Veteran MLB outfielder Michael Brantley has announced his retirement at the age of 36, wrapping up a 15-year Major League career in which he established himself as one of the most respected all-around hitters of his generation.
Brantley is coming off a 2023 season in which recurring shoulder problems limited him to just 15 games for the Houston Astros. When he was able to take the field, that smooth lefty swing was as effective as ever: He hit .278 down the stretch for Houston, including a four-hit game in a crucial win over the Mariners to help get the Astros to the postseason. But with young children at home and injury issues piling up, Brantley has decided to call it a career rather than signing with one of the several teams who surely would’ve been interested in his services.
“It’s time for me to be home 24/7, watch my kids grow up, and not miss important milestones,” Brantley told MLB.com’s Jon Morosi.
Brantley’s is the sort of career that risks getting overlooked. He was never a plus defender in the outfield, and he never put up the sort of gaudy power or speed numbers that get players noticed. When his name shows up on Hall of Fame ballots five years from now, he’s unlikely to last more than a cycle or two. But Brantley was a very good big leaguer for a very long time, spraying line drives like clockwork with a relentlessly professional approach at the plate. Across his 15 seasons — a decade in Cleveland and five years in Houston — Brantley slashed .298/.355/.439 (117 OPS+) with 129 home runs, 125 stolen bases, and more than 1,500 hits. He earned five All-Star selections over the years, and in 2014 he won a Silver Slugger and finished third in AL MVP voting with Cleveland.
Originally a seventh-round choice by the Brewers in 2007, Brantley was traded in October of 2008 to Cleveland as a player to be named in the CC Sabathia blockbuster — a throw-in alongside top prospect Matt LaPorta. While LaPorta never panned out, Brantley spent the next decade as a linchpin in the lineup of many contending teams in Cleveland, reaching the postseason three times and peaking with a combined .319/.382/.494 line (139 OPS+) across 2014 and 2015
He finally hit free agency for the first time in 2018, leaving for Houston on a two-year deal that December. Brantley immediately delivered, posting a .875 OPS across 148 games in his first season with the ‘Stros and earning his fourth All-Star nod. Houston fell agonizingly short of getting Brantley his first World Series ring that October, but they finally did the deed in 2022 — making sure that the veteran got his hands on the Commissioner’s Trophy despite missing the postseason because of a shoulder injury.
“That was the most special part for me,” Brantley told Morosi. “My teammates putting me front and center, telling me to raise the trophy up — I still get goosebumps thinking about it. I’m always going to remember that.”