Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said recently that the club has committed most of its starts at first base to Juan Miranda, who is out of options. This leaves a pretty good offensive player in Russell Branyan on the bench and an interesting prospect in Brandon Allen down at Triple-A.
It seems like the Snakes are committed to finding out what they have in Miranda, and by that logic, it stands to reason that Allen could be next in line if Miranda falters. That would leave Branyan and his prodigious power without consistent at-bats.
Signed to a one-year, minor league deal, Branyan could be a source of cheap pop for a contending team in search of power as the season wears on. Here's a look at some potential suitors for Branyan's services.
- The Angels are in limbo while Kendry Morales continues to mend from last year's broken leg, and the slugger's return still appears to be a ways off. Current first baseman Mark Trumbo is considered a modest prospect, although he has gotten off to a solid start this season.
- The Rangers have similar options at first base in Mitch Moreland and Chris Davis (who's currently in the minors), though Moreland has shown better on-base skills. The Rangers won't need Moreland to be a stud in what is a loaded lineup, but they can't tolerate severe struggles, either.
- The Tigers could probably use another power bat, but they'd have to get creative and take a defensive risk to accomodate Branyan, moving the defensively shaky Victor Martinez behind the dish full time to free up the DH spot.
- The Rays seem committed to Dan Johnson – who profiles similarly to Branyan – at first base, but he has gotten off to a slow start and has always toed the line between the Majors and minors, even spending a year in Japan recently. As well, Johnson's power is probably not quite on par with Branyan's.
- The Braves have a 21-year-old rookie in Freddie Freeman at first, and though he is regarded as a high-end prospect, it's hardly a given that he'll produce adequately considering his age. Eric Hinske is the backup there but has settled in nicely as a pinch-hitter and occasional starter in recent years.
Of course, a lot could happen between now and June, when the trade market begins taking shape, as Ben Nicholson-Smith noted earlier today. But Branyan looks like a strong candidate to change teams this season – just as he did a year ago, going from the Indians to the Mariners.