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Francona high on Brantley's value to Indians

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have not officially announced their four-year contract extension with Michael Brantley, but that did not stop manager Terry Francona from discussing the left fielder's value to the team on Wednesday.

"He's a prime example of everything that made us good," Francona said. "His ability to change positions. His ability to move around in the batting order. His two-out hitting. That's part of what made us good last year, was our versatility and guys' willingness to do whatever it took to try to win. That's really appreciated."

The Indians have reached an agreement with Brantley on a four-year, $25 million contract that includes an $11 million club option for a fifth year. The deal, which covers three arbitration years and at least one year of free agency, is expected to be announced Thursday.

Last spring, Brantley shifted out of center field and into left without complaint after Cleveland signed Michael Bourn as its new center fielder. Brantley then bounced up and down Francona's lineup throughout the season, starting games in eight of nine positions.

Overall, Brantley hit .284 with 10 home runs, 39 extra-base hits, 73 RBIs, 17 stolen bases and 66 runs in 151 games last year. He was also one of Cleveland's top hitters in clutch situations, batting .305 with two outs, .375 with runners in scoring position and .364 with two outs and runners in scoring position.

Francona said it is also good when a club is able to lock up a young player who is considered a part of the team's core group.

"When you start eating into their free-agent years," Francona said, "and you know you have a guy, that's terrific. Keeping the core group of guys together is exciting."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.
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