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February 12, 2014

Transaction Analysis

Don't Ya Need Him Brantley

by R.J. Anderson and Ben Carsley

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

CLEVELAND INDIANS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Agreed to a four-year extension worth $25 million with OF-L Michael Brantley; deal includes an option year worth $11 million. [2/10]

There's something romantic about the Indians—the team that originated signing young players to long-term deals—taking care of their own. Brantley, who turns 27 in May, holds extra significance, as the only remaining player from the CC Sabathia trade—and a solid one, at that.

Without the extension in place, Brantley would have qualified for free agency after the 2016 season. Instead, the Indians bought out his remaining arbitration years and a free-agent year. Add in the option, and Cleveland gained two years of possible control. Though Brantley isn't a star, he is above-average. He's batted .280/.334/.394 the past three years while averaging 14 steals per season. Michael Bourn's arrival pushed Brantley to left field in 2013, where his defense played up.

The question with these kinds of deals is upside. Brantley seemingly has little room to grow, save for him tapping into his frame and hitting a few more home runs here or there. As a result, this deal seems to be about securing his services at a discount. Similar, if older and inferior players like David DeJesus, David Murphy, and Nate McLouth each received at least $5 million per season this winter. Brantley got a little more and he's just entering his statistical prime. That's not enough for this deal to become one of the best values in the league, but it does make it a solid value.

For those curious, Jason Kipnis will become arbitration eligible after the season. You figure he's a good candidate to become the next Indian to re-up.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Signed RHP Tommy Hanson to a one-year deal worth $2 million. [2/11]

It's tough to have faith in Hanson these days. The erstwhile Angel has struggled with durability and performance-related problems dating back to his breakout 2010 season, and last year he appeared in a career-low 15 games. Shoulder, back, and forearm woes have sabotaged his health, sapped his stuff, and led him to the indignity of being non-tendered this winter by a pitching-needy team. Yet despite Hanson's plunge from budding bedrock to afterthought, the Rangers gave him a guaranteed deal and a clear path to Derek Holland's vacated rotation spot. Labeling Jon Daniels an optimist is a natural response, but signing Hanson requires a healthy sense of reality.

If the Rangers were uninterested in surrendering another draft pick, and unconvinced A.J. Burnett would come to Texas, then the starting-pitcher market offered few attractions for a competitive team. Daniels could have signed Erik Bedard, Jason Marquis, or any of the other free-agent starters and inspired the same reaction he did by signing Hanson. (The exception might be Chris Capuano, a sabermetric darling who remains unemployed for reasons unknown.) There are few answers for teams in the Rangers' position—unless, that is, Daniels wanted to empty the farm via trade in a reactionary move.

But Daniels didn't do that. Instead he bought the penny stock his staff liked best with the hope Mike Maddux could yield a good return on investment. Maddux's first mission might be tweaking Hanson's mechanics, or at minimum removing the red flags he displays—starting with bow-and-arrow arm action and concluding with recoil in the finish. Shy of a complete overhaul, the Rangers' best prayer ought to involve Hanson staying healthy and productive enough to hang around until Holland returns. Otherwise Daniels will have to put on his realist hat again, dump Hanson, and promote an internal option like Nicholas Tepesch or Colby Lewis. Whatever the result, you have to believe Daniels knows this is an undesirable fix.

Fantasy

When news broke that Hanson had signed with the Rangers yesterday, I responded by noting via Twitter that he was likely to be a disaster in his new home ballpark. Dear Leader Bret Sayre made a snide comment about Hanson's right shoulder, which the comically impaired Craig Goldstein then compared to ground beef. Puns about the temperature at which said metaphoric shoulder were cooked ensued.
There are two main takeaways here: the BP Fantasy Staff isn't very funny, yet we'll assuredly do less damage to your team than will Hanson this season. It's sad when once-promising young players flame out early, but Hanson should be of interest to you no more. More like MMMDrop. – Ben Carsey

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  Texas Rangers,  Cleveland Indians

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