Coming Out of Left Field: Michael Brantley
Updated: Dec 13, 2022
The Yankees have a bunch of outfielders, but nobody really good yet for left. This week we'll look at options of who could be there in 23!
Michael Brantley Overview:
Coming out of Fort Pierce High School (in Fort Pierce, Florida) Michael Brantley took a major shot on himself as a 7th round draft pick selection in the 2005 MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. The son of a former MLB player and coach, Brantley opted out of a commitment to Coastal Carolina and instead went into the minor leagues. After just 3 years in the Brewers organization, Brantley became the final piece going to Cleveland- as a player to be named later- in the CC Sabathia trade at the 2008 trade deadline. The next season he would make his MLB debut as a September call-up.
Michael Brantley would then start the 2010 season at the MLB level and as much as I'd love to say he "never looked back", it has never been that simple for him. In that same 2010 season, Brantley went up and down between the MLB and MiLB 3 different times. In his 2011 season, he suffered right wrist tendonitis early in the year and needed surgery on his hamate bone in August (which ended his season). The 2012 season was healthy for Brantley...before off-season surgery to correct a sports hernia. To be fair, 2013-2015 was also healthy for Brantley, though during the 2015-16 offseason he required shoulder surgery which also kept him to just 11 games in 2016 and required a second surgery. In 2017, Brantley was limited due to the shoulder surgery and because of a right ankle sprain.
From 2018-2020, Brantley again showed a healthy period of time- including signing on as a free agent with the Houston Astros going into 2019. However, in 2021 Brantley was again on the IL two separate times with right knee soreness and right hamstring tightness. In 2022, Brantley's season again came to an early end with right shoulder discomfort that ended in yet another surgery.
Michael Brantley Statistics:
Michael Brantley has been in the Major Leagues for parts (and I really mean parts) of 14 seasons. During which he has played 1430 games (of 2166 total) and has appeared in 80% of his teams games just 6 times. Even so, Michael Brantley has hit to a career .298/.356/.439/.794 career quadruple-slash (117 OPS+) along with 127 home runs, 713 RBI's, 1641 hits, 125 stolen bases (33 times caught) and a walk-to-strikeout of 483:656. This has combined to be +34.1 bWAR and +28.8 fWAR.
In the past 3 seasons, Brantley has played in 231 games (of a possible 384) while hitting to a combined .303/.365/.439/.803 (122 OPS+) alongside 18 home runs, 95 RBI's, 267 hits, 4 stolen bases (1 time caught) and 81 walks to 111 strikeouts. This has also brought in +5.4 bWAR and +4.6 fWAR.
Is he an Option?
Technically, yes. Michael Brantley- as of this moment- is still a free agent and a pretty good one at that, even with his extensive injury history past. This will drive up his market and his market should be pretty extensive with there being a number of contending teams that could see Brantley as a worthwhile veteran with a high-average bat and ability to play left field on a short-term deal.
However, the recent shoulder surgery (and his 3rd overall) does scare me- and likely many teams- away from anything more than 1 year "prove it" type deal. That doesn't mean he's going to command nothing on the free market, but also expecting anything less than $12-15 million (a moderately large range) would be unrealistic. If the Yankees could get him on a deal towards the cheaper end of that range that is lined with incentive on at-bats and/or games played and/or mid/end-of-the-season awards to bring him up over the higher end of that range, I think they'd be doing smart business. That's a longshot from happening though. And, it puts the Yankees back in this position again in season (if Brantley gets hurt- which is likely) and at the best, again next offseason.
If the Yankees had a team that was more "flushed out" with solid players and solid support around their entire team, I'd be very interested in Brantley as that final piece of the puzzle to fit a need. However, the Yankees have more holes and needs than fans want to admit. Left field is a definite need for something a bit more stable (as in healthy) and on a bit of a longer deal. Michael Brantley would not be that guy to fit either of those molds.