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.

Tyler Moore: the ballplayer everyone is talking about

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For those who don’t know, Alexa is Amazon’s digital assistant product. It’s Amazon’s version of Siri or Google Home, but you can use it for a lot more stuff if you have a device such as the Amazon Echo. With simple voice commands it can turn on your lights, turn up your air conditioner, play your music, order stuff you’re running out of, answer questions you have and a bunch of other things. It may also snitch on you to the CIA, but that’s a topic left for another day.

Anyway, Amazon is pretty proud of its product and today sent me a press release touting how fans use Alexa to “get player stats, team records, starting lineups and more!” Amazon also gave me a list telling me how baseball fans have used Alexa in the past year:

“As we enter the MLB playoffs this year, we wanted to share a snapshot of the most asked about MLB players and teams among fans throughout this season, according to Alexa.”

Cool! I love lists. Let’s see who Alexa users are searching for!

Top 10 Asked About Players this MLB Season:

1. Tyler Moore
2. Albert Pujols
3. Aaron Judge
4. Mike Trout
5. Bryce Harper
6. David Ortiz
7. Alex Rodriguez
8. Anthony Rizzo
9. Clayton Kershaw
10. Chris Young

I don’t have any problem with 2-9 on this list, but I gotta tell ya friends, I’m not sure that America’s most searched-for ballplayer is a guy who Baseball-Reference.com lists first as a “pinch hitter” who is sporting a line of .206/.247/.377 for a team ranking 28th out of 30 in attendance this year. I’m also skeptical of Chris Young at number ten, and that’s even if you put the search totals for BOTH Chris Youngs together and count them as one.

It’s possible that there is far greater national curiosity for Moore and Young than I realized.  It’s also possible that Moore and Young’s parents are just heavy duty Alexa users.

I suspect though, quite strongly, that Alexa — or the P.R. staff touting its abilities — is having trouble distinguishing between Tyler Moore and Mary Tyler Moore, who passed away back in January and was likely the subject of many more people’s curiosity than the Nationals’ 2008 16th round draft pick. Though, I’m sure, if given the chance, Tyler could turn the world on with his smile too.

All of which might be a bit distressing for Amazon, given that it’s their business to make sure customers get what they’re looking for. It’s good for us as human beings, however, because it suggests that, perhaps, we are much farther away from the Rise of the Machines than we sometimes suspect.

Brad Ausmus seems to know he’s a dead man walking

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The Tigers have been terrible and the embarked on a rebuild this summer, shipping off Justin Verlander and multiple other players. Miguel Cabrera is hurt and may never be his old MVP-level self. It is, without a doubt, that the Tigers and their fans are about to begin a new chapter in the franchise’s history.

Such new chapters usually involve new managers. Fourth-year manager Brad Ausmus is still at the helm and the Tigers have made no public statement about his future. Ausmus, however, is a lame duck, with his contract ending a week from Sunday. He is also no fool. He seems to know very well that he’s not going to be around next year. From Katie Strang of The Athletic:

Ausmus, of course, has been on the hot seat several times. When Detroit exercised his option for this year, their refusal to extend it sent a pretty clear signal.

If this is the end of the road in Detroit for Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager, it will end with him having missed the playoffs in three of his four seasons at the helm of a star-studded team that was expected to Win Now, as they say. Yes, there were a lot of issues with the Tigers — their bullpen has always been a problem and the brass made a lot of questionable choices in signings and trades over the past few years — but there is no escaping the fact that Ausmus’ Tigers under achieved.