While Jeff Luhnow and the Astros were quiet during the recent winter meetings in Las Vegas, it didn't take long to pull the strings on an important move for the 2019 season after they were over. According the multiple reports, the Astros have agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Michael Brantley, a three-time All-Star with Cleveland, who is an all-around contributor when he's healthy. Staying healthy is the big question mark.
Brantley: Lineup Balancer
(c) Associated Press
The reports say the contract will be for two years at $32 million and, of course, he'll need to pass a physical before everything becomes official. Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, there are no option years in the contract.
Brantley missed most of 2016 and part of 2017 mostly from shoulder injuries. In 2018, the 31-year-old lefthanded batter hit .309 with 17 homers in 143 games. He carries a high on-base percentage (.364 last year, .351 for his career) with moderate power and above average speed. He could be slotted in the second or third spot in the lineup with Jose Altuve being the other cog. His best years in Cleveland saw him batting third.
A Washington native raised in Florida, Brantley no longer plays center field so he will be seen as a left fielder and occasional designated hitter who might open the door for a trade of top offensive prospect Kyle Tucker if it can bring in a top-flight catcher like Miami's J.T. Realmuto or a starting pitcher like the Mets' Noah Syndergaard in return. This, then, could bolster two positions rather than one.
The only personnel moves involving the Astros while in Vegas centered around the Rule 5 drafts for the major and minor league levels. Houston lost righthander Riley Ferrell to Miami and outfielder Drew Ferguson to San Francisco in the major league phase. Both players must stay on the 25-man roster with their new clubs for the entire year or be offered back to the Astros. For separate reasons, I don't think either has beyond a 5% chance of not being offered back. Both were products of the 2015 draft.
In the minor league phase, Tampa Bay selected reliever Ryan Thompson who was out all last season with Tommy John surgery. The Astros claimed a catcher, switch-hitter Alejandro Flores, who batted .216 with the Nationals' A-ball squad last year.
More moves are sure to be made before training camps begins in February but the Astros hope they've solved their left field gap with this move and perhaps made it possible to open some other doors.
- Bob Hulsey