The Indians ink Branyan

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Branyan headshot.jpgBuster Olney reports that Cleveland has signed Russell Branyan to a one year deal with an option for 2011.  This year it’s a $2 million base salary with up to $1 million in incentives.  The option is of the mutual variety for $5 million. The seal is a juuuuuuust a bit below the $20-$30 million Branyan had reportedly been seeking earlier this offseason. The option adds a bit of security for Branyan, however, inasmuch as if he’s even moderately productive this year he’ll at least have a job for next year. Which is a relatively new experience for him.

As I’ve said before, I think the Indians and Branyan are a good match.  There’s no telling how healthy Matt LaPorta is going to be at first base. Jhonny Peralta has been the subject of trade rumors off and on for a while, and while maybe the 17th time is the charm for Andy Marte, there is no reason to think that he’s the answer at either corner.  Branyan could also see some time in left field.

My guess: Branyan gets a healthy number of plate appearances, he hits his incentives and at the end of the year people will be talking about this as one of the more savvy signings of the offseason.

UPDATE:  A few words on “mutual options.”  I used to always say that mutual options were meaningless in that, given either side can veto, it really doesn’t provide any security for anyone, contrary to what I said about Branyan above.  Except every time I wrote that someone would comment and say, no, it does provide security in that it creates a framework for a deal, etc. etc.  So fine, I decided I didn’t want the fight this time and just said what I said above. And as soon as I did people started asking me what kind of security a mutual option truly gives Branyan. Ugh.

So I have decided to punt and let Google be my friend. I love Google because it almost always introduces you to smart people saying interesting things. In this case it brought me to Rich Lederer — I already knew him, so it really wasn’t an introduction — who wrote many words about mutual options a couple of years ago, with the conclusion basically being “mutual options are meaningless.”  Click and read. You’ll be happy you did.

For my part: if my employer offered me a “mutual option” I probably wouldn’t sign it, because it sounds kind of weasely and ineffective. So there’s that.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.