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The latest Brantley free-agent rumors

MLB.com

Although he's battled his share of injury problems, Michael Brantley has proven to be a well-rounded player throughout his career, and he enters free agency after hitting .309 with 17 homers, 76 RBIs, 12 steals and only 60 strikeouts over 143 games this past season.

Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the outfielder.

Although he's battled his share of injury problems, Michael Brantley has proven to be a well-rounded player throughout his career, and he enters free agency after hitting .309 with 17 homers, 76 RBIs, 12 steals and only 60 strikeouts over 143 games this past season.

Below you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the outfielder.

Astros eyeing Brantley, Cruz
Dec. 15: The rotation arguably remains the Astros' biggest area of need, but the club is reportedly looking into offensive upgrades as well. According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), Houston is talking to free agents Michael Brantley and Nelson Cruz and may try to sign both of them.

Houston is open to trading Josh Reddick, but Rosenthal reports that the club "developed little traction" when trying to move him earlier this offseason. Reddick, who is owed $13 million in each of the next two seasons, posted a .718 OPS in 2018. A Reddick trade would allow the team to fit both Brantley and top prospect Kyle Tucker (No. 5 overall, per MLB Pipeline), though Rosenthal notes that the concern of blocking Tucker won't necessarily prevent Houston from signing Brantley or even offering the 31-year-old a three-year deal.

As Rosenthal points out, Brantley's willingness to play first base is a bonus, as the Astros would be able to move Yuli Gurriel around the infield more while trying to compensate for the loss of Marwin Gonzalez.

Why Brantley to Braves still makes a lot of sense
Dec. 14: The Braves made the first big free-agent splash of the offseason by signing Josh Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million contract last month, but they've been pretty quiet since then. Will that change?

MLB.com's Richard Justice lists Atlanta as one of his seven teams most likely to make the next big move. In a lot of divisions in baseball, landing Donaldson and catcher Brian McCann in short order, as the Braves did, would be enough for a reigning division champ. But as Justice writes: "In the National League East arms race, it's not enough. So GM Alex Anthopoulos is still thinking big in his pursuit of a corner outfielder, a top-of-the-rotation starter and possibly a reliever."

It's possible the Braves could make a play for Dallas Keuchel to fit near the top of their rotation or sign Zach Britton to fortify the back of their bullpen. But Justice also mentions Michael Brantley, who has been linked aplenty to Atlanta this offseason, as a name for them to consider for corner outfield -- and out of those three players, he might provide the best bang for the buck.

As the top name left on the open market among starters, it's expected Keuchel will score a four- or five-year deal worth upward of $15 million to $20 million per season, which likely would be out of the Braves' price range. Britton will come cheaper than that, but perhaps Atlanta would prefer to spend a similar amount on an everyday outfielder, especially after the division-rival Phillies just added one of their own in Andrew McCutchen.

After all, someone has to replace free agent Nick Markakis' offense and veteran presence. Brantley -- with his elite contact ability and penchant for compiling good at-bats -- could prove valuable for Atlanta, which boasted a potent, yet often impatient, young lineup in 2018.

Could Phillies still consider Brantley after signing McCutchen?
Dec. 12: The Phillies signed a former National League MVP Award-winning outfielder Tuesday, and while it wasn't Bryce Harper, the move nonetheless lowered the chances of Michael Brantley heading to Philadelphia.

Although MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal and Matt Gelb of The Athletic reported that the Phillies' addition of Andrew McCutchen on a three-year, $50 million contract won't prevent the club from signing another outfielder, Philadelphia is unlikely to be aggressive on Brantley when Harper is still out there.

Tweet from @Ken_Rosenthal: Both @MattGelb and I are hearing same from multiple sources. Told addition of McCutchen would NOT preclude #Phillies from signing another outfielder, whether it���s Harper or someone else. https://t.co/ToylyfCwL7

That said, the Phillies could double back on Brantley if they sign Manny Machado, whom MLB Network insider Joel Sherman believes is the team's preference over Harper.

Tweet from @Joelsherman1: #Phillies chose McCutchen over Brantley but if Philly signs Machado over Harper (which appears preference), it���s posssible double back to Brantley for needed LH bat. But Brantley has alternatives could move on b4 that.

Brantley at first base? His agents say it could happen
Dec. 6: Brantley's versatility could help him land a job this winter. While he's primarily being looked at as an outfielder, his reps are touting his willingness and ability to play first base, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported Thursday.

Brantley has played exclusively in center and left field in his 10 years in the big leagues, but he logged 53 games at first in the Minors from 2007-08. It remains to be seen how he'd perform at the Major League level, but that added versatility could set him apart from the other free-agent outfielders on the market.

Rosenthal said there aren't any teams evaluating Brantley as a full-time first baseman, but they're aware he could see time there if needed.

Atlanta has long been rumored as a possible destination for Brantley, and on Thursday, The Athletic's David O'Brien reported that the Braves remain a possibility. The Braves are looking to trade for or sign an outfielder to a short-term deal if the price for Brantley, or other free-agent outfielders like A.J. Pollock, Andrew McCutchen and Nick Markakis, is reasonable.

Why Brantley could be a match for Giants
Dec. 3: Giants fans undoubtedly are waiting to find out what direction the club will take under new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. While one of the big questions facing the franchise involves the possible trade of ace lefty Madison Bumgarner, another is how to fix an outfield in desperate need of an upgrade.

Michael Brantley presents one such possibility in that regard, according to MLB.com's Richard Justice, who thinks the veteran is a near-perfect fit for San Francisco. Why?

"His .364 OBP is 57 points higher than the Giants got from their outfielders in 2018," Justice writes. "While the Giants may kick the tires on Bryce Harper and A.J. Pollock, Brantley is the prototype high-OBP hitter they need."

One other benefit? Brantley will be cheaper than either Harper or Pollock. Sure, the Giants likely could afford to splurge on Harper (think: $300 million to $400 million) or Pollock (who reportedly is asking for $80 million over five years), but the underrated Brantley seems to be more of the type of player that fits Zaidi's track record when he was in the front offices of the A's and Dodgers.

Michael Brantley