Already in need of outfielders, the Cleveland Indians may need to look for even more help for the start of the 2016 season because of injury to starting left fielder Michael Brantley. MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports that Brantley underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, his non-throwing shoulder. Bastian says that the Indians expect Brantley to miss five to six months of baseball activities, which would push the left fielder's return to action into the beginning of next season, perhaps into May.
Brantley would most likely need an extended Spring Training and/or some Minor League rehab games before rejoining the Indians' Major League roster.
According to the report, Brantley tore his labrum on September 22 when he dove for a ball in left field. He played in only two of the team's final twelve games with his last appearance coming on September 28. In those two games, he was hitless in six at bats.
Surgery became less of an option and more of a necessity as Brantley tried to work out early in the offseason. Bastian explains the situation and the decision to have the surgery. He writes,
"Both the Indians and Brantley were hopeful at the end of the season that he would be able to avoid surgery, but the outfielder had lingering symptoms during a postseason rehab program. Cleveland's medical staff outlined a conservative two-week training schedule that included having Brantley return to batting practice. When the discomfort continued, Brantley sought a second opinion from [Dr. Craig] Morgan, leading to Monday's surgery."
Brantley finished fourth in the American League in batting average among qualifiers with a .310 mark. His final line read .310/.379/.480 with 15 HR, 84 RBI, 15 SB, 50 BB, 68 R, 61 K, and a 3.7 WAR in 137 games for the third-place Indians. His 137 games is his lowest total since 2011 when he was still making his way into the starting lineup. He has a career line of .292/.349/.423 with 61 HR, 393 RBI, 94 SB, 402 R, and 17.8 WAR in at least parts of seven seasons -- all with Cleveland -- since his call-up in 2009.
The Indians' current 40-man roster and depth chart (as of November 9) has Jerry Sands and Michael Martinez as backups in left field. Sands is an established Major League backup who can play both corner outfield positions, but he played more games in right field (32) than in left (7) in 2015. Martinez has played in more than 45 games in the Majors in a season only once: 88 with the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies.
Other options include Abraham Almonte in left while Brantley recovers, which would open up center field for a possible trade or free-agent acquisition. Lonnie Chiselnhall could also get the bulk of the starts in left until Brantley is ready.