at the Michael Brantley signing


Here is a look at multiple facets of the Michael Brantley signing by the Astros.

Contract: 2 Years, $32 million

Contract vs. Expectations – mlbtraderumors.com (which is a compilation of baseball experts’ opinions) expected that Brantley would sign for 3 yrs – $45 million. So the Astros paid $1 million/year more but got Brantley to accept a 2 yr instead of a 3 yr commitment. This article and the poll shows how most folks think the Astros signing of Brantley was superior to the 3 yr/ $50 million signing of Andrew McCutchen by the Phillies, who was also expected to receive a 3 yr/ $45 million contract

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/12/mlbtr-poll-andrew-mccutchen-phillies-michael-brantley-astros.html

Plus side

  • Brantley is a three-time All-star (2014, 2017 and 2018)
  • His career numbers are good (.295 BA/.351 OBP/ .781 OPS slash), which are even better in the last 5 seasons (.311/.371/.846)
  • One of his better years (2015) he was not an All-Star, but put up a very good .310 BA/.379 OBP/ .859 OPS slash
  • In 10 years in the majors, the most Ks in a season he has accumulated are 76 – he has a 10.7% strikeout rate for his career. For reference, Jose Altuve has a career 11% K rates and Alex Bregman has a 15% rate
  • While he has never hit more than 20 HRs in a season, he hit 45 doubles in 2014 and 2015 and 36 in 2018
  • He plays a position of need – left field. He has played center field part time earlier in his career and has been the DH at times throughout his career.
  • He has expressed this off-season that he could play some 1B if required. He has not played 1B in the majors; he played 53 games at 1B in the minors a decade ago.
  • He is a left-handed hitter, which is a plus for the right-centric Astros lineup
  • He hits righties better than lefties, but he is not hopeless against left-handed pitchers with a decent lifetime .276 BA/ .331 OBP/ .702 OPS slash.
  • In his last 5 seasons he has normally been hitting in the 2nd or 3rd spot in the order, but over his career has hit almost everywhere
  • He has become a smart base stealer – in his last 5 seasons he has stolen 62 bases and was caught only 6 times.
  • There are articles like the following that show how Brantley, though out with injuries, tried to be available to his teammates and coach them during their playoff and World Series runs.

https://www.mlb.com/news/michael-brantley-battles-through-injuries/c-297320986

Minus side

  • He will turn 32 in May of 2019 – so he is on the “wrong” side of 30 as it were
  • He has had two significant injuries in the recent past. He sustained a serious shoulder injury that required surgery and that cost him almost all of 2016. Then after returning from that injury in 2017 and having a good first half of the season, he sustained a serious ankle injury that cost him most of the balance of 2017.
  • It might be thought that he would be blocking Kyle Tucker – one of the top two Astros’ prospects in the system.
  • His .160 BA/ .214 OBP / .374 OPS slash line in 7 post-season games is poor, but also screams small sample (plus he was playing hurt in 2017). And he will not have to face the Astros staff as he did in 2018.

The Astros LF position in 2018 was fairly weak: .232 BA (13th in AL), .312 OBP (11th) and .702 OPS (11th). If Brantley is healthy he should provide a big boost up to the Astros lineup in 2019.

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72 comments on “Astros 2019: A look at the Michael Brantley signing

    • The more I dug into his stats and background the more impressed I was.
      He’s not going to be a 30 HR 110 RBI guy, but I sure would like to see him making contact and getting on base with this lineup around him.

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  1. i like all those pluses and i think the contract works for us. he may turn 32 but its only a 2 year contract. could be two really good years when fit into our lineup. injuries are part of the game, lets hope he has two years of smooth sailing. lets hope his post season sample gets bigger, much bigger during the length of this contract.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good signing. The bigger question moving forward, however, may be what happens to Marisnick, Reddick, Kyle Tucker or Tony Kemp. The Brantley deal won’t be officially official until he passes his physical, but it will be interesting then to see how the Astros set up their depth chart.

    Liked by 2 people

    • True Chip – the gut feeling is someone’s heading out of town from that group.
      Tucker in a huge trade?
      Marisnick in a minor trade?
      Reddick in a salary dump?
      Kemp as a flexible add-in?

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  3. The Astros didn’t bring Brantley in to play first base. I think we can all forget about that.
    If Brantley could hit .280 with his normal power, his normal OBP and SLG he will be a big addition to our lineup. If he were to play LF mostly, he won’t provide any worse defense out there than we saw from Kemp or Tucker.
    Two years of Brantley is a great contract for us.
    I think he was the #1 position player Luhnow wanted.
    I think Brantley makes Reddick easier to tolerate in the lineup because Reddick’s numbers look fine at the bottom of the order and not the middle.
    If the Astros choose to trade Reddick, I think it is because they really want somebody else badly on their team and need Reddick’s money to make it happen. Reddick has been paid $26 million by Houston and has paid for that with 4.5 WAR, which is a real good trade off.
    Two years gives the Astros time to see if Alvarez is part of the future.
    The contract Brantley agreed to tells me we were high on his list and I like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like this signing, especially when you consider his stats from the age of 27 onwards…he actually has been a late bloomer (relatively speaking) so it seems like we’re getting him at his best. The low k numbers really excite me

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Let’s face it. We needed more offense from the outfield. Unless an injury gets in the way, the Brantley signing pretty much guarantees it. And while Reddick will not have a career year again, he’ll very likely be better than he was in 2018. He’s also still an excellent defender. Tucker either has more time and less pressure to prove himself, or he gets traded. I would not mind Tucker being our fourth outfielder. He’ll get plenty of playing time. I also would not mind him bringing Realmuto to us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. He is definitely an upgrade over last year. I also think Reddick will have a better year. His defense would surely be missed.
    Having an outfield of Tucker, Springer, and Brantley would certainly be a downgrade. Especially if they trade Jake.
    I still want Realmuto for Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. From Mr. Bill – this is what he wrote yesterday

    I am really liking the Brantley addition statistically.
    Brantley’s .295 lifetime BA would have slotted into the 2018 Astros starting line-up as 2nd highest, behind only Altuve.
    Brantley’s .351 lifetime OBP would have slotted into the 2018 Astros as 4th hightest, behind Bregman, Altuve, and Tyler White. Notably, the OBP of the guy I think Brantley pushes off the 2019 team – Tony Kemp – was exactly identical to Brantley’s lifetime OBP – but Kemp’s BA as an Astro was about thirty points lower, and Kemp hits for a lot less power.
    Brantley’s 12 SBs last hear would have slotted him into the 2018 Astros as 2nd, behind Altuve. Plus, he was only caught stealing 3 x.
    Brantley’s 17 HRs last year would have slotted into the 2018 Astros as 4th highest, behind Springer, Bregman, and Gattis.
    Brantely’s 76 RBIs last year would also have slotted into the 2018 Astros as 4th, behind Bregman, Gurriel, and Gattis.
    Brantley’s .832 OPS last year would also have slotted into the 2018 Astros as 4th, behind Bregman, Tyler White, and Altuve.
    Plus, Brantley only struck out 60 times in 631 plate appearances.
    He may not be Mike Trout, but if he can stay healthy, he most definitely looks to be an offensive step up.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. MLBTR says the Brantley deal is now official. That makes any subsequent moves now possible because the addition is on the active roster and is not just implied. Brantley becomes the 39th player on the roster and the 8th outfielder.

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  9. Kevin, does a guy really have to start 85% of the time in order to get the hang of MLB? We’ve long assumed that that is the approach to take with young guys. In fact, I noted last week that if he is our starter in left field on opening day, he should get at least until the All Start break, playing everyday, in order to have time to get his act together. Becky would say to get his shit together, but we’re not allowed to say that.

    But are there any stats anywhere that confirm this is correct way to develop a 22 year old guy? Maybe in Tuckers case, playing part time, absorbing preparation from the guys around him, fighting for at bats, running his butt off, just being ready at all times, is the way to go. I certainly don’t know the answer, but I am positive he’d rather be #4 on the big club than #1 on the AAA club. And it might be good for him too.

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  10. Maybe the most impressive stat I’ve seen on Brantley was his contact rate. He made contact with 89% of the pitches he swung at last season – the highest of anybody with 1000+ swings on the season.

    Now if he could teach Tucker some of that…..and Springer too…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan, assuming Tucker is with us on Opening Day, maybe he does not get the reps he would in Fresno, but he can’t help but to learn more as long as he’s a willing participant.

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    • As I said, Brantley is a HITTER, which your stat supports. If the 89% contact rate, and the approach it requires, rubs off on our other guys that alone may get our offense back to what it was in 2017

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  11. The Brantley signing will bring about some changes. It is not always a matter of moving on, but more just a matter of moving in the right direction.
    Changes have to happen in the baseball business so that players have an opportunity to show what they are capable of.
    The Astros actually have more players in their system than they have room for on their major league team.
    If no changes are made some of those players may not get their chance to move up in the baseball world.
    Not only does the organization need to try to give us their very best. They also need to give the players who don’t fit a chance to give their very best, too, even if it is somewhere else.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Michael raised collective W.A.R., Hallelu -yah!
    Michael raised collective W.A.R., Hallelu- u- yah!

    Crane shelled out, to bring him here, Hallelu- yah!
    By the time he’s gone, we’ll have Seth Beer, Hallelu- u- yah!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a little hard to read through, but I find a couple things interesting:
    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/12/mlb-working-toward-new-system-for-cuban-amateur-players.html

    1) I think the fact that they will “posting” some of these players will mean the Astros will not be as free to sign as many Cubans as before. Posting is used with Japanese and Korean players and means a team has to pay the player’s Cuban team big money (possibly) to get them released.
    2) There appears to be parts of the agreement that “punishes” players that defect by delaying when they are allowed to be available to be signed – not sure why the mlb needed to agree to that.

    Not sure what mlb gets out of this other than the ability to scout players that are posted

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  14. Reliever Joe Smith has torn his achilles tendon and is gone for the season.

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      • I think from within also, because they were going to have to replace him next offseason anyway because his deal expires after this season. This could be a good break for Will Harris, who I think may have been on the bubble.

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    • The quote from Luhnow indicates they expect him to return mid-summer. The significance here is that Joe Smith will occupy a 40 man spot until spring training where he’ll be pushed to the 60 day DL. The Astros will still have to find a replacement for him on the 25 man. It’s likely that spot is filled from within the organization I’d say.

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      • This is my prediction for OD (13 pitchers).

        JV, Cole, James, Valdez, McHugh

        Osuna Pressly Harris Rondon Peacock Armenteros Deetz Guduan/Perez

        I’d be happy to see Anibal Sanchez, or Jon Gray signing, except I think Whitley, Martin and Bukauskas will be ready by September (Adcock and others).

        A good strategy would be to land on the 2nd best AL record again, so we don’t have to play Bos and NY, but CLE instead. That means that we can afford to use rookies to do much of the heavy lifting, given that our division is so incredibly weak, we don’t have to strive for 200+ innings for Cole and Verlander.

        We can also afford to wait til teams are already out of the chase to poach their talent by the deadline.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. What would Jimi Hendrix say about that?

    Hey Joe . . . where you goin’ with that crutch in your hand . . .
    Hey Joe . . . I say where you goin’ with that crutch in your hand . . .
    I’m goin’ to make room for Rogelio . . .
    he’s gotta show his skills to you Astro fans!

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    • Now that song will be goin’ on in my head for days. But that is OK because it really brings back some great memories of when I was in college and on my own, but still had the future Mrs.1OP to keep me in line.
      I had high(no Hendrix pun intended) for Joe Smith, but that turned out to be a not very good deal for the Astros. Can Rondon help save Luhnow’s 2018 offseason reliever investments?

      Like

  16. Hey daveb, this is a little off subject. But at the time, I thought it was fascinating you predicted the Valbuena incident wasn’t an accident in so many words. First of all, where’s the outrage for this sabotage? I really can’t believe this isn’t being addressed more. Which led me to a deeper study. I know your background enough to know how you suspected this, but do you find it also strange that when Ventura died in the Dominican last year, his World Series ring was never found, and there was for only one day publically report outrage from Ventura’s family that he was actually alive and mugged. Then, it was washed under the carpet as “nothing to see here, move along.”

    Anyway, there is a video circulating with Bregman at a round table of current players, along with A-Rod — has everyone here seen it? Rodriguez is trying to grow the game internationally Australia Europe Japan South America. I wonder if athletes will be at heightened awareness in these Summer Leagues, or do you consider these happenings fluke-ish? Thanks for your comments.

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    • Some places are not very safe. Venezuela is a mess, extreme poverty, lack of human rights, political unrest. This is just a guess, but I’m sure the Astros quietly do all they can to keep guys like Altuve, in fact all their employees from going home to places with similar issues to that of Venezuela, and in fact help bring close family members to the US. As far as these things being washed under the carpet, there is no such thing as a free press in so many places. Do you think Sports Illustrated or the The New York Times would send an investigative reporter down to Venezuela right now? It would probably be a bad idea. It’s a shame, but baseball can’t be played safely everywhere.

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      • That’s frightening. Maybe the solution is to travel in bunches and with armed guards.

        Op, that’s well thought out. That haul doesn’t look so bad when you explain it. Except, what if Tucker is a clearly better hitter than Realmuto already next year? That is probably more likely, than not. We could still go after Cruz, which seems like we’ve been the hottest in pursuit. Do you go after an Arm? And who are your candidates in FA, or trade?

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  17. I would be happy with Grayson’s rotation of JV, Cole, James, McHugh and Valdez, if it went along with a lineup of Bregman, Altuve, Brantley, Cruz, Correa, Springer, Realmuto, Reddick and Gurriel.

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    • What would you offer for Realmuto, Op?

      The best I’d go is: Alvarez JBB and Stassi. They might add Nova and do it. I just don’t see that added 2% chance to win the WS (if I understand probability well enough) better than Chirinos/Stassi.

      Cruz would be alright, but that pushes White and Kemp (without options) toward a trade that we may lose value on. I agree at that point, though we become a Death Star. Then again, might it be wise to wait to start peaking? Is my only reservation. And I’m not parting with Tucker, or Whitley.

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      • Tucker, because with two years remaining in the deals for Springer, Brantley and Reddick you’re only getting the last four years of Tucker and three of those four would be arbitration years. So I’m willing to trade four Tucker years for two Realmuto years and I’m still gonna try and extend Realmuto.
        Stassi, because when they trade Realmuto they need a catcher and they don’t have to worry about his lack of options. Who would they option him for? They got no catchers.
        Bukauskas, because they want a pitcher who is close, but doesn’t take up a 40-man spot. They want a high prospect, too, and he fills the bill.
        Reed because they want an inexpensive major league ready prospect. Reed has one option left. They are not crowded at 1B.

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  18. Those of you willing to move on from my nephew are gravely misguided. Yeah, Cruz might well hit 35 plus homers again. He’s been remarkably consistent. But in what 15 million dollar year does he finally hit the wall or blow out a hamstring?

    .853, .888, 129, 143. Yeah, still short samples, but White has easily provided our best DH production in the short history of the American League Astros. Did you know his OPS as a DH was .975 in 2018? He likes to sit around and eat cookies between at bats! Yep, he did get off track late. He forgot to keep taking bad pitches. He let his discipline slip. He got sucked in by the dugout dinger celebrations. We’ve been discussing this. He’s going to be a consistent .900 OPS guy because he will make sure pitchers have to throw to him. All for about 1/25th of the cost of that Cruz guy. That .404 lifetime minor league OBP is the telltale sign of his future success. How many of our guys have done that? Not Bregman, nor Springer or Correa, not even Altuve! Man, I’ll be pissed if we lose him. But at least I know he’ll ultimately be loved wherever he goes if he goes.

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  19. I would send Kemp, Reed, Jake and Fisher packing before White. I want to hold onto Davis, Tucker and Straw.

    But I know Luhnow can predict things before the games are even played, so I try to keep an open mind.

    I’m excited about Alvarez
    Beer Dawson McKenna and Toro in 2020, and on the pitcher side Ivey Donato Abreu. We’ve got some serious talent just a few years away.

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  20. Having watched baseball for a long time, I never will fully understand the game. We all thought Reed, Fisher, Tucker twice, Davis, etc were on their way to being big leaguers. It is amazing the hundreds, maybe thousands that looked great coming up and for some reason, just missed the bus. How does a guy forget how to hit or pitch? But it happens all the time. In Astros Daily the other day they mentioned Mike White. In 1964, the first half of the year he was hitting .310. Two years later he was out of baseball. He was not a great hitter in the minors nor the majors. But for that first half of a season, he was J. R Towles or one of the many others that were GREAT and then weren’t. Absolutely mind boggling at times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe in the book Astroball it talks about (mostly how analytics and human intuition work together) the enormous investment we made in equipment to slow-mo our each and every move, in order to duplicate pitching and hitting. McCann Cole Verlander loved it! In this way, we were ahead of teams in 2017. Along with master sign stealers Cora and Beltran. But in 2018, we had a target on our back, and for example every opposing scout made it their business to find Tyler White’s underbelly. Teams started throwing us Inside and giving us a taste of our own medicine. Gattis Jake White couldn’t stand in on curveballs, and every team sequenced them as such, until they snapped back. Now we have a master communicator in Alex Cintron and two great guys Snitker and Kelly! a new set of coaches, and hopefully develop some new approaches at the plate. Couple it with getting to full strength.

      One of the things every player said last year throughout the whole season, ‘we still haven’t played our best.’ Yes, our best were out with injuries and so we must have valuable fill-ins. We must try to hold onto guys like Kemp who can ignite us? No? When he slumps or gets out-witted, it’s Davis in from hitting 499 in Round Rock, Texas. I’m hoping we stay flexible enough and don’t sign Cruz or Realmuto or a re-tread. Set sail for battle and we can re-tool at sea, but I want to see these electric arms first ha

      I can be persuaded though. It’s hard to mess up this gluttony of riches when you have two guys locked in under contract, who know what they’re doing. I follow every word out of Luhnow’s mouth. He’ll lead us there again!

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  21. There is a new posting – but it may be in the wrong position on your screen – it is a book review of the book Astroball. It shows up in the right spot when I access the page with my phone, but on my computer it moves down to the center of the page instead of the top left.
    We will work to fix that.

    Like

  22. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Realmuto, Rays, Keuchel, Astros, Angels, Cards, D-backs | The baseball bats fanatic

  23. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Realmuto, Rays, Keuchel, Astros, Angels, Cards, D-backs – mrwilliamjobrien

  24. Pingback: Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Realmuto, Rays, Keuchel, Astros, Angels, Cards, D-backs - MLB Trade Rumors

  25. I hope everyone is doing well. It’s been awhile and I am wishing all of you a Merry Christmas.

    For the record, I am completely against including Tucker in a trade for Realmuto. I like JTR, but I think some Astros fans are overhyping him some. He’s projected for a 109 wRC+ in 2019 and only has 2 years of control. I think the Astros will get significantly more value out of 6 years from Tucker than they will in 2 years of Realmuto. If I was going to trade Tucker it would be for 3 years of Kluber.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know if we could pry away Kluber but we will need a veteran or two in the rotation to span past Cole and Verlander likely leaving and he would be a heck of an addition

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      • Glad to see you back in the fold Tim. There is “truth in your words”. I think I would rather have Kluber than Realmuto also. Is there any true allegiance with players to a team or is that something that has gone the way of the Dinosaurs (Altuve and a couple of other Astros excepted). I was watching the Bobby Jones story last night and the quote that struck me came from Malcolm McDowell’s character O.B. Keeler. ” Money is going to ruin this game” (or something like that).

        Liked by 1 person

    • Edwardo – I think based on baseball-reference that Tucker will be arb eligible in 2022 and a free agent in 2025 based on his playing a bit in 2018.

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  26. Also, I love the Brantley signing. He is exactly the type hitter the Astros covet, which is high contact, high OBP with some decent pop. He is not a strong defensive OFer and I am guessing he may be DH for about 1/2 the games if we don’t sign a DH only person like Nelson Cruz.

    Liked by 1 person

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