Michael Brantley Rumors
While the Indians didn't get much for Cliff Lee, they did get one significant player in their 2008 trade of another Cy Young winner, C.C. Sabathia, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer argues. That would be outfielder Michael Brantley. Pluto stops short of defending that trade (which also included Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson) but notes that Brantley's hitting has gradually improved -- he's hitting .312/.366/.399 this season. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- With the fifth pick in the upcoming draft, the Indians would consider selecting Jonathan Gray, Mark Appel or Kris Bryant, if any of them fall that far, Paul Hoynes of the Plain-Dealer reports. That seems unlikely, however. Beyond that, Indians scouting director Brad Grant says Cleveland will "take the best available player," although he doesn't tip his hand about who that might be.
- Mark Hendrickson of the Orioles is busy in Triple-A trying to make it back to the major leagues at 38, Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com reports. Hendrickson signed a minor-league deal with the O's in February. Now he's pitching entirely as a sidearmer. Dubroff notes that Hendrickson has played for four NBA teams (the 76ers, Kings, Nets and Cavaliers) as well as five MLB teams (the Blue Jays, Rays, Dodgers, Marlins and Orioles). He last appeared in the big leagues with the Orioles in 2011.
- Angels manager Mike Scioscia is happy with his team's pitching depth, reports Robert Falkoff of MLB.com. Billy Buckner, who started on Saturday for the Angels, is the team's 10th starting pitcher of the season, and its 29th pitcher overall. "The organizational depth has been tested," says Scioscia. "It's an important part of what we need to do. I think we've seen the last couple of weeks that our pitchers have performed better. The fact that we've used so many is obviously not the template, but these guys are important to us."
Today is Cinco de Mayo, a celebration of Mexican heritage, pride, and culture. The holiday traces its roots to the Battle of Puebla in 1862 where the undermanned Mexican army defeated the French, regarded as having the world's premier army at the time. More than 100 Mexican nationals have played Major League baseball, including Cardinals' lefty Jaime Garcia and Brewers' righty Marco Estrada. The pair squared off against each other at Miller Park this afternoon in the first-ever matchup between two Mexican-born starting pitchers on Cinco de Mayo and the 37th such meeting overall (per the Brewers via the Elias Sports Bureau). Garcia was masterful scattering eight hits across eight innings in the Cardinals' 10-1 victory. Estrada, meanwhile, channelled the French army allowing eight runs and six hits while issuing a career-high five walks (two with the bases loaded). Adding insult to injury, Chorizo lost the Sausage Race (h/t Adam McCalvy of MLB.com via Twitter). Por otras partes en béisbol:
- Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com believes Angels manager Mike Scioscia needs a fresh start and proposes the Dodgers as the most obvious possibility. Rosenthal notes owner Artie Moreno would recoil at the idea of Scioscia managing the crosstown rivals, but the Angels would be better for it if they could obtain a significant player or two in a John Farrell-style trade.
- Indians outfielder Michael Brantley hasn't heard anything about contract negotiations and that's by design, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes. "Once the season starts, it's time for me to concentrate on baseball," Brantley said. "I don't need distractions like that. If my agents have anything going on, they'll get in touch with me."
- The Astros have dropped Erik Bedard from the starting rotation and need a starter for Friday's game against the Rangers. MLB.com's Brian McTaggart doesn't sense the Astros are in a rush to start the service clock of top prospect Jarred Cosart, who is 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA and 9.5 K/9 in 27 1/3 innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City. Cosart's next scheduled start is tomorrow night.
- Cubs manager Dale Sveum told reporters, including Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald, Carlos Marmol's status remains unchanged a day after he failed to retire any of the three batters he faced (two walks and one HBP). "Obviously he had a bad outing and couldn’t throw strikes," said Sveum. "Like I said he’s one of the seven guys, and he’s got to pitch, and we’ll get him back out there in some fashion. You can’t hide people. They have to pitch." Marmol pitched a perfect sixth inning today.
- Matt Garza will pitch his second minor league rehab start tomorrow for Triple-A Iowa, writes Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. Garza, number seven on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, is scheduled to throw three innings.
The Indians and Jason Kipnis have put their extension talks on hold now that the regular season has started, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Kipnis and his agents at the Beverly Hills Sports Council had been in discussions as recently as March. Hoynes writes:"Once the regular season started, the negotiations stopped," said Kipnis before Friday's game against the Rays. "We didn't want the distraction during the season. I think they felt the same way."
Kipnis tells Hoynes that he's interested in resuming extension talks following the 2013 season. The 26-year-old has a little more than one year of service time and isn't eligible for arbitration until after the 2014 season. Kipnis hit .257/.335/.379 with 14 homers in his first full season in 2012.
Hoynes adds that there's no word on whether or not talks with outfielder Michael Brantley are still in progress. Brantley, 26 in May, will be eligible for arbitration for the first time after this season.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
When the Indians signed Michael Bourn this offseason, the move was a response to Bourn's free agent price dropping (to the tune of four years and $48MM) and to an overall desire to upgrade their outfield. Acquiring Bourn didn't mean the Indians were at all dissatisfied with incumbent center fielder Michael Brantley -- in fact, the Tribe aims to keep Brantley in the fold for a while, as evidenced by the fact that the team is interested in a multiyear extension with the 25-year-old.
Brantley played in a career-high 149 games in 2012, hitting .288/.348/.402 with six homers, 60 RBI, 12 steals and 63 runs scored. He swung at 7.9% more pitches inside the strike zone than he did in 2011 and cut his strikeout rate to a career-low 9.2%, so there is plenty of indication that Brantley is entering his prime as a hitter. The UZR/150 metric doesn't like his defense in center field (-12.2 for his career as a CF) though he has a +3.3 UZR/150 as a left fielder, which will be his new position now that Bourn is in Cleveland.
As noted by FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal in his original report, the Indians are looking to lock up Brantley and Jason Kipnis to contracts that cover their arbitration years and more than one of their free agent years. In Brantley's case, that would be a minimum of a five-year commitment, as Brantley is arb-eligible for the first time this coming offseason and is scheduled to reach free agency after the 2016 season.
Brantley has two years and 131 days of Major League service time under his belt. When looking at the deals signed by other outfielders with between two and three years of service time on the MLBTR Extension Tracker, the two comparables that jump out are Curtis Granderson's five-year, $30.25MM extension with the Tigers in February 2008 and Cameron Maybin's five-year, $25MM extension with the Padres from last March (both deals included an option year). It's worth noting that both players were center fielders at the time of their extensions, so Brantley's shift from a premium defensive position will cost him and his representatives at the Legacy Agency a negotiating chip.
Maybin's deal covered a free agent year, three arb years and one year of pre-arbitration eligibility, so a five-year Brantley extension would be more expensive due to the extra free agent year. I would guess that Brantley's deal would've been larger anyway given his superior offensive numbers to Maybin, though in Maybin's defense, he delivered 40 steals and a strong CF glove in 2011 and had his batting output dampened by Petco Park. (Brantley, interestingly, also had trouble hitting at his home ballpark, posting a .682 OPS at Progressive Field and an .815 OPS on the road in 2012.)
Like Brantley, Granderson was also entering his first year of arbitration eligibility and signed a deal that covered his three arb years and first two free agent years, plus a 2013 option year that was picked up by the Yankees for $15MM after last season. The difference was that Granderson was entering his age-27 season at the time of his extension (Brantley turns 26 in May) and Granderson was a much more proven hitter, coming off a 23-homer, .913 OPS season in 2007. Though Granderson has been criticized for his strikeouts and declining glove, he still posted a .832 OPS and 160 homers over the five guaranteed years of that contract, making it a nice bargain for the Tigers and Yankees.
With all this in mind, I'll split the difference between the Maybin and Granderson extensions and predict that the Tribe will sign Brantley to a five-year, $27.5MM deal. The contract will almost surely include at least one option year given that Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti had added club or vesting options to almost all of the team's recent major signings, save for Asdrubal Cabrera's two-year extension. The deal gives Brantley a nice payday and cements another young building block in place for the Tribe as they look to be regular contenders in the AL Central.
Photo courtesy of David Richard/USA Today Sports Images
The Indians are discussing extensions with outfielder Michael Brantley and second baseman Jason Kipnis, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The team is interested in buying out all of the players’ arbitration years plus multiple free agent years, Rosenthal writes. Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported this past weekend that the Indians will approach the players about extension talks.
The Indians began discussing an extension with Brantley before they signed free agent Michael Bourn and moved Brantley from center field to left field, according to Rosenthal. It’s possible the position change will complicate talks with the Legacy Agency client. Brantley, who narrowly missed out on super two status last winter, will be arbitration eligible for the first time next offseason. He's on track to hit free agency after the 2016 season.
Kipnis has just one year and 69 days of MLB service, which means he's two years away from arbitration eligibility. Beverly Hills Sports Council represents Kipnis.
As MLBTR’s Extension Tracker shows, the Indians have not shied away from locking players up before and during their arbitration years. The club successfully extended many young players under former GM John Hart during the 1990s.
Gary Shelton of the Tampa Bay Times expressed concern the Rays don't have enough power in their lineup to compete over the long haul. As if to add an exclamation point to Shelton's column, the Rays were stymied this afternoon by Jon Lester of the Red Sox, who was perfect for six innings (79 pitches, 53 for strikes) with six strikeouts. The Rays were on the verge of being the victim of a Spring Training perfect game until an infield single by non-roster invitee Jason Bourgeois with one out in the top of the ninth. In other American League news and notes:
- One solution to the Rays' power shortage could be Wil Myers, who was sent to Triple-A yesterday. Manager Joe Maddon told reporters, including the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin, that he believes the timing of Myers' recall will be a baseball decision and not based on service time considerations in order to avoid an extra year of arbitration eligibility.
- The Indians have yet to make a decision on Daisuke Matsuzaka even after a meeting this morning between manager Terry Francona and the front office, tweets the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes. Francona could speak with Dice-K tomorrow.
- The Indians will approach Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley about contract extensions at some point this spring, writes Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- The trade market for Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who will be a free agent after this season, is not good, tweets the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber.
- "The door's not locked. It may not even be cracked open, but it's not locked, either," a Red Sox source told Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com about the chances of Jackie Bradley Jr. making the Opening Day roster.
- The Yankees only signed Brennan Boesch because he has minor league options remaining, according to ESPN's Buster Olney in his Insider blog (subscription required). Olney added, given the apparent lack of interest in Boesch, the Yankees might have the ability, if he struggles in the next few weeks, to get him through waivers, take him off the 40-man roster, and outright him to the minor leagues.
- The Angels have acquired minor league pitcher Mike Cisco from the Phillies for no compensation. Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com explains the Phillies had an excess of pitching in Double-A and Triple-A and they wanted to make sure he’d go somewhere he’d have an opportunity to pitch. The Angels liked him and have a spot for him in their system.
The latest links from around MLB...
- The Indians are getting calls on Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs following their four-year deal with Michael Bourn, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). Though the Indians currently plan to keep both Brantley and Stubbs, some people suspect Stubbs will be dealt.
- Daisuke Matsuzaka said part of the reason he signed with the Indians was the chance to compete against his former team, the Red Sox, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports (on Twitter).
- Andrew Bailey told Alex Speier of WEEI.com that he loves playing with the Red Sox, even if he's not the team's closer.
- Yankees manager Joe Girardi isn't sure if Andy Pettitte will retire after 2013, Jack Curry of the YES Network reports (Twitter links). "I think Andy still loves to compete," Girardi said, acknowledging that it’ll ultimately be up to the left-hander himself. Pettitte will celebrate his 41st birthday this summer and while he doesn’t seem ready to retire, he said he doesn’t intend to decide until after the 2013 season.
- Mariano Rivera said he has decided whether 2013 will be his final season, according to Curry (Twitter links). The Yankees closer won’t reveal his decision just yet, but will do so before the regular season begins.
- Homer Bailey said he and the Reds would prefer to avoid an arbitration hearing if possible, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports. “It’s kind of a slow process. We’ll see how it goes and go from there,” Bailey said. The right-hander has a hearing scheduled for Monday after filing for $5.8MM. The Reds, who recently avoided arbitration with Mat Latos and Shin-Soo Choo, offered $4.75MM.
The Indians agreed to a four-year deal with Michael Bourn earlier tonight, presumably capping an offseason spending spree that saw GM Chris Antonetti dish out $117MM in guaranteed contracts. Here are some reactions from around the baseball world pertaining to tonight's news...
- It doesn't sound like the signing will prompt the Indians to trade Drew Stubbs or Michael Brantley, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Twitter link).
- In the event of a trade, Stubbs is the most likely to go, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, who notes that the Mets are a logical landing place.
- Heyman also writes that the Mets' credibility took a hit with their inability to sign Bourn. He opines that the team should've have filed a grievance weeks ago to attempt to keep their first-round pick, even if it meant risking increased leverage for Scott Boras in negotiations.
- The contract is good for both Bourn and the Indians in the mind of Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan. He adds that Cleveland's protected first-round pick meant they were sacrificing less value to sign Bourn, as he cost them only a competitive balance draft pick. Because they didn't have to give up as much value as others would have to sign Bourn, they were willing to spend more on the contract itself.
- It's a fair contract, and Bourn immediately becomes one of Cleveland's best players, but the move is still a head-scratcher according to ESPN's Keith Law. Law feels that Cleveland's pitching isn't improved enough to make them a .500 team, which makes all of this spending a curious decision unless it's with an eye toward stockpiling affordable talent for future trade assets.
- Law also notes that the Royals are losers in this deal, as part of their rationale for parting with Wil Myers was that the weakness of the AL Central could make them Wild Card contenders: "...every move that Cleveland, Minnesota or the White Sox make to get better hurts the odds of Kansas City getting to the 88-win territory."
Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti has an adaptable approach to this offseason’s free agent market. Players such as Michael Brantley offer defensive versatility, so the Indians aren’t about to limit their search for position players so early in the offseason.
“We can either go left field, center field or first base,” Antonetti said. “And we have some creative ideas for other positions as well.”
The Indians feel “very comfortable” with Brantley in center field, since he played for a month and a half with a serious wrist injury but still posted a .702 OPS in 2011. Brantley will play center field or left field in 2012, depending on the rest of Cleveland’s offseason.
The Indians’ winter will revolve around the search for position players, since they have a full five-man rotation heading into Spring Training 2012. However, the Indians aren’t content with their pitching depth.
“I don’t think we’ll ever be satisfied with our pitching,” he said. “We’ll always look for opportunities to improve.”
The Indians enter the 2011 season with Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson, Fausto Carmona, Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin in the rotation. Since Masterson, Carmona and Lowe induce so many ground balls, the Indians intend on lining their infield with above-average defenders.
Jason Kipnis appears to be the leading candidate for the starting second base job and Antonetti says he has the chance to become an above-average defender. Jack Hannahan, a pleasant surprise in 2011, is an “elite” defender, according to Antonetti. He could start at third for Cleveland and Lonnie Chisenhall is also in the mix for regular work at the hot corner. However, the Indians aren’t going to finalize decisions before Spring Training.
Even on a day filled with football news, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has a pair of Indians articles up filled with some information on what we can expect from the Tribe in 2011. Let's look at some highlights:
- The upcoming season will play a large role in gauging the return that the Indians got from the C.C. Sabathia trade. Both Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley are expected to play full seasons as part of Cleveland's rebuilding efforts. LaPorta, who recently turned 26, is fully healthy unlike 2010 when he underwent two mid-season surgeries.
- Both Grady Sizemore and Fausto Carmona could be traded if they perform well in the first half. Sizemore is more likely, given that he's only under Cleveland's control through 2012 (the $8.5MM club option on his deal becomes a player option if he's traded). Carmona is through 2014 through a series of club options.
- The club is still interested in both Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Bonderman, though Hoynes says the Indians haven't changed their stance on Millwood's asking price; they don't want to invest $4MM-$5MM.
- Lonnie Chisenhall will open the season at Triple-A Columbus no matter what, according to Hoynes. He has a chance to push some current big-leaguers eventually, as do Jason Kipnis, Jared Goedert, and Cord Phelps. Keith Law recently ranked Chisenhall as the game's 39th best prospect. Kipnis placed 56th.