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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 []