Russell Branyan Rumors

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).

Mariners Decline Options; D’Backs Claim Sweeney

The Mariners declined their 2011 options for Erik Bedard, Russell Branyan and Jose Lopez. The Mariners had a $5MM mutual option with Branyan and an $8MM mutual option with Bedard. Lopez is still arbitration-eligible, but he’s a candidate to be non-tendered next month.

The Mariners also announced that the Diamondbacks claimed righty Brian Sweeney off of waivers. Kevin Towers’ bullpen reconstruction has begun. Sweeney, 36, pitched for the Padres in 2004 and 2006 when Towers was the GM in San Diego. More recently, the right-hander posted a 3.16 ERA with 3.4 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 in 37 innings for the Mariners this year.

Outfielder Ryan Langerhans and catcher Guillermo Quiroz elected free agency after the Mariners outrighted them to Triple-A. The Mariners also outrighted lefty Ryan Feierabend, lefty Chris Seddon and righty Sean White to Triple-A and all three can become free agents.


Rosenthal On Fielder, Padres, Rockies

Let's see what Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has for us in his latest installment of Full Count..

  • White Sox GM Ken Williams is said to be confident about landing either Prince Fielder or Adam Dunn.  Williams continues to talk to the Brewers about Fielder but there doesn't seem to be a match as they seek pitching in return.  Meanwhile, the Nats have told everyone that they'll need to be overwhelmed by an offer to move Dunn.  If the White Sox strike out on the two big-time left-handed sluggers, they're unlikely to reach for a player such as Russell Branyan or Brad Hawpe.  Instead, they'll look to go small and try to improve their bullpen and bench.
  • The Padres are now more focused on offense than pitching, but don't expect them to make a big splash.  The club expects pitchers such as Jake Westbrook to clear waivers rather easily in August.  Ultimately, they're likely to make two or three small acquisitions, bringing in guys that won't cost a lot but will help their squad contend.
  • The Rockies are looking for a right-handed hitting first baseman in Todd Helton's absence.  Jorge Cantu was a possibility but his price was high to begin with and now the Marlins appear to be back in contention.  Ty Wigginton also appears to be out of reach as the O's want a young shortstop in return.  Colorado made an inquiry on Jayson Werth but the Phillies are telling teams that they won't deal him unless they get a major league-ready starter.


Mike Trout Unlikely To Be Traded

Angels prospect Mike Trout reached base in all four of his at-bats at this year's All-Star Futures Game, twice on hits, and twice after "forcing errors on sharply struck grounders," to quote MLB.com's Lyle Spencer.  It was yet another impressive performance for the 18-year-old Trout, and one that reiterates his value to the Los Angeles organization.  This is why Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that any potential deal of Trout for a proven major leaguer seems highly unlikely.

It shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise that the Halos are hesitant to deal their first-round pick (25th overall) from the 2009 amateur draft.  After all, Trout has a .358/.440/.509 line in 579 plate appearances for the Angels' rookie ball and single-A affiliates, plus 58 steals in 69 attempts and a good center field glove.  Baseball America's John Manuel ranks Trout second amongst all minor leaguers on BA's list of the top 25 midseason prospects

So while holding onto Trout bodes well for LAA's future, it might also curb their ability to acquire a big hitter at this season's trade deadline.  Players like Prince Fielder or Adam Dunn who have been rumored to be on the Angels' radar could almost certainly be had for a trade package that included Trout.  But since Trout seems to be untouchable, Los Angeles probably doesn't have the necessary minor league talent to attract a superstar big bat.  Hank Conger and Peter Bourjos were both ranked on BA's preseason top 100 prospects list, and Luis Jimenez also played well in the Futures Game, but overall, the Angels' system lacks depth.  The 2010 Baseball America Handbook ranked the Angels' minor-league system as 25th among all major league teams, the same spot that they finished in the 2009 ranking.

Dealing prospects at this point would only serve to weaken an already-thin system, so as we approach the deadline, it's most likely that we see the Angels make a "plan B" style move for some bench help.  For example, Hank Blalock's name has already been mentioned in connection with the Halos, and Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles speculates that Russell Branyan could be made available now that Seattle has Justin Smoak at first base.


What’s Next For The Mariners?

The Mariners cashed in their biggest chip yesterday, dealing Cliff Lee to the Rangers for Justin Smoak and three prospects. With the team currently 34-52 and 16 games back in the division, it's reasonable to expect GM Jack Zduriencik to continue making moves geared more towards contending in 2011 than righting the ship in 2010.

Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times points out that with Smoak set to man first on an every day basis, the Mariners now have three players (Milton Bradley, Russell Branyan, and Michael Saunders) for two roster spots (left field, designated hitter). Bradley's sore knee buys them some time, and Saunders could also be optioned to Triple-A, but flipping Branyan to a contender looking for some pop is very possible.

Saunders was almost sent to Philadelphia in last winter's Lee deal before the Phillies' requested Tyson Gillies instead, and Baker says the Zduriencik regime "hasn't exactly been in love" with holdover prospects from the Bill Bavasi era. Saunders could again find himself on the chopping block.

Backup first baseman Casey Kotchman could go at any time, though it's tough to believe there will be much trade interest in his .208/.292/.344 batting line, regardless of how good his defense is. The same could be said of the currently injured Mike Sweeney, though he was hitting a tolerable .263/.327/.475 before his back flared up.

Jose Lopez is very much available, but Baker doesn't think either Brandon League or David Aardsma will be dealt. Both are under team control for the next two seasons, so the Mariners aren't feeling pressure to move them immediately.

The Lee trade basically represented the white flag, but the Mariners don't have much left to trade away beyond Lopez, some relievers, and possibly Branyan. More than anything, they need to start getting better production out of Chone Figgins (.235/.334/.277) and Bradley (.211/.295/.368) while Jason Vargas (3.09 ERA) and Doug Fister (also a 3.09 ERA) continue to establish themselves as viable starters behind Felix Hernandez.


Odds & Ends: Lee, Miller, Branyan, Phillies

There may be a lot of NBA and NHL rumors and signings floating around today, but the MLB hot stove will only get hotter as we approach the trade deadline.  Here are some items from around the majors…


Odds & Ends: A-Rod, Beltre, Athletics, Rockies

Links for Tuesday, as Tigers reliever Casey Fien returns to the Majors after spending the offseason in waiver wire hell…


Russell Branyan Trade Reactions

The Mariners' acquisition of Russell Branyan last night came as the first major surprise of this year's trading season, given Seattle's place in the standings. Here's a collection of a few early reactions to the move, examining both teams' perspectives:


Mariners Acquire Russell Branyan

Russell Branyan is returning to the Mariners. The Indians sent the slugger to Seattle for minor leaguers Ezequiel Carrera and Juan Diaz in a surprising trade, according to MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. The Mariners will pay the remaining money owed to Branyan this season (approximately $1.1MM), while the Indians figure to pick up the buyout for Branyan's $5MM mutual option, tweets Castrovince. If the Mariners and Branyan exercise the option, the Indians will be off the hook financially, but will send the M's a player to be named later.

The Mariners are 31-43, far removed from contention even after today's win in Milwaukee. Despite their recent hot streak, few expected the M's to trade minor leaguers for big league talent. Instead, the Mariners seemed likely to shop Cliff Lee, who appeared to be available for the right offer. Tonight's trade doesn't mean the Mariners won't listen to offers for Lee. The move could impact the team's 2011 roster, considering Branyan's mutual option for next year.

After hitting 31 homers for the Mariners last year, Branyan considered re-signing in Seattle and ultimately rejected a one-year deal with a club option for 2011. The back problems that sidelined Branyan at the end of 2009 limited interest last winter and he went on to sign a one-year, $2MM deal with the Tribe.

Branyan rewarded the Indians for their investment with ten homers and a .262/.328/.488 line. That's much more production than the Mariners have received from their first basemen, who have hit .195/.279/.295 as a group, with five homers. The Indians, meanwhile, create space for Matt LaPorta by moving Branyan.

Not only do the Indians make room for LaPorta, they add Carrera, a 23-year-old outfielder who the Mariners acquired in the J.J. Putz deal, and Diaz, a 21-year-old shortstop. Baseball America ranked Carrera 15th among Mariners prospects before the season and explained that his speed, defense and pesky approach point to a future as a valuable reserve. Diaz, not considered one of the Mariners' top prospects pre-season, has a .779 OPS in A ball this year.


Olney’s Latest: Zambrano, Starting Pitchers, Indians

In today's blog post at ESPN (Insider req'd), Buster Olney writes about how Diamondbacks' manager A.J. Hinch went against the grain by leaving Edwin Jackson in to throw 149 pitches as he no-hit the Rays last night. One unnamed manager blamed the media for the pitch count craze, but I want to add that much of it has to do with teams protecting investments. With the rise of salaries throughout the game even from just ten years ago, teams don't want to unnecessarily put a pitcher in the line of danger, so to speak. 

Here are the rest of Olney's rumors…

  • The Cubs may wish they could get rid of Carlos Zambrano following his latest tirade, but Olney points out that there's still $45MM left on his contract. Chicago would have to eat a huge chunk of that money to unload him.
  • The trade market doesn't figure to be very robust this summer because there just isn't a lot of money available around the league. The starting pitching market probably won't budge until Cliff Lee is dealt, at which point second tier fodder like Ben Sheets and Kevin Millwood would draw more attention.
  • The Indians' two most marketable players are Austin Kearns and Russell Branyan because neither is making big money. Kearns is owed approximately $417K the rest of the season, Branyan $1.11MM, and both will become free agents as season's end.