Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Russell Branyan Joins Indians, Michael Brantley to AAA

This off season the Indians made a savvy play to pick up Russell Branyan late in the game to help shore up their rotation at first base and designated hitter. The Indians got Branyan, who led the Mariners in home runs in 2009 with 31, and OPS with .867 for the bargain basement price of two million. Considering that the Twins will be paying Justin Morneau, who provided similar production 14.0m for the next four years, that's an incredible deal.

Branyan missed most of spring training with a herniated disk and was placed on the 15-day disabled list to open the season. The Indians have struggled mightily for offense, and the presence of Branyan in the middle of the lineup should go a long way to fixing that.

To make room on the roster for Branyan, the Indians will be sending top prospect Michael Brantley who was acquired in the C.C. Sabathia trade back to AAA. Brantley struggled mightily with the big club, posting an OPS under .416 in 36 plate appearances while striking out in 28.1% of his at-bats. At 23 Brantley is still young even for AAA, so he's got plenty of time to iron out his offensive game, and being at AAA should help.

To make room on the playing field, Matt LaPorta will be moving from first base into left field, where he'll be taking the spot that Brantley vacated. Like Brantley, LaPorta has struggled greatly on offense so far in 2010. However, given his production on offense in 2009 (.750 OPS) and his fantastic minor league numbers, I'd imagine LaPorta will be just fine long-term.

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