Headlines, Indians

MLB Hot Stove: Indians opt-in Michael Brantley and Josh Tomlin

The Cleveland Indians have officially opted in on the contracts of Josh Tomlin and Michael Brantley for the 2018 season. Tomlin will make $3 million, while Brantley will pull in $12 million. There was no news of the decision on Boone Logan’s $7 million option but the odds of him remaining on the team appear to be slim considering this announcement of the only other team options.

Josh Tomlin might find himself as the sixth man in a five man rotation for the 2018 MLB season, but his contract has such great surplus value that the decision was simple for the Indians.1 The team can keep him on the roster to ensure all of the starters remain in good health through Spring Training. Given the scarcity of quality pitching, they will be able to trade him for assets if they ever choose to go that route. The worst case is Tomlin is the one who becomes injured.

Michael Brantley’s situation is a tad different.

The positives of keeping Dr. Smooth on the 2018 Tribe is that he did bat .299/.357/.444 (111 wRC+) with a 1.6 fWAR in 90 games during the 2017 season, and he is beloved by the fanbase. Such a line would not give a surplus value to the Tribe, but it would equal out. The issue is that Brantley is entering the decline portion of his career, has spent each of the past three offseasons rehabilitating from serious surgery, and only played 11 games in the 2016 season as his rehabilitation did not take. The latest surgery for Michael Brantley occurred on October 19 and comes with a five month recovery window, which puts his timeline on track for a middle of March return.

The hope is that allocating $12 million towards Brantley will not impact the pursuit of re-signing Bryan Shaw, Carlos Santana, and Jay Bruce, but it is difficult to imagine there not being a tangential affect given the budget constraints of a small market team. The Indians must make their Qualifying Offer decision on Santana by November 6.2

Here is the official release from the Cleveland Indians.

CLEVELAND, OH – The Cleveland Indians today announced option decisions on the following players:

Exercised the 2018 club options on OF MICHAEL BRANTLEY and RHP JOSH TOMLIN.

Brantley, 30, hit .299 (101-338) with 20 doubles, 9 home runs and 52 RBI in 90 games played in 2018. Michael missed 61 games due to a pair of stints on the 10-day Disabled List and underwent surgery to stabilize his right ankle on October 18. Michael’s .299 batting average was 15th-highest3 in the American League and his 2.1 WAR4 was 10th-highest on the club despite 90 games played.

Tomlin, 33, posted a mark of 10-9 with a 4.98 ERA in 26 starts for Cleveland this season (141.0IP, 166H, 78ER, 14BB, 109 SO). Over his last 10 starts after July 6, Josh went 6-0 with a 3.11 ERA (19ER/55.0IP) and his 0.89 walks per 9.0 innings was the lowest ratio in Major League Baseball.5

  1. Even going back four seasons, Tomlin averages 1.2 fWAR per season, which would mean a value of $8-10 million. []
  2. Jay Bruce is not eligible for the Qualifying Offer. []
  3. Minimum 350 plate appearances []
  4. source: Baseball-Reference []
  5. Minimum 140 innings []

  • Chris

    “How important is it for the team to have good looking players?”
    “How important is it for an organization to show loyalty to players both the ups and downs?”

    I guess we know how those survey questions were answered.

  • mgbode

    What are you saying about Carlos Santana there?

  • Chris

    He’s short, a bit pudgy, has a scraggly beard, and neither has wildly up nor wildly down seasons.

  • Steve

    ” it is difficult to imagine there not being a tangential affect given the budget constraints of a small market team.”

    It is very difficult to imagine them picking Brantley at the expense of Santana. Either they have room for both, or they already think Santana is going to get way more than they would pay regardless of Brantley.

  • mgbode

    Do you believe the opt-in on Brantley is a good decision for a budget conscience team like the Indians?

  • JM85

    I’d much rather have Santana or Bruce.

  • Steve

    All depends on the medicals. He was worth $12.6M last year. If they think they can get 100 games or more out of him, it’s a good decision.

  • mgbode

    Paying market value that might limit your ability to sign players with less health issues is not a good decision.

  • Eric G

    This was my thought, too. I’m worried they already know that they won’t be able to afford Santana.

  • Steve

    “might limit your ability to sign players ”

    Again, we have no idea how likely this this. It’s a scare tactic, and not much more at this point.

    And when it comes to free agents, walking away with market value is usually a decent result. Guys worth $12M a year usually gets three years or so as a FA. We’re walking away with only having to guarantee one.

  • mgbode

    I’m confused. It is not a “scare tactic.” It is simple budget math. If you spend money on one player, then you have less money for others.

  • Steve

    The Indians don’t need to sign a lot of guys, they may have room for Santana and Brantley and the couple minor pieces they need. We simply don’t know if they will have the ability to sign the guys they want limited by this move.

  • mgbode

    OK. If/when Santana signs elsewhere and the Indians claim to be priced out, then I will justifiably point to this decision they consciously made. I hope they prove me wrong and sign Santana, but Antonetti mentioning Brantley played some 1B in the minors is not heartening.

  • Steve

    For example, MLBTR just threw out their free agency predictions. Brantley: 2/$20M following his 2.1 bWAR season. Todd Frazier: 3/$33M following his 1.6 bWAR season. Obviously the medicals make this all a big who knows, but similar health to last season for Brantley makes him a better bet than what we can do with the money otherwise.

  • Steve

    “or they already think Santana is going to get way more than they would pay regardless of Brantley.”

    If Santana is priced out, it will be far more likely that another team values him higher than the Indians do. Paying more for Santana than you think he’s worth by the same $11M doesn’t make for any better a decision.

  • mgbode

    Agree to disagree. 2/$20m is better than 1/$12m if we trust his health.

    Also, Todd Frazier had a 3.0 fWAR w/ Brantley at a 1.6 fWAR, so even those value metrics depend on what you weight more. If you take the average, then Frazier is worth more.

  • mgbode

    If they weren’t paying Brantley, then they would have that money in the budget to pay a player who has proven to be much more durable and consistent, who happens to have played defense at a Gold Glove level for a position they will need if he signs elsewhere.

    So, if Santana signs for $18m/year… it will be a wasted opportunity.

  • Steve

    “If they weren’t paying Brantley, then they would have that money in the budget to pay a player ”

    Come on Bode. We know they don’t do operate this way. They value each player on his own worth and pay him accordingly. If Santana signs elsewhere for $18M a year, it’s because they don’t value him as an $18M/year player, or they don’t want to take the risk on the years, another hugely important factor which helps explain why they picked up Brantley’s option. A one year risk is a lot lower than a three to four year risk.

  • Steve

    You can pick any guy projected to around two WAR that you like. You’ll have to pay them for three years instead of one.

  • mgbode

    OK, just so I understand: you would rather pay Brantley one year for $12 mil than Santana for three years and $45 mil.

    also, Santana has been at 2.5 WAR (b-ref or f/g) or less only once in the past seven years.

  • mgbode

    We are going to disagree here as the Indians definitively have an overall budget on their payroll. Kevin Kleps notes that even if they raise the payroll budget to $140m for 2018, they now have maybe $18m left to use (assuming some arb numbers & declining Logan).

    Every move affects every other move.

  • Steve

    I’m not disagreeing with that they have a budget. Their valuation of Santana is already set, and they’ve almost certainly started negotiating with him. If they think Santana has more surplus value and is signable at $18M, they will do it.

  • Steve

    I have no idea where that assumption came from. I’m talking about guys at Brantley’s expected level of production. Santana at 3/45 has far more surplus value.

    There’s nothing in my argument about wanting Brantley over Santana. The idea that is was one or the other is an error in logic.

  • mgbode

    Thank you. This helps me understand where you are at.

  • jpftribe

    I got that survey and was like wtf? Lots of questions about it being the ‘happening’ place to be as well.

    I had a really good feeling about this club at the end of 15 and thought with a little luck they would contend for everything in 16. I was a little concerned going into 17 that it would be really tough to duplicate. I’m downright pessimistic about 18 and hoping the offseason proves me wrong.

    Francona is manager of the year with a Gold Glove infield, 2 MVP candidates, 2 legit CY contenders, the second best bullpen in baseball and 4 other starters that any team would take 3-6. If now we don’t need Shaw, Santana, AJax and Bruce, Kipnis is ok to play 2nd, Brantley is learning 1st base coming off two years of injury, an platoon outfield that has no power, we are basically a key pitching injury away from complete disaster. Then, like in the playoffs, all the bizarre Francona moves will get magnified, mistakes will be amplified instead of shrugged off and it won’t be pretty.

    Still really early and the offseason could surprise me, but keeping/replacing Santana, 3rd base, both corner outfield positions and Shaw is a hell of a lot to try and accomplish. And even if they do that, you need a Kluber and Miller healthy and Allen to return to form. $12M on Brantley would go a long way towards filling those gaps, because frankly, Brantley has been a non-contributor during their 16/17 runs.

  • jpftribe

    Of course they know that. Antonetti is brilliant. If there was a deal to be done, it would have been done. If he hits the FA market, the only hope is there is no market for a gold glove, switch/power hitting first baseman that has an extraordinary OBP. That’s not a risk they want to take, it’s one they have to take.

  • Heather

    Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
    On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $11752 this last four weeks..with-out any doubt it’s the most-comfortable job I have ever done .. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
    ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleNetJobsProWorkFromHome/find/jobs ★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫★★✫★✫:::::!da107luuuu