It looked like a joke a few days ago, but now it has become a reality that it's entirely possible.
Anthony Castrovince confirmed yesterday that the Indians did in fact extend an offer to Russell Branyan. Whether it was a minor league or major league deal was unknown at the time.
A few hours later, AC uncovered the tidbit that it is in fact a Major League Deal.
As you may or may not know, the Indians 40-man roster is at the 40-man limit, so that would entail cutting someone loose.
First, can Branyan fit this club?
They aren't looking for a starting 1B, DH or 3B. They are trying to determine who should start in left field, but I doubt that would be in the cards for Branyan as he hasn't played in the outfield in forever and his defense at first is shady to begin with.
So Branyan fits the role of bench player. A backup first baseman, designated hitter, third baseman and corner outfielder. Basically he'll play wherever they need him. Now, because he's yet ANOTHER left handed hitter, we've got an issue.
Okay so he's insurance to LaPorta at first, that's fine. But if and when LaPorta is ready to go, he cannot be "platooning" with Matt at first. I don't even care if for those games they play Branyan at first, they put LaPorta in left. That isn't acceptable to me in this season.
With that, I wouldn't have offered Branyan a major league deal. By offering him this deal, he's locked in and sure, if it's money anywhere under 2 million bucks, if the guy hits 20 home runs, it is a bargain.
But really what's the point for a backup player?
This signing will tell me one thing. I'm pretty sure Andy Marte is going to get cut, which may be a cause for celebration for some, but it will signify one thing.
They'll only have two more bench spots to fill, someone who can play middle infield and someone who can be the fourth outfielder. And I say that because Russell Branyan isn't going to be the fourth outfielder, no way no how. They need a guy like Kearns or Crowe backing up everyone. Even if Brantley is on the roster as a starting left fielder with the ability to slide over to center, you need a defensive replacement that can slide into any spot on the outfield.
Oh and back on Marte for a second. They play the same positions or would.. So that type of math tells me Marte is the odd man out. Now according to Buster Olney, Branyan would "DH Some vs Righties" and play some Right Field. Really? That's the plan?
Kind of sounds like I'm not a fan of this potential signing?
Kind of not... If it happens, I won't be dismayed, but my preference is to see him sign with the Tampa Bay Rays rather than the Cleveland Indians. According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Rays and the Indians are the two teams Russ is deciding between and according to him, the Tribe is the favorite.
You have to wonder why the Rays have "mild" interest according to Rosenthal and the Red Sox are no longer in it when yesterday Paul Hoynes' article said that "it is believed that" both the Red Sox and Rays offered bigger base salaries. And according to him, the Indians are offering a bigger bonus package.
Which makes me wonder what the Indians are telling him if this is true. Do they have regular PT for Branyan? I can't see it as I've explained, regardless of what Olney says. Unless of course someone goes down with an injury, then that is a different story. Or of course if LaPorta isn't ready.. Eh...?
According to Matt, he tweeted that he can now resume normal baseball activities, which puts him right on track to not be so far behind for spring training.
So what is going on here and who really knows?
For the record, I think bringing Branyan aboard would be a little bit of a mess. A mess the Indians just don't need this season. I'd stay away. It wouldn't be the worst move in the world, but it's a move I think we could do without.
I think we'll find out within the next two days though what the scoop is. You have to figure Branyan would want to come in to the start of Spring Training knowing his status. For the record, Tampa Bay's pitchers and catcher's report tomorrow morning. Not the report day for him if he were to sign, but still something to keep in mind.
Jerry Crasnick does a feature on ESPN.com called Starting 9, and his latest edition is nine players that missed a significant portion of 2009 and ended the year on the disabled list.
Number five on his list is Jake Westbrook.
How much is Cleveland counting on Westbrook? He is 20 months removed from Tommy John surgery and hasn't pitched in the big leagues since May 2008, and the Indians already have anointed him their Opening Day starter. He'll slot into the rotation ahead of Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, David Huff and Aaron Laffey.The latest Indians Inbox is up and AC covers the Luis Valbuena stuff, Justin Masterson and tackles ideas for Fantasy Baseball team names that relate to the Indians. Best one offered up there was LaPorta Potties.
Last year, my best one was Marte's Buffet. I'm proud to say that team did very very well.
One for me this year just might be, "Fat Mastard."
Finally, great story by Steph Storm of the ABJ on Jon Nunnally the Tribe's new hitting coach.
Nunnally was a former Tribe farm hand back in the 90's, until he was drafted by the Royals in the Rule V draft, two years after the Indians drafted him.
''This is very special to me,'' Nunnally said Tuesday afternoon during a teleconference. ''Once I left the organization, I always wanted to get back to Cleveland to play in the major leagues. I never got that opportunity, so I always wanted to come back here at some point.''Nunnally made a few other stops after he made his debut with Kansas City in the major leagues, but you have to admire someone who, never played a single game for Cleveland's major league team, believes this is very special.
I'm a sucker for guys who want to play and be with the team they are playing/coaching for. So I love this.
Back tomorrow with third part of the Primer and maybe later today depending on what happens with Russell Branyan.