Indians, Brantley agree to multiyear contract
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians are hoping to turn last season's run to the postseason into multiple years of contention. Cleveland made it clear on Monday night that it believes outfielder Michael Brantley is a key to making that happen.
MLB.com has confirmed that the Indians have reached an agreement with Brantley on a four-year contract worth $25 million in guaranteed salary. The deal, which was first reported by Northeast Ohio Media Group, also includes a club option valued at $11 million for 2018.
"I'm happy to be a part of the Cleveland Indians right now," Brantley said during the team's Tribe Fest event last month. "I'm excited. We have a great group of guys in this locker room, and I'm just excited to be a part of it and put on this uniform."
The agreement covers all three years of Brantley's arbitration eligibility and one year of free agency. If exercised, the option for 2018 will keep the left fielder off the open market two years beyond his original eligibility. Brantley was eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason, but his Feb. 17 hearing will no longer be needed.
All that awaits Brantley now is a news conference to officially announce the signing.
Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Spring Training for the Tribe on Tuesday, but Cleveland's position players are not required to be in Arizona until Saturday. Following physicals for position players on Sunday, the Indians will hold their first full-squad workout next Monday.
According to CBSSports.com, Brantley's contract includes a signing bonus of $3.5 million that will be spread out over the life of the contract. The outfielder's salary breakdown will be $1.5 million in 2014, $5 million in '15, $6.5 million in '16 and $7.5 million in '17. The club option for '18 includes a $1 million buyout.
Brantley served as the Tribe's starting left fielder last season, moving out of center after the Indians signed Michael Bourn for that role. While bouncing up and down manager Terry Francona's lineup (the left fielder started games in eight of nine slots), he posted a .284/.332/.396 slash line to go along with 10 homers, 26 doubles, three triples, 73 RBIs, 17 stolen bases and 66 runs in 151 games.
Brantley was also one of Cleveland's top hitters in clutch situations last season, hitting .305 (.783 OPS) with two outs, .375 (.870 OPS) with runners in scoring position and .364 (.932 OPS) with two outs and RISP. Those numbers were only a touch above Brantley's career showing in each category: .294 (.770 OPS) with two outs, .314 (.810 OPS) with RISP and .313 (.865 OPS) with two outs and RISP.
Defensively, Brantley contributed 11 outfield assists and made no errors last season, extending his franchise-record outfield errorless streak to 245 games. During the 2012 season, Brantley was the Indians' starting center fielder, and he is currently the backup option behind Bourn.
Cleveland acquired Brantley as a player to be named in the 2008 trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers. In parts of five Major League seasons with the Indians, Brantley has hit .277 with 26 home runs, 140 extra-base hits, 212 RBIs and 240 runs scored in 514 games. Over the past two seasons as a regular in the outfield, he has turned in a .286/.340/.399 slash line across 300 games.
Signing Brantley to a multiyear contract falls in line with Cleveland's trend of trying to lock up young core players. The Indians inked catcher Carlos Santana to a pre-arbitration five-year, $21 million deal (with a sixth-year option) in April 2012. Cleveland also signed shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to a two-year extension early in the '12 season.
Among the team's other current players, extension candidates include starter Justin Masterson and second baseman Jason Kipnis. Cleveland has halted long-term talks with Masterson -- eligible for free agency next winter -- for now in order to focus on a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. The team explored a multiyear deal with Kipnis last offseason and might revisit the talks again this spring.