Indians Extend Michael Brantley

The Indians have announced a four-year extension with outfielder Michael Brantley via press release. First reported on Monday, the deal will guarantee Brantley $25MM over its four years, and comes with an $11MM club option for 2018. The 26-year-old is a client of the Legacy Agency.


Brantley has established himself as a solid ballplayer over his early career, though he has yet to post a true breakout campaign. Since becoming a full-time player in 2011, Brantley has posted a cumulative .280/.334/.394 triple-slash, with 23 home runs and 42 stolen bases over 1,716 plate appearances in that three-season period. Last year, he checked in with a .284/.332/.396 line, but did post a career-best 10 home runs and 17 swipes (he was caught only four times).

Making way for Michael Bourn, Brantley switched from center to left field last season and figures to remain there for the foreseeable future. Advanced defensive metrics view Brantley as an approximately average outfielder over the last few years, whether playing up the middle or in the corner. (In 2012, at center, Brantley posted a UZR of -0.7 and DRS of -1; in left last year, he notched a -4.1 UZR but was +2 per DRS.)

Brantley had been preparing to go to an arbitration hearing in his first year of eligibility, and was set up to qualify for free agency after the 2016 season. Instead, he will now be under team control through 2018. If Cleveland exercises that final-year option, Brantley will hit the open market after his age-31 season.

Brantley's contract calls for him to receive a $3.5MM signing bonus. His annual salary breakdown is as follows: $1.5MM (2014), $5MM (2015), $6.5MM (2016), and $7.5MM (2017). The 2018 club option is for $11MM and comes with a $1MM buyout. The structure of the deal gives Brantley a big payday up front, but spreads the $3.5MM signing bonus over the life of the deal for purposes of the CBA. That also means that Brantley's 2014 salary will not set a high bar for arbitration purposes: it lands at just $2.375MM, well under the respective $3.8MM and $2.7MM filing figures.

The most obvious comparable for Brantley's deal is the five-year, $25MM extension inked by Cameron Maybin with the Padres before the 2012 season. Though that deal covered an additional guaranteed year, Maybin was also a year further from free agency. Though featuring a Brantley-esque .264/.323/.393 triple-slash, Maybin's pre-extension season was better than anything that Brantley has put together: he also swiped 40 bags and played a stellar center that left him credited with better than four wins above replacement. Though Brantley has a longer track record, he has maxed out at about three WAR and is somewhat older than was Maybin.

But Maybin's deal is now two years out of date, a hugely significant factor given the observed increase in spending in the interim. (The four-year, $20.5MM Franklin Gutierrez extension signed in 2010 is even further out of date.) Viewed thusly, the Indians seem to have done fairly well to land Brantley for a term of years and amount of money that fits comfortably in the mold of earlier extensions.

Indeed, Brantley's extension is the first of three-or-more years signed by a player with less than six years of service since the massive extension signed by Freddie Freeman (and that of Clayton Kershaw, for that matter). As I wrote recently, though Freeman's deal potentially set the stage for less solid but non-premium young players to command somewhat greater extension guarantees, prior extension models remain valid until proven otherwise. The Brantley deal confirms that, as it seems to reflect mostly measured growth in the market.

Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer first reported the deal, as well as its length and guaranteed money, via Twitter, and was also first to report that the sides were close. Jon Heyman of was first to report the annual breakdown (on Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

32 Responses to Indians Extend Michael Brantley Leave a Reply

  1. WhoKilledTheRallyMonkey 1 year ago

    Its a fair deal for both sides if he continues to produce 1.5-2.5 WAR a year, if he improves its a deal for Cleveland

    • Metsfan93 9 months ago

      I’d say ~7 WAR makes this an unreal steal for Cleveland, haha.

  2. JaysFan1996 1 year ago

    Let’s hope he doesn’t turn into Cameron Maybin

    • johnsilver 1 year ago

      Not likely. Maybin never had any pluses to begin with for us marlins fans who watched him. SD should never, ever have given him more than a couple of years at the MOST.

      Brantley is a legit 5 tool guy, where Maybin is another Bonifacio who could field a position, yet couldn’t hit at Bonifacio levels.

  3. Lilstackhustla 1 year ago

    Good deal.

  4. AZDbacksfan1 1 year ago

    Fair price. But remember, Figgins, Cameron Maybin and other contact hitting defensive outfielders all signed extensions at a fair price.

    • Tim Valencia 1 year ago

      as much as i want to defend cam maybin, i dont consider him a contact hitter.

  5. Matthew Augeri 1 year ago

    Fair deal for both sides. The Indians don’t get much of a discount but get a 3 win player for 5 years.

    • Matt 1 year ago

      A 3 win player? I hope you’re right but only once has he even had an fWAR of 2.0 or better and never had a 3 win season.

      • Matthew Augeri 1 year ago

        Late reply but I used bWAR instead of fWAR because MLBTR links to baseball-reference player pages.

    • LazerTown 1 year ago

      I don’t think it’s a bad deal, but I don’t think there is really enough value for it to be worth it for the Indians. They are the 3rd smallest metro area that has a mlb team (behind KC and Milwaukee), and whereas Milwaukee REALLY supports their MLB team, Cleveland is typically towards the very bottom in attendance. The last time they weren’t bottom 6 was 2008, when they were 9th from last. This typically results in a $70-80MM payroll. Just like I really disliked the Vargas/Guthrie deals because they are too much of their payroll for filler players. That is not an attack on Brantley, but he isn’t a star, he is a solid but not stellar player. While teams like the Rays have been using their money to lock up great players long term.

      Small market teams like the Indians need to look for bargains, not pay market rate.

      • yes 1 year ago

        That’s all they’ve done all Winter is look for bargains. They’re redefining sow silk.

      • Metsfan93 9 months ago

        They ended up with a bargain, in the end, even if it didn’t look like it at first.

  6. Dbacksfan44 1 year ago

    Go on the post of the Indians coming close to an extension. AmericanMovieFan came so close to predicting the terms. He predicted 4/24 w/ a $11 million option and a one million dollar buyout

  7. AmericanMovieFan 1 year ago

    I called this earlier before the terms were announced! My initial prediction was:

    4 years/$24MM w/ a $1MM buyout on an $11MM option.

    2014: $3MM
    2015: $5MM
    2016: $7MM
    2017: $9MM
    2018: $11MM option w/ $1MM buyout.

    • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 1 year ago

      Ha, do I need to credit you for the scoop? We’ll have to wait and see what the annual breakdown is.

      Nicely done!

      EDIT: too bad … signing bonus jammed you up on the breakdown, but still a nice get on the option year

      • AmericanMovieFan 1 year ago

        Well, I didn’t want to guess at the signing bonus. Those are all over the map. As I understand it, they’re taxed differently, earned more speedily or something, hence why they’re often so large a portion of the total. But yes, I’d love some credit! Or a job ; )

    • Nathan Boley 1 year ago

      Wow, I saw that prediction. Very close to the actual deal. Good job.

    • Jason 1 year ago

      Impressive call!

    • Jeremy Schiff 1 year ago

      Dude hours ago I remember reading your comment and laughing about how somebody actually tried to predict a contract perfectly. Congrats to you my man, nice prediction.

  8. MLB416 1 year ago

    I suspect Brantley will earn every dollar.

  9. Sufferfortribe 1 year ago

    Only one thing to say: I am happy, happy, happy!

  10. Mil8Ball 1 year ago

    Good deal for Brantly but the Indians did OK. Brantly is a pretty average corner outfielder and this deal is paying market value considering it is 3 arbitration years and only one FA year. Not a whole lot of upside for the Indians to not just go through arbitration all 3 years unless he improves his power a lot etc….which could happen as he is still young.

    • LazerTown 1 year ago

      Agree. Isn’t awful, but it is not a great deal by any stretch unless he develops power. Not a fan of it because the Indians are not a big market. If you are going $70-80M payroll you NEED to be finding the bargains, and unfortunately this really isn’t one.

  11. DMiles5149 1 year ago

    Not a bad deal. I’d want a little more pop out of a corner outfielder but it’s not like he’s getting paid a ton either. Plus if you’re a good hitter, you’re a good hitter, home runs or not.

  12. UrkillingmeSmalls 1 year ago

    Brantley is advanced metrics-defying. You can go ahead and add about 2 WAR on the offensive and defensive end.

  13. Shin_Soo_Choo 1 year ago

    The only hope on upside of this deal is if Brantley develops more power; otherwise we are looking at a fairly average deal for both sides. As a Tribe fan, I can say I’m happy that he will be sticking around and hope he can continue his solid showing with the bat and strong outfield arm.

    • Hoosierdaddy92 1 year ago

      That first part sounded like the Indians opinion when they traded you!

  14. yes 1 year ago

    Hard to get excited about signing players who would’ve been under your control thru 2016 anyway. Very hard.

  15. jarek redman 1 year ago

    I thought when Milwaukee traded for CC Sabathia that it would be Matt LaPorta who they would miss most. Turns out it was Brantley. Solid player.

  16. Joseph Devito 1 year ago

    They are boasting the fact they signed Michael Brantley. Why? Fact is he has been nothing more than mediocre since coming into the league. He is a corner outfielder for a team that lacks a real power hitter. Brantley hit all of 10 homers,has never batted .300 and stole 17 bases. Not good numbers for a corner outfielder. In reality he is one of the reasons this team struggles to score runs. Look at last years stats. Indians didn’t have a player hitting more than 22 homers, no one batted .300 and their pitching had to be near perfect for them to squeak out wins. The front office failed once again this off-season to bring in a middle-of-the-order hitter. So they boast about extending Brantley. Kudos to an ownership who clearly has no commitment to winning.

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