Brantley could be out 5 months after surgery

Right ankle injury plagued All-Star in second half of season

October 19th, 2017

CLEVELAND -- When walked out of the Indians clubhouse following Cleveland's final game of this season, the left fielder did so with a protective boot on his right foot. It was apparent that the right ankle injury that plagued him over the past two months was still problematic.

Some clarity arrived Thursday, when the Indians announced that Brantley underwent surgery on the ankle on Wednesday to stabilize ligaments in the joint. Dr. Robert Anderson performed the arthroscopic surgery in Charlotte, N.C., and Brantley is expected to need a recovery period of four to five months before resuming full baseball activity.

This latest setback for Brantley will undoubtedly play a role in the Indians' approach to the left fielder's contract situation. Cleveland has until three days after the conclusion of the World Series to pick up Brantley's $12 million team option for 2018 or pay him a $1 million buyout, which would make him a free agent.

"The outcomes with this surgery are really good," said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. "And based upon the time frame we've been given from the doctors, we expect him to be ready for the start of the season or very close to the start of the season next year, which would make him available to us."

The four-month mark from Brantley's surgery would be Feb. 18, which falls shortly after the Indians' expected reporting dates for Spring Training.

Brantley, 30, made the American League All-Star team this year -- his second career selection - but the veteran outfielder was limited to 90 games, in which he posted a .299/.357/.444 slash line with nine home runs, 20 doubles and 52 RBIs. Brantley appeared in just 11 games in 2016 due to right shoulder and biceps issues.

Antonetti said the front office will have to weigh Brantley's "expected level of productivity and how available he'll be to perform" while considering the outfielder's team option for next year. Another scenario for Cleveland would be to decline the option in favor of teaming with Brantley on a restructured contract.

"I'm not sure it's productive for me to get into hypotheticals," Antonetti said. "I think it would make the most sense for us to work through that option decision and then deal with anything at that point. … We've always envisioned Michael being part of our organization -- not only in 2018, but beyond. "

Brantley sustained the ankle injury on Aug. 8 against the Rockies while running through left field on a ball that was hit to center. Initially called an ankle sprain, the injury proved to be more complicated. On Sept. 19, Dr. Thomas Clanton met with Brantley in Vail, Colo., and confirmed that he was dealing with a deltoid ligament sprain and right ankle synovitis.

Brantley returned from the disabled list on Sept. 30 with a pinch-hit single against the White Sox, receiving a standing ovation from the Progressive Field crowd. The outfielder had three at-bats in the regular season's last two games, helping convince Cleveland to carry Brantley on the American League Division Series presented by Doosan roster.

During a season-end sit-down with local reporters last week, Indians manager Terry Francona cited that pinch-hit at-bat by Brantley when asked about the outfielder being on the Tribe's postseason roster.

"We kind of thought we could envision that at-bat in a playoff game," Francona said, "where he helped us win a game."

Brantley went 1-for-11 in three games during the Tribe's five-game ALDS loss to the Yankees.

Antonetti was asked Thursday if the Indians could have made better use of that roster spot in the ALDS.

"His ankle was unaffected when hitting," Antonetti said. "The places where he would have been limited were when he was running, and he didn't have a whole lot of opportunities in the series to run. But, to give you an idea of how Michael was feeling and the subjective reports, we were actually considering him as an option in the outfield based upon how he felt."

In parts of eight Major League seasons, Brantley has hit .292/.349/.423 with 70 home runs, 212 doubles, 452 RBIs and 454 runs scored in 908 games, all with Cleveland.

After the Indians' postseason exit last week, Brantley expressed hope that he could stay in Cleveland.

"It means the world to me," Brantley said. "I started a quest back in 2009. I want to finish it the right way. I don't want to go out like this, if it's my choice. It's not. I just look forward to hopefully being back here with this group of guys."