Anthony Castrovince is reporting on his blog, Castroturf and on the Indians website that the Indians have extended an offer to the veteran journey man slugger, Russell Branyan. Russell the Muscle had a huge year last year for the Seattle Mariners when given a full time opportunity to play, and has been rumored to be a possible target of the Tribe all winter long. He has never gotten many chances to play full time in his career despite his humongous power because of his propensity to strike out and play bad defense.
Branyan has always hit huge home runs and he began his potential filled career with the Indians way back in 1998, and played in his two best and fullest seasons with the Tribe in 2000 and 2001, and split the 2002 season between Cleveland and Cincinatti. The 134 games he played in during the 2002 season is 20 more then he has every played since, due to injury and his poor batting average and high strike out totals. That season alone, he hit 24 homeruns with only 56 rbi, batted .228 and struck out 151 times. The kicker, he only had 86 hits. WHEN he hits the ball, it goes a long way, like he showed again in 2009 with the Mariners. The Indians are not looking for an every day bat, but they do want a guy on the bench who could come in and hit if Matt LaPorta or anyone gets injured, but that bets the question does the team need another Left Handed bat? Especially one who can’t play defense?
Even if the team does sign him, can we get really excited about a guy who has never, NEVER had more hits then strike outs in a season. He also is notorious for only hitting solo homeruns, and is not a big RBI guy. He would be used to back up the corner infield and outfield spots, and he could be effective. He is also rumored to have offers from Boston and Tampa Bay, but his history with the Indians is extensive. We drafed the slugger in 1994, and he played here until we traded him in 2002, we signed him again in 2004 and traded him again, only to resign him a few years later and trade him 2 days later. He is a big hitter who has never really fit into anyone’s plans long term or full time. He would be a nice bat off the bench, but seems better suited to the DH role or a pinch hitting/back up role in the National League. Matt LaPorta has been medically cleared to resume baseball activities, so it is safe to say that he should be ready to go at opening day, but an insurance policy is never a bad thing to have, and if you are going to have to plug someone in, why not make it someone who can hit some bombs and excite the fans, while tormenting them to an even greater extent.
There is no evidence showing which way Branyan is leaning, but given his history with the team (if I was him) I would not want to come here just to get traded some where else in a month, just sayin… I dont’ know if he would fit in well, and this team already strikes out way too much, but trying to sign a guy like him kind of hints at the team thinking that they might be able to make a push this year for the playoffs, especially signing solid veterans to come off the bench.
Only time will tell, I can’t say I like the move, but even if the team does sign him, there is no indication yet as to whether the offer is a major or minor league deal. But we could very well be welcoming Russell Branyan back to Cleveland.