Brantley has season-ending surgery on shoulder

August 12th, 2022

HOUSTON -- Friday’s news that Michael Brantley will miss the rest of the season certainly didn’t come as a shock to the Astros, who had been without the veteran outfielder since June 26. The possibility of a return grew less likely by the week, and the Astros made it official by announcing Brantley underwent an arthroscopic labral repair on his right shoulder on Wednesday.

Considering he’s 35 years old and will become a free agent, Brantley’s time in Houston could be over. He remained an elite hitter, though he no longer hits for much power. Brantley was batting .288 with 14 doubles, five homers and 26 RBIs and a .785 OPS in 64 games as the Astros’ primary starting left fielder, and he had a huge presence.

“We were afraid this was more serious than it was in the beginning,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Michael tried hard to get back. He got a number of opinions, he got a couple of procedural things -- just didn’t work. Michael’s a big part of this club, not only on the field but a big part of the club in the clubhouse and the dugout and on the planes. They don’t call him ‘Uncle Mike’ for nothing. He’ll be gone for a couple of weeks to try to not bump or reinjure that shoulder. I urged him, and he wants to come around as soon as he can and be part of this club.”

Brantley signed a two-year, $32 million contract with the Astros prior to the 2019 season and was an All-Star that year, slashing .311/.372/.503 with 22 homers and 90 RBIs to help the Astros reach the World Series. Brantley’s diving catch and throw for a double play in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS was pivotal to the win over the Yankees. He slashed .300/.364/.476 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Brantley nearly signed with the Blue Jays after the 2020 season, but the Astros brought him back on a second two-year, $32 million deal. He had another terrific season in ’21, finishing second in the AL batting race by hitting .311.

“It’s difficult,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. A great presence when he’s on the field, in the dugout, in the clubhouse. He’s the best; he’s awesome. Losing him is tough, and we just hope he has a speedy recovery and hopefully, we can get him back here playing next year.”

Here’s a look at what losing Brantley long term will have on Houston’s left-field situation:

Who plays left field?
Since Brantley’s last game of the season June 26, Chas McCormick (17 starts) and Aledmys Díaz (16) have gotten most of the playing time in left with Yordan Alvarez (six), Mauricio Dubón (two) and Jose Siri (one) also getting time at the position. Alvarez hasn’t played as much left field as he did earlier in the season because of a nagging hand issue, and the Astros wanting to preserve his legs.

Besides Alvarez, Díaz is the best offensive option, but he can play all four infield spots and is frequently needed there to give those everyday players days off.

“One of the things we prioritized at the Trade Deadline was adding some depth pieces to give us different options based on who’s pitching for us, who’s pitching for the other team, and so I would imagine for the time being, we’re going to explore all the different options on the roster,” general manager James Click said. “In my experience, a lot of times what happens is someone separates themselves, and so that may be what happens for us over the next couple of weeks.”

What about Trey Mancini?
Mancini, acquired from the Orioles in an Aug. 1 trade, is thought of primarily as a first baseman/designated hitter, though he’s started 187 games in left field in his career. Click said Mancini has been working with outfield coach Gary Pettis to get comfortable in the small left-field area at Minute Maid Park.

“Not only does he do the work with Gary, but during batting practice, even though Gary’s not watching,” Click said, “Trey will be out there working on the nuances of left field at Minute Maid Park. That’s part of the reason we acquired Trey is we think he can go out there in the corner outfield and help us out. I’m optimistic that’s something that we’ll see over the next couple of months.”