Russell Branyan Rumors

Quick Hits: Branyan, Bedard, Vazquez, Turner

On this date in 1999, the Twins traded Scott Downs and Rick Aguilera to the Cubs for Kyle Lohse and Jason Ryan. Aguilera and Ryan ended their careers years ago, but Downs has a 0.84 ERA in 10 2/3 innings for the Angels this year while Lohse owns a 2.17 ERA in 66 1/3 innings for the Cardinals.

Here are Saturday's links, as Cliff Lee prepares to pitch against his former Rangers' teammates…

  • Since joining the Red Sox, the club has learned that Adrian Gonzalez is a great mentor for their young Latin players, writes Peter Gammons of MLB.com.
  • As Matt Eddy of Baseball America (via Twitter) points out, the Diamondbacks' release of Russell Branyan marks the end of his time with his tenth different club.  He's had multiple stops in the same place as well as the Indians had and traded him four different times while the Brewers and the Mariners each had him twice.
  • In today's Insider-only blog post, ESPN's Buster Olney says that any team interested in trading for Erik Bedard would have to convince themselves that he could find the same comfort zone on their team that he has with the Mariners.
  • Seattle is "almost certainly in position to ask for a top prospect" for Bedard according to Olney, who has a 3.94 ERA in eight starts this year but remains an injury risk given all his shoulder trouble.
  • Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez indicated that Javier Vazquez is not pitching for his job today, writes Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald. Vazquez has a 7.55 ERA with more walks (24) than strikeouts (20) in 39 1/3 innings across eight starts this year, in part because his fastball velocity has disappeared.
  • Joel Sherman of The New York Post points out that the Yankees once drafted Mets' infielder Justin Turner, but he turned down a $200K offer as 29th round pick in 2005 and returned to school for his senior season. Turner signed with the Reds for $50K as a seventh round pick in 2006, then was traded to the Orioles in the Ryan Freel-Ramon Hernandez swap and was later claimed off waivers by the Mets. He went 3-for-4 with an RBI against the Yanks last night.

Diamondbacks Release Russell Branyan

The Diamondbacks have released Russell Branyan according to Bob McManaman of The Arizona Republic. The move makes room on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters for Micah Owings.

Branyan, 35, was stuck in a three-way platoon with Juan Miranda and Xavier Nady at first base. He hit just .210/.290/.339 with one homer in 69 plate appearances, 17 of which came as a pinch-hitter. Dan Mennella looked at Branyan as a potential trade candidate last month, but now any club could pick him up for nothing but the minimum salary.

The 28-year-old Owings has a 4.85 ERA in seven Triple-A starts this year, and he's hit .250/.357/.500 in 14 plate appearances. The D'Backs indicated that they hoped to use Owings on the mound and occasionally at first base when they signed him to a minor league deal back in January.


Trade Candidate: Russell Branyan

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.



Opt-Out Notes: Batista, Isringhausen, Bush, Chavez

A few notes on veterans with opt-out clauses from around the league…


Contract Notes: Cabrera, Feliz, Branyan

Some thoughts and details on contracts around the game…

  • Some executives in baseball wonder if the Tigers will try to make Miguel Cabrera's contract non-guaranteed, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Twitter links). The first baseman, who was arrested and charged with driving under the influence last night, has five years and $106MM remaining on his long-term deal with the Tigers. The Mets unsuccessfully attempted to convert Francisco Rodriguez's contract into a non-guaranteed deal after his legal trouble in 2010.
  • Pedro Feliz can opt out of his deal and become a free agent if he isn't on the Royals' Opening Day roster, according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. Alternatively, he can go to the minors for $75K.
  • Russell Branyan has a similar clause in his deal with the Diamondbacks, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). 

Diamondbacks Sign Russell Branyan

The Diamondbacks have signed Russell Branyan to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, the team announced. 

Branyan, 35, will certainly help replace some of the power lost when Mark Reynolds was traded away and Adam LaRoche signed with the Nationals. The 35-year-old is coming off two straight years with 25+ home runs, though he's also spent time on the disabled list with back issues each year. Branyan is a classic three true outcomes player; 47.2% of his 933 plate appearances over the last two seasons ended with strike three, ball four, or a jog around the bases. 

Arizona was slated to have Brandon Allen and the out-of-options Juan Miranda battle it out for the first base job in Spring Training, but Branyan adds a veteran option to the group. Allen and Miranda have combined for just 266 plate appearances at the big league level, and all three players are left-handed hitters, so a platoon isn't possible.  

This will be Branyan's fifth one-year contract in as many seasons. He is represented by ACES. SI.com's Joe Lemire first reported that the slugger had found a job (on Twitter). 


Heyman On Fielder, Papelbon, Rays, Giants

Prince Fielder is looking to join the $200MM club and the Red Sox considered trading Jonathan Papelbon to the A's or White Sox, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. Here are the details and the rest of Heyman's rumors:

  • Fielder is looking for at least eight years and $200MM or so when he hits free agency after the season, according to Heyman. Not surprisingly, the Brewers don't like the idea of committing that much to their first baseman.
  • The Red Sox talked to the A's and White Sox about Jonathan Papelbon. Boston appeared willing to offer Rafael Soriano a one-year deal and make him their closer. If the sides had agreed to a deal, the Red Sox would have sent Papelbon elsewhere, likely to Oakland or Chicago
  • The Rays, who are moving toward a deal with Johnny Damon, have also considered Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Russell Branyan and Nick Johnson.
  • The Yankees hope to hear from Andy Pettitte soon, but the lefty is still mulling retirement.
  • The Giants appear to be nearing a one-year deal with Andres Torres. As our Arb Tracker shows, Torres filed at $2.6MM and the Giants countered with $1.8MM.
  • Heyman says there's "scuttlebutt" that the Rangers could look to lock Josh Hamilton up on a multiyear deal. 
  • Heyman talked to executives about Joey Votto's new deal and arrived at the conclusion I reached after talking to insiders earlier in the week: the Reds didn't appear to gain much from their deal with the reigning NL MVP.
  • Heyman points out that Jose Bautista's representatives will have to convince arbitrators to overlook the string of pedestrian seasons that led up to Bautista's mammoth 2010 campaign. For more on Bautista's case, click here.

Olney On Padres, Young, Manny, Branyan

The Padres like that Brad Hawpe posted a .903 OPS two years ago and is still just 31 years old, writes ESPN.com's Buster Olney. The team's front office is confident in Hawpe's ability to play first, but club execs don't know what they'll get from the longtime Rockie at the plate. Here are the rest of Olney's rumors:

  • Olney suggests a player’s inability to play the field seriously compromises his value, since teams would prefer to have roster flexibility. Though Michael Young may become the Rangers’ regular DH, his ability to play all over the infield is a plus that players like Jim Thome and Vladimir Guerrero cannot offer.
  • Executives wonder “where the heck [Manny] Ramirez is going to land – if anywhere.” As Olney notes, Ramirez has the potential to become a distraction.
  • Russell Branyan can still play first base when healthy, which is why one GM believes he’ll find a job. “He’ll get a shot someplace," the GM said.

Padres Close To Deal With Brad Hawpe

4:48pm: The Padres are "close" to a deal with Hawpe, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

4:09pm: The Padres are considering Russell Branyan and Brad Hawpe as they look to acquire a first baseman. Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the club is talking to Hawpe, who has been a target since earlier in the month (Twitter link).

The Padres are open to making Branyan part of a platoon at first base, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney. Branyan excels against right-handed pitching (.241/.340/.501 career line), but struggles against lefties. If the Padres combined Branyan with a right-handed hitter like Kyle Blanks, they could get affordable production.

Blanks is recovering from Tommy John surgery and there's a good chance he won't be ready to start the season. Branyan hit 25 homers last year and 31 in 2009, but he has missed time with an assortment of back issues over the course of the past two seasons. Those injuries limited his value last offseason and he settled for a $2MM guarantee though he hoped for a multiyear deal.

Nick Johnson, another first baseman who bats from the left side and has dealt with back injuries, could fill a similar role for the Padres, in my opinion. Adam LaRoche is another possibility, but he has been discussing a three-year deal with the Orioles and the Padres rarely hand out multiyear free agent contracts (Orlando Hudson's deal is the exception, not the rule).

Another one of San Diego's free agent additions, Aaron Harang, is under the same agency (ACES) as Branyan, for what it's worth. About 9.6% of over 10,000 MLBTR readers expect Branyan to be the Padres' Opening Day first baseman.

Hawpe, 31, declined an offer of arbitration from the Rays, but he won't cost a draft pick. In 346 plate appearances for the Rockies and Rays last year, he posted a .245/.338/.419 line with 32 extra base hits. Like Branyan, he has better career numbers against right-handed pitching (.288/.386/.504 line).


Odds & Ends: Messenger, Martin, LaRoche, Branyan

Some links for Veterans Day…

  • MLBTR echoes commissioner Bud Selig's thoughts on the death of a legendary Mariners broadcaster: “All of Baseball is terribly saddened … by the tragic news that Dave Niehaus, the voice of the Seattle Mariners, has passed away."
  • Randy Messenger has agreed to a deal with the Hanshin Tigers, according to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker. The five-year MLB veteran pitched for the Mariners in 2009.
  • Three former White Sox employees were indicted on federal fraud charges yesterday, according to Melissa Segura of SI.com. They allegedly accepted $400K worth of signing bonuses intended for Latin American prospects.
  • Russell Martin's agent repeated to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times that the catcher wants to play for the Dodgers in 2011. There's been extensive speculation that the Dodgers could non-tender or trade Martin.
  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington told MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch that Andy LaRoche has to prove his worth to the Pirates, who are attempting to determine the best way to maximize the 27-year-old's value.
  • Russell Branyan has left Dan Lozano and is now represented by ACES, according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter).