HOUSTON -- The Astros added an impactful left-handed bat to their already-potent lineup on Wednesday, officially announcing a two-year deal with outfielder Michael Brantley.The 31-year-old Brantley, a three-time All-Star and 2014 Silver Slugger Award winner, could be a candidate to slide into the fifth spot in the Astros' batting order,
HOUSTON -- The Astros added an impactful left-handed bat to their already-potent lineup on Wednesday, officially announcing a two-year deal with outfielder Michael Brantley.
The 31-year-old Brantley, a three-time All-Star and 2014 Silver Slugger Award winner, could be a candidate to slide into the fifth spot in the Astros' batting order, between shortstop Carlos Correa and first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Currently, Josh Reddick is the only other left-handed starter, with Tony Kemp as a lefty option off the bench.
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A quick examination of Brantley's strengths suggests this signing isn't all that surprising, given the organization's recent history of employing hitters with a penchant for putting the bat on the ball.
The Astros already collectively had the second-lowest strikeout rate in 2018, and they just strengthened that area of their arsenal. According to Statcast™, Brantley swung at 1,008 pitches and missed only 111 times last season. His 11 percent whiff rate was the third lowest in the Majors, mere steps ahead of Houston third baseman Alex Bregman, whose 12.9 strikeout rate was seventh lowest.
Brantley was also one of the game's better fastball hitters last season, hitting .308 while slugging .473. Of the 1,388 fastballs he saw in '18, he struck out on them just 18 times.
The outfielder enjoyed a bounce-back season in '18 after injuries limited him to 101 games the prior two seasons combined. He slashed .309/.364/.468 with 17 homers and 76 RBIs over 143 games in '18, making 134 starts in left field while serving as the Tribe's DH seven times.
Brantley missed most of the Indians' pennant-winning season in '16, playing in just 11 games because of right shoulder surgery the prior offseason. He missed 79 games in '17, following right ankle surgery.
Brantley's signing is the Astros' first big splash of the offseason, but it's likely they're not yet finished shaping their roster for the 2019 season. The club would like to add a starting pitcher to complement co-aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, and multiple media reports are still linking Nelson Cruz as a possible DH target.
Earlier in the offseason, the Astros traded for utility man Aledmys Diaz and signed catcher Robinson Chirinos to a one-year contract.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.