Russell Branyan has been playing for Tijuana in the Mexican League this year. For reals. He has 19 homers for them. He’s still listed on their roster, actually. But now the Cleveland Indians have him, as they signed him to a minor league deal for the rest of the season.
Branyan hasn’t played in the bigs since 2011. It’s doubtful he’ll actually play in the bigs this year. The Clippers are in the International League playoffs — I have tickets for their game against the Durham Bulls next Thursday! — this may be more of a ringer-on-a-softball-team move than something designed to help the big club. Of course, if he hits well for the next week or whatever and the Indians want a power bat on the bench when rosters expand, that’s not a bad thing either.
In other news, between Jim Thome’s one-day/retirement contract, Jason Giambi and now Branyan, the Indians are assembling all of my favorite toys this year. If they sign Jack Cust or trade for Adam Dunn, I’ll be in heaven.
Russell Branyan has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Yankees, according to Dan Martin of the New York Post.
He’ll compete for a bench spot in spring training after hitting just .197 in 68 games for the Diamondbacks and Angels last season.
Branyan’s low batting averages and high strikeout totals have often masked otherwise solid production, as his .814 career OPS is higher than guys like Raul Ibanez, Aubrey Huff, Michael Young, Torii Hunter, Adrian Beltre, Michael Cuddyer, Miguel Tejada, Vernon Wells, Ichiro Suzuki, and Johnny Damon.
However, given how poorly he hit in limited action last season and the fact that he’s now 36 years old it’s possible Branyan is just about finished. On the other hand, he’s certainly a worthwhile pickup on a no-risk deal and did smack 56 homers between 2009 and 2010.
Seattle declined a trio of 2011 options today: Erik Bedard for $8 million, Russell Branyan for $5 million, and Jose Lopez for $4.5 million.
Bedard and Branyan are now free agents, while the Mariners still control Lopez as an arbitration-eligible player. However, there’s a strong chance they’ll non-tender him by the December 2 deadline unless they can find another team interested in dealing for him before then.
There’s also a small chance they could decide to keep Lopez while hoping he receives a modest raise on his 2010 salary of $2.3 million coming off a career-worst season, perhaps giving him a chance to recoup some value before looking to deal him at midseason (or sooner, if 2009 first-round pick Dustin Ackley is ready to take over second base).
Bedard missed the entire season following shoulder surgery, so declining his option was a no-brainer, but choosing not to bring Branyan back for $5 million is somewhat surprising considering the Mariners traded a pair of prospects to the Indians for him in June. Neither player was a top prospect and picking up a half-year rental is obviously commonplace throughout baseball, but 101-loss teams usually aren’t doing the renting.