GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Michael Brantley was smoothly sidestepping a question about whether he should have won the Gold Glove for going an entire season in the outfield without an error. His boss interrupted him in midsentence.
“He should have won the Gold Glove,” Cleveland Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said.
Brantley’s response matched his “Dr. Smooth” nickname. He kept right on going, talking about everyone except himself.
“It’s about winning baseball games,” Brantley said.
His devotion to that answer helped him get a $25 million, four-year contract on Thursday as the Indians opened spring training. A player who was the last piece in the deal for pitcher CC Sabathia in 2008 is now recognized as one of the Indians’ core players.
Brantley batted a team-leading .284 last season, when Cleveland ended a five-year playoff drought. The Indians lost to Tampa Bay 4-0 in the wild-card game.
The challenge is to keep getting better. The Indians decided that the 26-year-old can be instrumental that way. He avoided arbitration by agreeing to the deal, which he signed after passing a physical.
Brantley gets a $3.5 million signing bonus and salaries of $1.5 million this year, $5 million in 2015, $6.5 million in 2016 and $7.5 million in 2017. Cleveland has an $11.5 million option for 2018 with a $1 million buyout.
His 2017 salary would increase by $1 million if he’s among the top five in MVP voting in any year from 2014-16 and would go up by $500,000 if he finishes sixth to 10th. The option price would be boosted by $1 million if he’s among the top five from 2014-17 and by $500,000 if he finishes sixth to 10th.
He proved it last season. Brantley was slotted as the leadoff hitter and center fielder until the Indians signed Michael Bourn. He agreed to move to left field and floated around in the batting order, hitting everywhere from first through eighth as manager Terry Francona rested regulars.
Brantley set career highs with 26 doubles, 10 homers, 73 RBIs and 66 runs. He also stole 17 bases in 21 attempts. And he went the entire season without making an error in his new outfield spot.
“Those are the players that you value because regardless of what their personal goals are or their aspirations, they’re able to put the team goals ahead of it,” Francona said. “And that’s a good example. We all know he wanted to play center field, and he moved to left. And he probably preferred to stay in one spot in the order, but he moved around.
Pirates sign Yang
PITTSBURGH — Taiwanese left-hander Yao-Hsun Yang and the Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to a minor league contract that includes an invitation to big league spring training camp.
The Pirates announced the move Thursday.
Yang made nine appearances while pitching in Japan’s minor leagues last season. The 31-year-old Yang has a 5-5 record with 3.08 ERA in 38 appearances — 12 starts — in his career with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the Japanese Central League during parts of six seasons (2006, 2008-2010 and 2012).
Nationals, Rays complete trade
VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals filled the last clear-cut need on their roster on the opening day of spring training, acquiring catcher Jose Lobaton and two prospects from the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday for pitcher Nathan Karns.
Lobaton gives the Nationals insurance behind fellow Venezuelan Wilson Ramos, who has never played in more than 108 games in a season because of various injuries.
“He’s a capable backup,” general manager Mike Rizzo said, “in case something does happen with Wilson.”
Lobaton, 29, started 76 games for the Rays last season and batted .249 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs. He was expendable because the Rays re-signed catcher Jose Molina and traded for Ryan Hanigan.
The Nationals are giving up a top prospect in the 26-year-old right-hander Karns, who three made starts in his first taste of the major leagues last season, but they’re adding a pair of 22-year-olds from the Jays’ pool of talent: outfielder Drew Vettleson and left-handed pitcher Felipe Rivero.
Karns would have been in a crowded race for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. The trade for a younger pitcher alleviates part of that logjam and helps the Nationals stagger their pitching prospects.
To make room for the new players on the 40-man roster, Washington placed right-handed pitcher Erik Davis on the 60-day disabled list with a sprained right elbow.
Mariners announce Fernando signing
PEORIA, Ariz. — The Seattle Mariners have signed right-handed reliever Fernando Rodney to a $14 million, two-year deal.
Rodney reported to spring training on Wednesday and passed his physical, clearing the way for the Mariners to make his signing official. He took part in Thursday’s first workout for pitchers and catchers.
Rodney, 36, was 5-4 with 37 saves and a 3.38 ERA for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013. He ranked second in the American League in saves and ERA over the past two seasons, with a combined 85 saves and a 1.91 ERA.
Rodney was added to the Mariners’ 40-man roster.