UPDATE: Indians make Russell Branyan an offer

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Branyan headshot.jpgUPDATE: The Indians have reportedly made an offer to Branyan. It’s unclear at present if it’s a minor league deal or something with some real dollars attached.  Either way, I think Branyan and the Indians go well together, so here’s hoping this gets done.

7:57 A.M.: Ken Rosenthal reports that Russell Branyan — a guy who hit 31 home runs last year but hasn’t had more than a nibble this winter — is talking with the Indians, Red Sox and Rays, but that things are furthest along with Cleveland. Branyan, you may recall, came up with the Indians in the death throes of their late-90s/early 2000s run, but the team didn’t like his defense or his strikeouts, shipped him out of town and went with guys like Casey Blake and Ben Broussard instead.

That was a long time ago, though, and lately the Indians have been trying to bargain hunt for a first base/corner outfield bat, showing some interest in Jermaine Dye as recently as last week.  Each of those two have problems with the glove, but at least in Branyan’s case first base won’t be a land of experimentation like it would be for Dye. Each have question marks at the plate too. Was Dye’s first half or second half more indicative of what he might do this year? Is Branyan’s back healthy enough to where his 31 home runs last year are a reasonable expectation again?

From Branyan’s perspective, the Indians make more sense than the Red Sox or Rays because it’s fairly easy to
envision playing time in Cleveland, whereas both Boston’s and Tampa
Bay’s rosters are more crowded at the positions Branyan can play (1B, 3B,
LF).

What Cleveland actually does here probably depends upon which of the two sluggers — Dye or Branyan — comes off his unreasonable mid-winter demands.

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.

Report: Dexter Fowler will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after lining out during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.

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Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.

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Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.

Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.

Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.