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MLB Roundup 1/21: Michael Brantley heads back to Houston

Though there was initial confusion.

League Championship - Houston Astros v Tampa Bay Rays - Game Seven Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Michael Brantley signs in Houston

We’ll call Wednesday the Michael Brantley day in baseball, because it was a bit tumultuous there for a couple hours. At first, it had been reported that Brantley was heading to Toronto right after his former teammate, George Springer, had signed there. It seemed like the Jays were pushing all in. And then they refuted the report, and quickly every reported who had broken that news was retracting. And then the real news came out, indicating that Brantley had instead signed back in Houston on a two-year deal worth $32 million.

Houston had lost all three of their outfielders to free agency this winter in Springer, Brantley and Josh Reddick, so they had work to do on this front. They do have Kyle Tucker, who played a bunch last year as well, and now having Brantley back shores up this lineup to some extent as well. Brantley has had his health issues in the past, but when he plays he is generally consistent. Over the last three seasons, he has finished with wRC+’s of 124, 133, and 134, respectively. He’s not a huge power bat for a corner outfielder, but he makes as much contact as anyone, and it is typically effective contact.

The Red Sox aren’t currently in the market for a player like Brantley, who at this point can only really play left field or DH. However, as we’ve discussed, if the Red Sox make a Benintendi trade the corner outfield market becomes important. And personally, Brantley was my favorite of the free agents. I think this offseason calls for a 2013-like strategy where they target the best one- and two-year players (they’ve already missed on some key ones) and Brantley represents that best option there among outfielders in my eyes.

Twins sign J.A. Happ

Brantley was the big signing, but another pitcher did come off the board on Wednesday as well. Both Central divisions have been mostly quiet this winter, but the Twins did strike with a small move here, signing former Yankee J.A. Happ to a one-year deal worth $8 million.

My general philosophy is that there’s really no such thing as a one-year deal, at least in terms of being too much money. It’s one year, and every team can eat a one-year deal without much issue if things go sideways. I still believe that, though this one is testing me I guess. Happ is, to be fair, coming off a very solid 2020 results-wise, having pitched to a 3.47 ERA over nine starts last summer. Red Sox fans also know he regularly crushes Boston’s lineup. But he’s also 38, had a 4.91 ERA with worse peripherals in 2019, and had a 4.57 FIP last season. There are concerns. For the Twins, it’s not a huge deal as they have a solid top three in Kenta Maeda, José Berríos and Michael Pineda. They need innings and a non-disaster season from Happ.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, went with Pérez for this Happ role. I think there’s a fair argument Happ is the better option without factoring in the money, though I don’t know that I’d go there. Given the age I’d probably put them around even value. All of which is to say, while I’m not excited about Pérez my issue would be signing him over, say, José Quintana or Jon Lester (who admittedly would be more about fan service than being better than Pérez) than missing out on Happ.