Thursday, February 18, 2010

Indians extend offer to Russell Branyan

The Cleveland Indians have reportedly made an official offer to former Indian Russell Branyan. Branyan started his career off with the Tribe in 1998, and was utilized as a power-hitting utility-player. Branyan played both corner outfield positions, third base and DH in his tenure with Cleveland. On the outside looking in, he looks like a perfect fit for the Tribe.

So can anyone tell me what the Indians are thinking?

The Indians are in dire need of a right-handed bat, initially to supplement the line-up as Matt LaPorta heals from his offseason surgery on his hip and toe, then to support a left-hand loaded line-up.

Branyan is a left-handed hitter.

The reports seem to cover this more-than-minor issue and have Branyan in a potential platoon with the aforementioned LaPorta at first base. Yeah, you heard me right...a platoon. A lovely platoon. So I just have to ask, is Eric Wedge manipulating Manny Acta as a marionette? Wedge was platoon-happy in his tenure as Tribe manager, perhaps trying to make work the crud that Shapiro was dealing him, such as David Dellucci and Jason Michaels. Now, Branyan appears to be a guy that can platoon with LaPorta and Jhonny Peralta, and perhaps even keep Michael Brantley from starting in left. Is Branyan really that guy?

Should Branyan sign this deal, does this mean that the Indians dealt CC Sabathia with LaPorta at the center of the deal only to platoon him with a guy that has spent his career striking out in nearly 40% of his at bats? Does this make any sense at all to anyone? LaPorta, coming of two surgeries this offseason, has yet to make an impact with the Tribe, but hasn't had the opportunity to spread his wings as of yet. Is this supposed to help him? The 25-year old should have every opportunity to play every day. Does signing Branyan preclude that from happening? Does the centerpiece to the Sabathia deal really need a back-up plan? Great PR Shapiro, well done.

All of the sudden, this idea that the Indians are going to take a look at the youth this year is seemingly garbage. LaPorta is apparently slated to platoon with a has-been, Brantley might not make the big league club and Luis Valbuena has been sent a message by Tribe management, right or wrong, that they were willing to trade for someone to either platoon with him or completely take over.

As for Branyan, who's mulling over deals from both Cleveland and Tampa Bay, this really isn't anything against the guy. I always wanted him to find a spot with Cleveland in his previous tenure, and tear the cover off the ball. It never happened.

Now he just appears to be a cheap road-block to the talent Shapiro acquired in dismantling the team. Of course, this could turn out to be another minor-league deal, in which case I can't blame the Indians for taking a flyer on the guy. That said, if Branyan is eventually signed to play significant innings, you really have to scratch your head at Mark Shapiro's off-season philosophy.

Of course, most of us are likely bald after the past eight or nine years, so why should this year be any different.

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