After missing nearly the entire 2016 season due to shoulder surgery and undergoing a second shoulder operation in August, Michael Brantley began some non-contact swinging drills over the holidays, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti has maintained this offseason that Brantley is in the team’s plans to be the Opening Day left fielder in 2017, Bastian continues, although it’s worth noting that Cleveland offered similar optimism last offseason, penciling Brantley in for a late April/early May return. While Brantley did indeed make his season debut in that window, he was limited to just 11 games all season and didn’t produce when on the field. The amount that Brantley will be able to contribute in 2017 will be crucial for Cleveland, although the Indians will get a nice boost to the lineup in the form of Edwin Encarnacion. Cleveland announced tonight that they’ll host a press conference tomorrow at 10:15am ET “regarding a potential new member of the organization,” thus indicating that Encarnacion passed today’s physical.
More from the AL Central…
- New Royals acquisition Peter O’Brien will head to Spring Training and compete for at-bats as the team’s designated hitter, general manager Dayton Moore tells MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Moore added that the Royals’ front office has long held some level of interest in O’Brien and has tried to deal for him in the past without success. However, as Flanagan points out, O’Brien has minor league options remaining and as such could serve as a depth option at Triple-A. Cheslor Cuthbert, on the other hand, is out of minor league options and might not have a better path to regular playing time than the team’s DH slot, which could give him the inside track. Kansas City will also use its DH slot to rest some position players, including Mike Moustakas, who is returning from an ACL tear.
- FanRag’s Jack Magruder writes that O’Brien has gone from virtually untouchable in the Diamondbacks’ eyes to expendable in the eyes of the new Arizona regime. Both the Royals and Mariners expressed some interest in O’Brien at last year’s trade deadline, per Magruder, but talks never progressed beyond the preliminary stage in either case.
- Though it looked like the Tigers would move at least one veteran, if not more, earlier this offseason, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi writes that there’s now a strong chance that Detroit will open the season with a nearly unchanged roster. Ownership never mandated a payroll reduction from GM Al Avila, Morosi continues, so the general manager was only ever going to move players like J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler if a team offered an enticing package of near-MLB-ready talent, but those types of scenarios never surfaced. The Tigers could still move short-term veterans like Martinez and Kinsler this summer if they’re not contending, of course. Morosi does note that right-hander Jordan Zimmermann is throwing from 180 feet and expects to be ready for the start of Spring Training. A return to form for last year’s $110MM signing would go a long way toward the Tigers making a run in 2017.