Tigers writer goes it alone, gives Verlander his Cy Young vote

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Steve Kornacki of Booth Newspapers was the lone writer to give Justin Verlander a first-place vote in the AL Cy Young balloting announced Tuesday. The decision didn’t cost Zack Greinke a unanimous selection — Felix Hernandez claimed two first-place votes — but it did move Verlander past CC Sabathia into third place in the voting.
Kornacki defended his decision in a blog entry, though he hardly built much of a case:

Verlander received my first-place vote because nobody was tougher on the mound with the season on the line for his team.
Verlander threw at least 120 pitches in six of his last eight outings and won his last three starts, forcing a one-game playoff against the Minnesota Twins with his final victory.
He was an inspirational ‘horse,’ using Tigers manager Jim Leyland’s term for him, on a fading team.

Kornacki is never foolish enough to come out and say that Verlander was the AL’s best pitcher. He knows it’s not true. Instead, he’s trying to use the typical MVP argument for an award that is simply meant to honor the league’s top performer.
Verlander was exceptional for the Tigers down the stretch, and it is admirable that he maintained his performance with such a heavy workload. Still, it’s not a point in his favor that he has so many 120-pitch outings. Verlander just isn’t equipped to record quick outs.
So, Verlander won his last three starts. He lost the two before that. His ERA actually bottomed out in late July. He was 7-4 with a 3.94 ERA over the final two months. That’s impressive, but not exactly dominant.
Overall, Verlander finished with a 3.45 ERA in 240 innings. He had a terrific season, and the Tigers certainly wouldn’t have been in the race without him. He wasn’t, though, the AL’s best pitcher in any way, shape or form. Kornacki deserves plenty of flak for picking him.

Report: Astros, Michael Brantley agree to two-year, $32 million contract

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros and outfielder Michael Brantley are closing in on an agreement for a two-year contract in the $32 million range.

Brantley, 31, played a mostly full season last year for the first time since 2015. He hit .309/.364/.468 with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, 89 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 631 plate appearances. He made the AL All-Star squad for the third time in his career.

Brantley’s health, though, is why he had to settle for a two-year deal as opposed to a longer contract for a player of his caliber. He will take over in left field. In the event Brantley succumbs to injury woes, the Astros have top prospect Kyle Tucker waiting in the wings.

Update: According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who also reports that the deal is in place, the Astros plan to rotate Brantley between left field, first base, and DH. That opens up some more playing time for Tucker.