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10/03/08 6:31 PM ET
Brantley completes deal for Tribe
Son of former Major Leaguer final piece of Sabathia trade
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
At last, he has a name. Nearly three months after the Indians and Brewers consummated the CC Sabathia trade, the deal was completed Friday, with Minor League outfielder Michael Brantley joining the Tribe as the long-awaited "player to be named." Double-A outfielder Matt LaPorta was the centerpiece of the Tribe's acquisitions, and Brantley, who will be in big league camp next spring and likely be at Triple-A Columbus next season, can now be considered the second-most prominent piece of the deal from the Indians' perspective. The Tribe also received Class A right-hander Rob Bryson and Triple-A left-hander Zach Jackson, who went on to make nine starts for the Indians at the tail end of the season. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin confirmed that the choice for the final player came down to Brantley and third baseman Taylor Green, who was at Class A Brevard County this season. The Indians got to make the choice because the Brewers made the postseason. Had the Brewers not advanced, they would have made the pick. Melvin admitted such a contingency is rare. "Cleveland liked both players, and so did we," Melvin said. "That's why we couldn't come to an agreement. The problem was both players got hurt. They hardly got to see any of them play." Brantley, 21, was limited to just four games in July because of a right ankle injury, while Green was hit in the hand by a pitch on Aug. 12, ending his season. Indians general manager Mark Shapiro was less forthcoming about the details surrounding Brantley's acquisition. "There were stipulations, obviously, beyond the standard player to be named later," Shapiro said. "I'm not going to comment on those. Those are dependent on the relationship between the two clubs." But Shapiro was more than happy to comment on Brantley -- a player he and the Indians' decision-makers believe is a good fit. Brantley, the son of Mickey Brantley, who played for the Mariners from 1986-89 and was the Blue Jays' hitting coach from 2005-07, is certainly an intriguing addition. He brings some speed and athleticism to an organization that needs it. The 21-year-old Brantley was a seventh-round Draft pick out of Ft. Pierce (Fla.) Central High School in 2005, and he's compiled a Minor League average of .311 and on-base percentage of .399 with 53 doubles, seven triples, six homers and 157 RBIs in 383 games over the last three years. At Huntsville this season, Brantley batted primarily out of the leadoff spot and hit .319 with 17 doubles, two triples, four homers, 40 RBIs and 28 stolen bases in 36 attempts over 106 games. He started 62 games in center field and 21 each in left field and at first base. He had 50 walks against just 27 strikeouts, and Baseball America rated him as having the best strike zone judgment and the best baserunning skills in the Southern League. "Obviously, he has an elite-level of plate discipline," Shapiro said. "He also steals bases and steals them efficiently. That ability to contribute to run production with speed and plate discipline complements our organization well." Shapiro said Brantley still needs some development, particularly on the defensive end. The Indians will try to get Brantley into the Arizona Fall League, but they would have to create a roster spot to do so. That situation was still being addressed within the organization Friday. Brantley had been expected to play in the AFL for the Brewers. "He's a guy that's at an advanced level for his age," Shapiro said. "We think that's a big positive for us. We would hope with the path that he's on that he does make the big leagues at a young age." The Sabathia trade was the Indians' official waving of the white flag with regard to the American League Central race. In trading the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, the Indians bid farewell to an impending free agent that they had groomed within their system. Sabathia, of course, has made the biggest splash thus far. He went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts down the stretch to guide the Brewers to their first postseason appearance in 26 years. The Indians, meanwhile, were happy to have time to make this final selection. "Normally when you do a trade [for a Minor Leaguer], you're lucky if you get a couple looks at the guy," Shapiro said. "In this trade, we got multiple looks over multiple days with multiple scouts."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.