Howie Kendrick tested his injured hamstring by running and fielding grounders earlier this week, but he hasn’t played since May 19 and today the Angels finally placed him on the disabled list.
To fill Kendrick’s roster spot the Angels have signed free agent Russell Branyan, who was released by the Diamondbacks last week after being passed on the depth chart by Juan Miranda.
Branyan tends not to stay in one place for very long because teams get frustrated with his huge strikeout totals, but the guy can hit and with Kendry Morales out for the season and the .322-hitting Kendrick now sidelined too the Angels can certainly use some more power in the lineup.
Branyan has an .816 OPS with 35 homers per 500 at-bats for his career and can be particularly productive if spotted primarily versus right-handed pitching. He could form a platoon with the right-handed-hitting Mark Trumbo at first base or spend most of his time at designated hitter, with Bobby Abreu shifting to left field instead of the Reggie Willits-Alexi Amarista platoon.
And if manager Mike Scioscia really wants to get crazy Branyan has over 2,400 career innings at third base and another 1,500 innings in an outfield corner, so he brings some useful versatility along with a bat that produced 25 homers in 376 at-bats last year and 31 homers in 431 at-bats in 2009.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.