The Astros have agreed to terms with free-agent outfielder Michael Brantley on a two-year, $32 million deal that will bring him back to Houston, Mark Berman of Fox 26 reports. CBS Sports HQ's Jim Bowden has confirmed the deal. The reported agreement perhaps caps a whirlwind day on the Brantley front. Earlier on Wednesday, it was reported by Hazel Mae and Ken Rosenthal that Brantley had reached a three-year deal with the Blue Jays, but both later walked back those reports.
The Jays were said to remain interested in Brantley, and the general expectation was that they'd finalize a deal. That, however, appears not to have happened, and Brantley will instead reportedly be back with the Astros. If the deal is finalized, it will be the second time Brantley has inked a two-year, $32 million pact with the Astros. He signed the first one in December 2018.
On Tuesday evening, George Springer signed a six-year deal with the Blue Jays worth $150 million, so the Brantley deal would prevent a second exodus of an Astros outfielder to Toronto this offseason.
Brantley, who will turn 34 in May, entered the winter ranked by CBS Sports as the eighth-best free agent available this winter. Here's what we wrote at the time:
If Brantley had recorded one more hit in 2017 -- literally one more -- he would have entered next spring as the only player to bat .300 or better in four consecutive seasons. Oh well. The warp and the woof of Brantley's game is that he's a consistent, professional hitter. He'll provide a good average, a healthy clip of walks, and 50-plus extra-base hits. Brantley was primarily used as a DH last season for the first time in his career; it probably won't be the last time. A team interested in maximizing his overall value should also consider parking him against lefties. For reasons unknown, he feels much older than he is: he'll turn 34 in the middle of next May.
Over the last three seasons, Brantley has batted .309/.368/.484 (125 OPS+) with 44 home runs and 17 stolen bases (on 22 tries).
The Astros finished the shortened 2020 season with a 29-31 record under first-year manager Dusty Baker, but they qualified for the expanded postseason field and advanced to the ALCS for a fourth straight year despite an inordinate number of injuries along the way. Brantley was a big part of their relative successes, and his return improves Houston's chances in 2021.