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Brantley, Tomlin back for another shot at title

Tribe exercises '18 options on 'integral parts'; Santana likely to receive qualifying offer
November 3, 2017

CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley and Josh Tomlin broke into the big leagues with the Indians and developed into key members of the team's core. Now Major League veterans, they will continue to try to win a World Series with Cleveland for at least one more season.On Friday, the Indians exercised

CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley and Josh Tomlin broke into the big leagues with the Indians and developed into key members of the team's core. Now Major League veterans, they will continue to try to win a World Series with Cleveland for at least one more season.
On Friday, the Indians exercised the team options on Brantley ($12 million) and Tomlin ($3 million), keeping them in the fold for the 2018 campaign. There are questions surrounding each player's place on the roster, but Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said the decision to pick up the options was easy when weighing all the factors at play.
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"Josh and Michael have been integral parts of our team for the last number of years," Antonetti said on Friday. "And we're excited to be able to have both guys back with us in 2018. They'll hopefully help contribute to us winning a World Series."
Antonetti noted that the Indians have until Monday to decide whether to exercise the $7 million team option for left-handed reliever Boone Logan. Monday is also the deadline for making a qualifying offer (one-year, $17.4 million) to any eligible free agents. Among Cleveland's free agents, first baseman Carlos Santana seems like the most likely candidate to receive the offer, which could net Draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

The decision to keep Brantley in the fold was not a cut-and-dry one.
A right ankle injury limited Brantley to 90 games in 2017 and the left fielder has appeared in only 101 games in the past two seasons combined. Right shoulder and biceps problems were the culprit in '16. Complicating matters, Brantley underwent surgery on his ailing ankle Oct. 18 and the Indians announced that the procedure comes with a four-to-five month timetable for return, Cleveland is clearly banking on a strong recovery.
"There's a high likelihood of success with the surgery that he had performed," Antonetti said. "So, we're very optimistic that Michael will be able to contribute for a meaningful part of next year. And, as we've seen, when he's on the field, he's a very productive player, and we think there's a good chance that he'll be on the field for the majority of next year."
Per Fangraphs, Brantley was worth 1.6 WAR in 2017, which the site projected as worth $12.6 million in terms of free-agent dollars. Teams have their own internal metrics for projecting the value of 1.0 WAR via free-agent dollars each offseason, and Brantley's $12 million option likely falls under most club's current projections. Using that context, it makes sense why the Indians would want to keep him in the fold.

When healthy, the 30-year-old Brantley has been very productive. In 2014, Brantley finished third in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, adding $1 million to the '18 team option. He backed that up with another solid showing in '15 before the right shoulder injury surfaced late in the season. In the '15-16 seasons combined, Brantley hit .319 with 35 homers, 90 doubles, 181 RBIs, 162 runs, more walks (112) than strikeouts (107) and an .876 OPS.
This past season, Brantley hit .299 with nine homers, 20 doubles, 52 RBIs and an .801 OPS, and was named to his second career AL All-Star team.
"Going into the season," Antonetti said, "he had some shoulder issues that really didn't affect him a whole lot for the majority of the season. And he performed at an exceedingly high level in the first half and earned an All-Star berth based upon that performance."
Brantley has spent the bulk of his career with Cleveland in left field, but Antonetti was not willing to commit to a position for him Friday. Depending on how the rest of the offseason goes -- right fielder Jay Bruce is a free agent, along with Santana -- Brantley might be an option for first base or designated hitter. Jason Kipnis (second base or outfield) is also in wait-and-see mode for his place on the field.
"We have a variety of different ways we can configure our roster," Antonetti said.

Tomlin, 33, went 10-9 with a 4.98 ERA in 141 innings last season, compiling 109 strikeouts against 14 walks. The righty's 7.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranked first in the Majors among pitchers with at least 140 innings. Tomlin -- the longest-tenured player in the organization -- projects as a fourth or fifth starter. The Indians could also consider the righty for a relief role, depending on how the back end of the rotation shakes out in the spring.
"The decision on Josh was relatively easy," Antonetti said, "in the sense that he brings a lot to the team both on the field in terms of his performance, but also what he brings to the clubhouse. And, where his option value was made a lot of sense."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.