The World Series will come to an end next week, meaning teams will soon have to decide whether to tag their impending free agents with the one-year, $18.9MM qualifying offer. If a team makes a player a QO which that player rejects, the team will be entitled to some form of draft compensation if the player departs in free agency.
MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently ran down the qualifying offer outlook for both position players and pitchers. As is the case every year, some players are candidates to receive a QO but might plausibly accept if offered. One such player is Astros outfielder Michael Brantley.
One of the sport’s most consistently productive hitters over his tenure in Cleveland, Brantley reached free agency following the 2018 season. Surprisingly, the Indians elected not to make him a qualifying offer, forgoing the opportunity to receive compensation if he signed elsewhere. Brantley did just that, inking a two-year, $32MM contract with Houston.
Brantley continued to perform over the course of that deal. In 824 plate appearances as an Astro, he’s put up a robust .309/.370/.497 slash line (134 wRC+). He remains one of the league’s tougher batters to strike out and his all-fields approach has helped him sustain strong batting averages on balls in play. Brantley doesn’t put up eye-popping peak exit velocities, but he’s been remarkably adept at avoiding weak contact and mishits.
On the other hand, Brantley’s 33 years old (34 in May) and limited to left field and/or designated hitter. He’ll need to continue to hit at an extremely high level to remain a valuable player. The left-handed hitter holds his own against southpaws but is hardly elite in that regard (career .275/.331/.373 line against LHP). In a market rife with uncertainty (and perhaps flooded with alternatives from non-tenders), the earning power of players like Brantley could be limited.
The Astros’ payroll might be an issue, as well. Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and José Altuve each have sizable contracts on the books already, and there are a few notable arbitration raises to consider. Potentially losing all of George Springer (who’s a slam dunk QO decision), Brantley and Josh Reddick to free agency, the Houston front office will have to address the outfield in some form this offseason. They just might choose to do so more cheaply than by making an $18.9MM offer to Brantley.
Turning it over to MLBTR readers, how should GM James Click proceed?
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