The Astros still have lots of questions to answer this offseason, but signing Michael Brantley to a two-year, $32 million deal is a great move.
Everyone knows the strength of the Astros in 2018 was pitching, but that doesn’t mean the organization doesn’t care about hitting the baseball. The front office’s clever move to sign Michael Brantley to a modest two-year contract could pay massive dividends for Houston in 2019.
The team still has a lot of work to do to retool their starting rotation, but Brantley will drastically upgrade their outfield. The 31-year-old gave the Indians borderline All-Star production in left field last year. His slash line of .309/.364/.468 powered him to an impressive WAR of 3.6 on the campaign. He might not be capable of repeating those numbers next season, but he still should prove to be an upgrade over Marwin Gonzalez over the course of the season.
Brantley easily could have earned a contract similar to the three-year, $51 million Andrew McCutchen received from the Phillies. The fact that the Astros got him on a shorter contract with a smaller annual average value makes it a better deal all the way around. In this case, the patience of the Houston front office really paid off.
The only downside with signing Brantley to replace Gonzalez is that the Astros will miss the latter’s positional flexibility. Gonzalez filled a lot of holes for his team last year with his ability to play all over the diamond. Brantley is only really a factor in left field and as a designated hitter. That means the Astros need to be in the market for a utility player to fill multiple potential holes on their roster.
Despite that small drawback, Astros fans should be celebrating the acquisition of Brantley. His deal is a perfect example of the sort of move savvy front offices can make without overreaching for the biggest names on the market. Signing Brantley isn’t going to wow fans like inking Bryce Harper, but it’s going to be a much more cost-efficient move for the Astros.