Two Tribe Outfielders on the Move as Offseason Hits Continue
Bob Toth | On 18, Dec 2018
Brantley, a ten-year big leaguer who has spent his entire Major League career in Cleveland, will start a new chapter in his life as he came to terms on a two-year, $32 million agreement with the Houston Astros. Davis, who just completed his second one-year tour with the Indians, inked a minor league deal with the New York Mets with an invitation to spring training.
Brantley, 31, will join his third MLB organization and now is a member of the same club that swept the Indians easily in the American League Division Series this past season. The Astros are expected to contend again for a World Series title and have watched their path to another AL West crown get a little easier as both the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners are working through a rebuilding (“retooling”) process.
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, Brantley’s contract is strictly for two seasons with no options. The Astros were already deep in their outfield, with Josh Reddick and George Springer returning for 2019 and both Tony Kemp and Jake Marisnick sitting on the roster as experienced depth. The agreement with Brantley gives the club protection in the event that top prospects Kyle Tucker (21) and Derek Fisher (25) needs more seasoning before hitting the Majors regularly. Manager A.J. Hinch could also work to keep Brantley’s legs fresh by utilizing the veteran at designated hitter or first base, splitting some of that work load with the right-handed hitting Yuli Gurriel.
Brantley becomes the second big free agent outfield signing this offseason, following the three-year, $50 million agreement between the Philadelphia Phillies and Andrew McCutchen. That deal also includes a club option.
The Indians, strapped for cash already heading into the offseason, opted not to offer Brantley, Cody Allen, or Andrew Miller a $17.9 million qualifying offer, which could have netted the club a compensation pick. Brantley, in the prime of his career, may have been willing to accept the deal to remain in town, although at his age and with his recent injury history, he may have been more likely to test the market for a multi-year deal. The Indians did not take the chance that he might accept and instead avoided the risk of locking in a large chunk of cash to their franchise-record payroll of a season ago, even with their outfield already in shambles.
While Brantley was expected by some to net a contract quite similar in years and value to McCutchen, he ultimately settled for a two-year deal, but one that may very well guarantee playing in the next two Octobers, as long as he remains healthy.
Last season, the fan favorite Dr. Smooth appeared in 143 games, the most that he has played since 2014. He put up a .309/.364/.468 slash with 36 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, and 76 RBI while making his third career All-Star appearance. The most important aspect for Brantley was that return to health, however, as after playing just eleven games in 2016 and 90 games in 2017, he was able to stay off of the disabled list for extended stretches and was an active and reliable contributor to the Tribe’s lineup.
Davis, now 38, locked in a deal with the Mets much earlier than the contract he received a season ago, when he agreed to a minor league pact with the Indians at the start of spring training. He won a job with Cleveland at the end of camp and was to serve the club off of the bench, but an injury-depleted outfield forced him into 101 games of action. He hit .224 with a .278 on-base percentage while stealing 21 bases, marking the eleventh time in 12 seasons that he has topped the 20-swiped mark.
Davis’ 13-year career has taken him to stops in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Oakland (twice), Toronto, Detroit, and Boston, in addition to his stints in Cleveland in 2016 and 2018. His eighth inning home run off of Chicago’s Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of the ’16 World Series remains one of the most clutch hits in 118 years of American League baseball in Cleveland.
The losses of Brantley and Davis add to a growing list of departures from the 2018 Indians roster. Already this offseason, regulars Yonder Alonso, Lonnie Chisenhall, Yandy Diaz, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Yan Gomes, Erik Gonzalez, and Brandon Guyer have been either traded by the organization or have signed free agent deals elsewhere.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images