The Indians announced on Thursday that outfielder Michael Brantley underwent arthroscopic surgery yesterday to stabilize the ligaments in his ailing right ankle. Brantley is expected to require four to five months of recovery time before he’s cleared to resume baseball activities, per the announcement. The news of surgery comes as a fairly notable surprise, as the Indians had deemed Brantley healthy enough to carry on their postseason roster in the American League Division Series against the Yankees.
The shorter end of the provided timeline would put Brantley on track to be ready for baseball activity just before position players report to Spring Training, though if his recovery extends to the five-month mark or even a bit beyond, he’d only be ready for the tail end of Spring Training.
Brantley’s timeline is of particular note given that the Indians hold a club option over him for the 2018 season. As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian points out (via Twitter), Brantley’s third-place finish in the 2014 American League MVP voting boosted the value of that option from $11MM to $12MM, though the $1MM buyout price remains unchanged. That option long appeared a virtual lock to be exercised, but Brantley’s durability issues in recent years will at least somewhat cloud the possibility given the team’s relatively tight payroll capacity. After the season, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti told reporters that the team has envisioned Brantley as part of the organization not only in 2018 but beyond (Twitter link via Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal).
The 30-year-old Brantley suffered a severe shoulder injury while diving for a ball in left field late in the 2015 season and ultimately required a pair of shoulder surgeries. He was limited to just 11 games and 43 plate appearances in 2016, though he did return with a considerably healthier and more productive campaign in 2017. This past season, Brantley took the field for 90 games and hit .299/.357/.444 with nine homers and 11 steals in 375 plate appearances. His shoulder held up throughout the year, but he still missed nearly half the season due to the ankle issue that necessitated yesterday’s surgical procedure.
Certainly, the upside of a fully healthy Brantley is enormous. The former seventh-round pick broke out as one of baseball’s best pure hitters in 2014-15, and a one-year commitment worth $12MM would represent a clear bargain. However, the Indians already have a bit more than $73MM committed to next year’s payroll plus another roughly $33MM worth of projected arbitration salaries. Adding Brantley’s $12MM to the books would bring next year’s projected payroll to a fairly hefty $118MM before the team even began to address any offseason needs. Cleveland’s payroll this season opened at $124MM and came in around $133MM in total, but the team also had a bit of added revenue from last year’s deep World Series run — a benefit they obviously won’t enjoy this year.
[Related: Cleveland Indians payroll outlook]
Bastian has written that the Indians could explore the possibility of shifting Brantley from the outfield to first base, and doing so would cross off one notable offseason need while also allowing for the possibility of Jason Kipnis playing left field, Bradley Zimmer manning center, Jose Ramirez handling second base and Yandy Diaz slotting in at the hot corner. It would also mean less running and diving for Brantley, which could bode well for the health of both his ankle and his shoulder.
On the other hand, buying out Brantley’s option would leave the Indians with a bit more offseason maneuverability as they look to address potential holes at first base/DH and potentially in the corner outfield and the bullpen. The team has until three days after the conclusion of the World Series to ultimately make a call on Brantley’s option, but that decision certainly looks more complicated in light of a significant operation and a potential five-month recovery period.
Would be nice if you were to discuss whether the option is a good value not if he were fully healthy but rather under the actual circumstances. Maybe provide comps, etc.
I would think that’s hard to do. How can you comp his performance since he’s rarely been on the field the past 2 years? I guess you could take the stats and forecast to an entire season, but at the end of the day, this guy can’t stay healthy.
It’s an easy decision to decline his option. He’s always hurt and the only way he got into the post season lineup was due to an injury. You can easily improve the production with the 10M saved.
Trade him to the rehab Rangers. They like players who has been hurt and is on drugs
It’d be interesting to see him move to first. Wouldn’t be super unfamiliar though. He did play some first early in his professional career.
We been saying this the whole time, he’s Grady Sizemore 2.0 , he can’t stay healthy at all
If only they got the production out of him as high and long as they did out of Sizemore that would be a good comparison.
Given their payroll parameters, the surgery, and the fact Brantley has been paid very well by the Tribe only to not play much, I’d think the Indians would be wise to reach an agreement with Brantley to buy out the option, but reach a new agreement on a less pricey one-year deal with a team option for 2019. It would give Brantley some piece of mind knowing he’s staying where he’s comfortable while he rehabs, and it would give the Indians more payroll flexibility in putting the team together for 2018.
Don’t know why this posted twice…
It reverts to once when you refresh.
More proof Yandy Diaz should have been on the post season roster.
Go ahead give up on him or do the option and trade him either way he will prove you all wrong probably end up in the Orioles line up with another MVP type year just saying
I think he’s just about done with the Indians now. how long can a team keep giving him chances if he can’t obviously stay healthy
If the Tribe front office were kinda leaning toward picking up that option after their ALDS elimination, this news should swing them the other way. The problem with having Brantley in future plans at any price is the practical certainty he’s going to miss significant time for his recent injuries as well as those that haven’t happened yet. Large market teams can afford such a gamble, but CLE needs $12M of production, not setbacks. Brantley has always been a super slow healer. Gotta take the buyout here.
“Large market teams can afford such a gamble, but CLE needs $12M of production, not setbacks.”
should be like when they let grady walk but then re signed him to a team friendly deal. since as we’ve said brantley is grady 2.0
Did Tyler Naquin axe-murder some nuns because for the life of me, I don’t understand how he isn’t in the conversation more?
Laughing out loud at that one1
they’ll probably non tender chiz and let naquin take the LF/RF role he had
Where does Chisenhall fit into all this as well?
probably a non tender candidate and naquin will take his role as a guy who can move around the outfield
Chris Antonetti has said in the Cleveland paper that he would like Brantley to be a long term part of the team but knowing he can’t resune baseball activity until the end of spring training at the earliest should make the team’s decision easy … decline the option, pay the buyout, and then sign him to an incentive laden one year deal. Remember it took him eight months to recover from the shoulder surgery he had in 2015 and all they got out of him was 11 games the next year. When he’s healthy he can very productive but like the one commenter said “they need $12M of production not setbacks”. I’d love to see him stay with the team but they have more options to fill his spot.