The Indians have officially parted ways with another free agent.The Astros announced the signing of Michael Brantley early Wednesday afternoon after a report from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal broke Monday evening that the former Indians outfielder was nearing a two-year contract with Houston.
The Indians have officially parted ways with another free agent.
The Astros announced the signing of Michael Brantley early Wednesday afternoon after a report from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal broke Monday evening that the former Indians outfielder was nearing a two-year contract with Houston.
With the Indians' goal of cutting payroll this offseason, it was never a strong consideration to re-sign Brantley. The team did not make him a qualifying offer of $17.9 million, which means it will not receive a compensation Draft pick.
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Brantley spent the first 10 of his Major League seasons in Cleveland, making three All-Star appearances (2014, '17, '18). He was acquired as the player to be named later from the Brewers in the Carsten Sabathia trade at the end of the 2008 season. The other players included in the deal were Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson.
The left-handed-hitting outfielder then made his big league debut as a 22-year-old on Sept. 1, 2009, and has since compiled impressive career numbers with Cleveland, hitting .295 with 87 homers, 528 RBIs and a 114 OPS+ in 1,051 games for the Tribe.
The former Cleveland left fielder had surgeries on his right shoulder and right ankle that cut his 2016 and '17 seasons short, appearing in a combined 101 games. However, Brantley had an excellent comeback season in '18, slashing .309/.364/.468 with 17 homers, 76 RBIs, 48 walks and just 60 strikeouts.
According to Statcast™, Brantley had an 11 percent whiff rate, which ranked third lowest in the league. He swung at 1,008 pitches in '18 and missed just 111 times.
Losing Brantley -- along with outfielders Lonnie Chisenhall and Melky Cabrera -- to free agency has left some holes in the Indians' defense. As of now, Cleveland could have Jordan Luplow -- who was traded by the Pirates to the Indians on Nov. 14 -- in left field, Leonys Martin in center and Tyler Naquin in right. Newly acquired Jake Bauers could also get some reps in either corner outfield position when he's not at first base.
Luplow, 25, had limited Major League experience with the Pirates over the last two seasons, playing in 37 games in '18 and 27 in '17. Last year, he hit .185 with three homers and seven RBIs in 103 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Martin has been cleared to resume baseball activities after suffering a severe bacterial infection in August. Manager Terry Francona said at the Winter Meetings that Naquin feels "really good" after last season's struggles and medical issues (right hip surgery). Bauers has only made a handful of appearances in the outfield, but his athleticism and versatility could add some much-needed depth for the Indians in both left and right field.
Through the team's trades of Yan Gomes, Edwin Encarnacion, Yandy Diaz and Yonder Alonso, Cleveland has trimmed almost $20 million from its payroll, leaving enough room for either another trade or a free-agent signing to bolster the outfield and lineup.
Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.