The Toronto Blue Jays are said to be legitimately after a few offseason targets, but none is more confusing than Michael Brantley
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It feels like the Toronto Blue Jays have been linked to every big name free agent out there. Year to year, we are used to these rumours, but this year feels different. With the rest of MLB looking like they’ll exercise financial restraint and Toronto’s young, cheap core in place, the time very well could be for them to make some serious noise. What makes the rumours work is the logic behind them. But, where it falls apart is when it comes to Michael Brantley.
On Ep240 of the JFtC podcast, Shi Davidi joined me to chat about the Blue Jays’ offseason. Not only did he clarify the George Springer “talks”, but he mentioned a few names who Ross Atkins & Co are “legitimately in on“. Springer was one, D.J. LeMahieu was another. And, then Shi drops Brantley’s name as someone the club is legitimately in on. This seems a tad confusing.
Firstly, it should be stated that Michael Brantley is a very good hitter. The son of former Blue Jays hitting coach, Mickey Brantley, has had his share of injuries, namely in 2016 and 2017. But, since then has returned to the hitter he was previously. To date, Brantley has a career line of .297/.354/.440, a wRC+ mark of 117, a K% of just 10.8% and 25.2 fWAR. He does not swing and miss. According to Statcast, he is in the 93rd percentile in Whiff% and 88th percentile in K%. He doesn’t hit the ball necessarily hard, but combines a good eye (24.9% O-Swing%) and an ability to put bat to ball (Contact%: 90.9%/ O-Contact%: 80.6%/ Z-Contact%: 96% (!)) Dude can hit.
It is for that reason that Toronto would be interested in his lefty bat. However, if you look a little deeper and try to find a fit, it starts to fall apart. You’ll recall that the Blue Jays’ front office has already identified that they are targeting strike throwing and improved defense. Well, pitching is not one of Brantley’s skills, so he would have to check the defense box.
Firstly, Brantley hasn’t played CF since 2015 and hasn’t done so full time since 2012, so the idea that Toronto has found a replacement for Randal Grichuk is out the window. In 2019, he played RF for a total of 58 innings, which also is his career total. Spending all of his time in LF has resulted in a career DRS mark of 43 with 2019 yielding 11 DRS and 2020 seeing 5 DRS. The argument could be made that he’s a defensive upgrade over Lourdes Gurriel Jr.(career -5 DRS, -3 DRS in 2020), but that is assuming that Gurriel is not going to take a step forward in a position that is relatively new to him and that Brantley is not going to decline with age. It doesn’t seem like Toronto is willing to write Gurriel off, so bringing Brantley in for LF doesn’t make sense. Sure, one could say he’d be signing to play DH, but the Blue Jays’ roster benefits from cycling guys through that spot.
Far be it for me to age shame anyone, but Brantley will be 34 next May. Sure, a short term contract would be ideal, but for how much longer can Brantley be productive? On a young Blue Jays team, a veteran presence would certainly be welcome, but you have to wonder if it is needed that badly that the front office would look to force a fit.
The ONLY way signing Michael Brantley makes sense for the Blue Jays is if they end up trading an outfielder. And, if it’s Grichuk, then they still don’t have a real CF, so it’s illogical. If it’s Lourdes they deal, the return had better be high. If it’s Teoscar, they’ve just lost their minds. If it’s Derek Fisher, Brantley won’t want to be a 4th OF, so it’s stupid. If they sign George Springer, trade an OF for SP, then MAYBE Brantley makes sense. But, even then it’s tough to see how this pursuit makes sense. In fact, the only way this makes sense is if Ross Atkins absolutely whiffs on other deals and has to bring in someone…anyone.
The Toronto Blue Jays will absolutely need to add some big pieces this offseason and their primed to do so. Everyone and their dog expects them to make some serious noise. But, the idea of signing Michael Brantley is not exactly the tune they should be carrying. In fact, it is just downright confusing.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.