The Indians avoided at least one of their four potential arbitration cases Monday night, agreeing with outfielder Michael Brantley on a four-year, $25 million contract.
According to multiple sources, the deal for the Tribe’s leftfielder could reach $36 million if an additional $11 million club option is exercised in 2018. The Indians had not yet officially announced the deal as of Monday night at press time.
The contract is a large pay upgrade for Brantley, who made $526,900 last season. In five seasons (the last three fulltime) in the major leagues, Brantley owns a career batting average of .277 with 26 home runs and 212 RBI. His case was slated to appear in front of arbitrators in Florida Feb. 17.
Brantley came to Cleveland in 2008 as the Player to be Named Later in the multi-player, blockbuster deal that sent Tribe ace pitcher C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee at the trade deadline.
Last season, he recorded a career-high 17 stolen bases while hitting .284 with 10 home runs and 73 RBI – even as he appeared in every spot in the lineup as first-year manager Terry Francona experimented with the best place to bat him and others.
As productive as Brantley, who was not eligible to become a free agent for another two seasons, proved to be up and down the lineup, he had been just as solid in the field. He owns a streak of 245 games without an error, dating back to June 3, 2102, and last season tied for fourth among American League outfielders with 11 assists.
The Indians streak of not having to go to arbitration since 1991 ended Sunday, albeit with a victory of sorts, when the team won its case against reliever Vinnie Pestano. The right-hander will earn $975,000 in 2014 instead of the $1.45 he was seeking.
Slated next for arbitration is right-handed pitcher Josh Tomlin, whose case is scheduled for Friday. The team’s arbitration case with the most riding on it is scheduled for Feb. 28 with ace pitcher Justin Masterson.