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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.

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.

Astros interested in Brantley
Dec. 11: Michael Brantley seems like a natural fit in left field for the Astros -- and Houston does in fact remain interested in the 31-year-old free agent, sources told MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi on Tuesday during Day 2 of the Winter Meetings.

Tweet from @jonmorosi: Sources: #Astros interested in free agent Michael Brantley. They would like to add a left-handed bat but are somewhat wary of blocking 21-year-old outfield prospect Kyle Tucker for the long term. @MLB @MLBNetwork

Brantley is an excellent contact hitter and just put together a very productive 2018 season for the Indians after struggling through injuries the previous two years. He matches up with Houston's desire to add a left-handed bat to an already deep lineup.

The mitigating factor, according to Morosi, is that the Astros don't want to block top prospect Kyle Tucker's path to their outfield. And yes, Tucker is an elite talent -- he's ranked the No. 5 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline -- but he still only has a handful of big league plate appearances under his belt.

Brantley would solidify the Astros outfield while Tucker develops, and even if Tucker proves ready to make an immediate impact, it's hard to imagine that Houston couldn't find a spot for Brantley's bat in the lineup. Plus, if Brantley is willing to sign for a shorter-term deal, blocking Tucker might not even be much of an issue.

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.

Bowden: Braves should sign Brantley
Nov. 5: The Braves have already made a major splash this offseason, signing former American League MVP Josh Donaldson and bringing back catcher Brian McCann, and former MLB general manager Jim Bowden writes they should keep going by adding free-agent outfielder Michael Brantley in a column for The Athletic (subscription required). 

Bowden suggests Brantley as a replacement for right fielder Nick Markakis, who's a free agent, noting he would be strong fit in the Braves' clubhouse. He's been linked to the Braves all winter to address their outfield need. Brantley could play left field in Atlanta, bumping Ronald Acuna Jr. over to right.

The Indians opted not to extend a qualifying offer to Brantley, so he won't cost Atlanta a Draft pick to sign.

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.

Brantley continues to be linked to Braves 
Dec. 2: The Braves made the first big free-agent splash of the offseason by signing Josh Donaldson to a one-year, $23 million contract, but MLB.com's Jim Duquette believes that Altanta might not be satisfied with the additions of Donaldson and veteran catcher Brian McCann. Though Bryce Harper is likely out of the picture given general manager and executive vice president Alex Anthopoulos' stated desire to avoid any deal longer than seven years this offseason, Duquette views the Braves as the favorite to land free-agent outfielder Michael Brantley.

"They've said -- and they've been pretty consistent -- that they were going to spend some money, and they're starting to do that," Duquette said on MLB Network Radio recently. "So I think they're going to be in the bidding for Brantley. There's going to plenty of competition, but I would say [Atlanta] for sure would be the front-runner."

Tweet from @MLBNetworkRadio: McCann, Donaldson - what's next for Atlanta?How about Michael Brantley.@Jim_Duquette on why he views the #Braves as the front runner for the former #Indians slugger: pic.twitter.com/f7oLfhvMLz

That echoes what MLB Network insider Joel Sherman speculated in a column for the New York Post, writing that the Braves "still seek a corner outfielder -- Andrew McCutchen? Michael Brantley? -- to join a lineup with Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies, plus Donaldson and McCann."

Brantley has been linked to the Braves early and often this offseason, and he could fill a corner-outfield spot that would be vacated if free agent Nick Markakis signs elsewhere. His elite contact ability and penchant for compiling good at-bats could also prove valuable for Atlanta, which boasted a potent, yet often impatient, young lineup in 2018.

Michael Brantley