Why Michael Brantley's return to Houston is an underrated big move for Astros

Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Houston Astros made another move in free agency over the weekend by locking down veteran Michael Brantley to a one-year deal.

“Uncle Mike” will make at least $12 million for the Astros in 2023, and it could increase up to $16 million due to incentives, according to an ESPN report.

While it may not be as eye-popping of a signing as José Abreu, Brantley’s return to the Astros quietly helps out the club both on and off the field. The move gives Houston flexibility in the outfield, an area it has wanted to focus on in the offseason, as well as brings back a key piece to the Astros’ clubhouse from a leadership standpoint.

The 35-year-old missed most of 2022, including Houston’s postseason run, due to a shoulder injury that required Brantley to undergo arthroscopic labral repair surgery. According to CBS Sports, Brantley is aiming to resume baseball activities by the start of spring training.

Brantley provides the Astros with depth in the outfield, particularly left field, and when healthy, he is another veteran bat in Houston’s lethal order. Prior to suffering his injury, the veteran’s numbers were .288/.370/.416 along with five home runs and 26 runs batted in.

While it is unknown if Brantley in fact will be ready to go by spring training, or if he will be as consistent in the lineup or on defense for the Astros in 2023, his presence alone will be a welcomed sight for Houston.

The Astros put Brantley on the “additional players” list in the postseason, which allowed for him to travel with the team throughout its World Series run.

During the American League Division Series, the Astros’ young star shortstop Jeremy Peña talked about how valuable having Brantley, along with the other veterans on the team, was. Brantley helped Peña progress during his rookie year.

The culture in the clubhouse Peña alluded to was one of the reasons Abreu was drawn to the Astros in free agency in the first place. Brantley is a key figure in keeping that atmosphere at the same level.

With a team like the Astros, which will likely bring in new players at some point, whether it is before the 2023 regular season begins or during the season, having players like Brantley will help in acclimating them to Houston’s standard.

On the field, a healthy Brantley also allows for star Yordan Álvarez to move back to the designated hitter spot more often than not. The less wear-and-tear they can put on Álvarez the better it will be for Houston. It also provides manager Dusty Baker with another player he trusts in.

It is clear the Astros value Brantley and that he wanted to return as well.

When looking at the remaining names in free agency alone that are outfielders, Houston arguably got the player that has the most upside if he is healthy as well. It is a win-win for the Astros. “Uncle Mike” is back, and he will be a key figure in the team’s quest for a repeat.

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