It’s been a roller-coaster day for Astros fans. Early this morning the depressing but expected news came that the heart and soul of the championship Astros, George Springer, had signed a player-friendly, six-year, $150 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.
A few hours later, ESPN reported that his close friend and fellow slugger, Michael Brantley, would follow Springer from Houston to Toronto on a 3-year contract.
MICHAEL BRANTLEY HAS SIGNED A 2-YEAR, $16 MILLION DEAL WITH THE ASTROS.
Thinking that Brantley and Springer were both leaving the team, I thought the Astros were suddenly reduced to having only a marginal chance at the playoffs. With the sudden news that Brantley will remain an Astro, that leaves only one hole to fill in the outfield and gives the Astros the following lineup for 2021:
??????????? (a center fielder)
One hole to fill in the outfield and in the lineup is not nearly as insurmountable as two seemed to be. And provided that Altuve, Bregman, Correa, and Gurriel return to form after their sub-par 2020 seasons, this remains a daunting and playoff-caliber lineup for opposing pitchers.
Brantley, a four-time All-Star, has a .297/.354/.440 career slash line with 114 home run, 640 RBI and a 116 OPS+. In two years with Houston he has been even better, with an OPS+ of 126.
As we love to say here at TCB, Michael Brantley never strikes out. Not quite, but his 10.1% strikeout rate in the last four years is third-best in baseball during those years.
This is a surprising but welcome development for the Astros. Surprising because despite improving his performance with the Astros compared to career averages, Brantley signed for the same deal he signed in 2019. Though there were no reports on what the Jays offered Brantley money-wise, it was reported they offered him a three-year contract. And it seemed natural that if Brantley had a chance to follow his close friend to Canada, he would do so.
Kinda like Roger Clemens following Andy Pettite to Houston once upon a time.
It is welcome of course, not just because it keeps his batting numbers in the lineup, but that it keeps his amazing consistency there too. Brantley never strikes out, and he never seems to have long slumps. I think it is fair to say you can pencil in his .800 OPS for the next two years. And $16 million a year seems like a bargain to me.
Although some question his durability throughout his career, Brantley seems to have answered that question here in Houston. At 34 some wonder if he will start experiencing an age-related drop-off. Of course, that could happen, but we have seen no signs of that in the last two years and as a consummate professional, he is in good physical shape. I think we can squeeze two more quality years out of him, although the three-year deal the Astros avoided would have been a little more questionable.
Keeping Brantley through 2022 gives the newly acquired Cuban, Pedro Leon, time to develop properly as well.
Find a center-fielder. (Jackie Bradley, are you listening) Another Strom project arm. And let the games begin.
For the first time in a long time, good news for the Astros.