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.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.