On paper, Michael Brantley seems like a good fella to have on your side in a baseball fight.
A three-time All Star with a penchant for hitting doubles and .300 at the plate along with some measured pop, Brantley isn't a slacker on the diamond. If the St. Louis Cardinals had a stacked lineup and just needed a solid, but not great, player, this guy would be a fine addition.
That's the problem: The Cardinals have a few solid, but not great, players. They have role players, a couple core assets, and no real stud in their lineup. Brantley wouldn't change that, and in the end, wouldn't make the Cardinals something to fear in 2019 and beyond.
Let's break down a few reasons as we prepare our stomachs for a turkey overload and multiple viewings of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
How much better is he than Dexter Fowler?
Marginal. While Fowler had a year, he'd like the mysterious doctor in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to erase this past summer, Fowler is a lock for a 2.5-3.0 WAR when he stays healthy for at least 140 games. He's a lefty bat like Brantley with some pop who doesn't offer a gold glove in the field but can be a steady presence for a team. Brantley made $11.8 million last year and will command at least $15-18 million in free agency after a solid 2018 season saw him compile a 3.5 fWAR. Between 2014 and 2017, Fowler averaged right around a f3.0 WAR, so if one guy takes a step back and the other moves back to his usual touch, the advance made is minimal.
Brantley doesn't do one thing incredibly well
If you are going to force yourself to move Fowler to acquire Brantley, the latter should do something amazing or be able to change your lineup. Brantley does not. He had one season where he gave the Indians a f6.4 WAR, but that was back in 2014. He's never hit more than 20 home runs or compiled an OPS of .900 or more. Pitchers don't shake in their boots when they see him. He doesn't move the needle that much.
Brantley isn't 26 years old
The outfielder turns 32 in May, so he would only be slightly younger than Fowler (33 in March), which also doesn't help much. If you can get a guy like Brantley before they create their masterpiece (like that 2014 season), it's a fine plan of attack. Getting them as they come back from their honeymoon with their 30's isn't a good plan.
Don't expect a defensive upgrade in right field
Brantley isn't a plus-defender. Back in the day, which was a Tuesday in 2011, Brantley could save a team around nine runs in the field. These days, he costs the team runs in the field, putting together negative runs saved and an Ultimate Zone Rating that won't impress. He's past his prime, which wasn't great to begin with, in the field.
Two to three wins don't make much of a difference
According to Steamer on Fangraphs, Brantley is set to produce a 2.6 WAR in 2019. That's not even half of what the Cardinals need for their lineup to become more powerful moving forward. Instead of climbing in production every season, Brantley is moving back in overall productivity.
As a good Cardinals follow on Twitter, Jon Doble, pointed out, acquiring Brantley only adds salary to the Cardinals without actually improving in 2019.
If the Cardinals eat even most of Fowler's $16.5M to move him and then sign Brantley around $15M, that's $31.5M for a marginal improvement. If you're spending $31.5M, you might as well go full Harper.
— Jon Doble (@GroundRuleDoble) November 21, 2018
In the end, Brantley is a solid player, but not what the Cardinals need in an upgrade. He wouldn't change much in St. Louis, and unless the team went out and acquired muscle elsewhere in the lineup, Brantley doesn't help the team climb over the Milwaukee Brewers or Chicago Cubs. If the Cardinals are going to move Fowler and eat some of his contract, it should be for a talent like Bryce Harper. After three playoff-less seasons, the Cardinals simply need more.
Michael Brantley is that cheap and affordable sirloin steak that will only leave you wishing you had cooked the almost expired yet still possibly good strip steak in your freezer. The juice is simply not worth the squeeze.
Thanks for reading,