Russell the Muscle rumblings, and more

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

A few items of note this morning…

1. The Indians are still talking and have an offer on the table to Russell Branyan. On the one hand, he makes some sense as a left-handed bat to take some of the pressure off Matt LaPorta (who, by the way, was cleared to resume baseball activities following October hip and toe surgeries) at first.
On the other hand, Branyan would be, well, yet another left-handed bat on a roster full of them, and his defense at third base and in the corner outfield (where he’d presumably also be asked to help out) is suspect. FOXSports.com reported that the Rays and Red Sox also have interest in Branyan in these late stages before spring camps open.
2. Obviously, there hasn’t been much Hot Stove activity to discuss, where the Indians are concerned, this winter. But I’ll discuss the moves, non-moves and outlook for 2010 at 2:30 p.m. ET today on hotstove.com, so be sure to check it out.

prospectsbook.jpg

3. Speaking of things worth checking out, Tony Lastoria, of IndiansProspectInsider.com, has released the 2010 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More book, which is available at his site for $19.95 plus shipping and handling. Among other things, the 214-page book includes detailed scouting reports on more than 165 players in the system. Should be a good resource to get to know what’s coming up the pipeline in this transitional period for the Tribe.
4. Over at the Indians Off the Field blog, you can check out the 2009 Indians Community Report video.
That’s all for now, though we’re just days away from spring camp opening in Goodyear, where I will, of course, be hitting you with more Indians info than you know what to do with.
If you’re not doing so already, be sure to follow me on Twitter, which has become, for better or worse, an important tool for keeping up our conversation on all things Tribe.
~AC

21 Comments

I don’t get the interest in Branyan. He’s exactly what they don’t need, a left handed hitter who strikes out a lot. If Laporta isn’t ready, what’s the problem with a Marte/Jordan Brown platoon at 1b to start the year? I’d rather have a contact hitter like Brown than swing and miss Branyan … My defining memory of Branyan is from 2000, the year the Indians missed the playoffs by a game, and there was a game in late Sept against the Twins and they had a guy on first with 1 out down by 1 run in the 9th inning or something and Charlie pinch hit Branyan for Omar Vizquel. An absolutely insane move, especially cause Omar and Robbie Alomar were both hot at the time. Branyan of course struck out. Robbie Alomar then got a single, which would’ve tied the game had they just advanced the runner as Omar likely would have. Charlie Manuel and Branyan cost the Indians a playoff spot in that game, not as much Branyan’s fault since he can’t help the fact that he’s a strikeout machine but that just defines Branyan for what he is, as many runs as he gets you with random HRs, he costs you with strikeouts. I was glad to see the guy go and Branyan in the opening day lineup is another thing that might prevent me from paying for MLB.tv in April.

Well, I’m not a huge fan of the possible Branyan signing, but he is certainly an upgrade over Marte and Brown. My point is if they are willing to spend 2-4 million to bring in somebody it might as well be Jermaine Dye who can play in left field everyday. Brantley can get some more experience at Columbus, Trever Crowe (who can play all three outfield spots) can be your 4th OF, Dye DH or play 1st when LaPorta or Hafner need a rest, and it allows them to keep Marte, Duncan, or Kearns on the ML roster as other options at 1st and LF.

“Certainly,” eh? More like extremely questionable whether he’d be an upgrade. We’re talking about Russell Branyan. Career .234 hitter. Strikes out 1 out of 3 at bats. And he’s now 34 years old with a bad back. The Indians being interested in Dye made some sense, if the price were right. Like Dye, last year Branyan had a great 1st half and an awful 2nd half, where he hit .193. Unlike Dye, hitting .193’s not abnormal for Branyan, what was abnormal was his 1st half where he hit .280 w/22 HRs. He’s left handed and is a career .210 hitter against LHP, so Branyan makes no sense as someone to sub for Hafner. Brown’s hit .330 at every level of the minors, and it’s unknown how he’d do in the majors. Marte hasn’t done much but he still has potential, as evidenced by his performance in AAA and in the majors at the end of August. It’s unknown how a Marte/Brown tandem would produce. Would they combine to hit better than .193, .688 OPS? Almost certainly. With Branyan, we know he will strike out a third of the time and hit no better than .250, and there’s at least a 50/50 chance he doesn’t make it above the Mendoza line. At the very least, it would be preferable to see what someone like Jordan Brown can do, than to fall back on Branyan. Hopefully it’s a minor league offer, and hopefully Branyan doesn’t take it. And hopefully Laporta’s ready by opening day.

For the same reason I wouldn’t necessarily want them to actually sign Dye either, because while I agree he might work well in a platoon with Hafner and and he’s definitely preferable to Branyan, he’d almost certainly push Marte out, and I’d still like to see Marte get a chance this year.

sofla20, Dye is an absolute butcher in the field. The last thing a pitching poor team needs is bad defense. Play Brown and Marte.

Branyan is a waste of money too.

Shapiro just keeps trying to make the same mistake over and over. Signing over the hill vets when he has young players that can do better for less money.

Well, and we have to ask: why sign a guy like this? Is it to make the team better? Because that doesn’t seem like something Branyan will do. Is it to bring fans to games? I don’t see Branyan being a draw. Is it to mentor younger players? I don’t see what they’d get from him. It’s baffling across the board.
What exactly does Jordan Brown have to do to get a shot? Even those who think Brown is over-valued have to at least concede that Branyan isn’t a logical choice over a guy still waiting for a shot, who could have an upside.

Maybe the Indians are expecting a hot summer this year, and Branyan will provide some free air conditioning on those swings and misses? … I noticed that AC said Branyan would make some sense as a left handed bat to take pressure off Laporta. Pressure from what? Right handed pitchers? Laporta had a .210 average against left handed pitchers last year in the minors, and a career .223 average against LHP in the minors. So when’s Branyan going to hit for Laporta? Against right handers, who Laporta hits well? And then they can team up to terrorize lefties by hitting .210? If anything, Laporta should be paired with another right handed batter who handles lefties better (again, someone like Dye would make some sense, but I’d prefer to give Marte a try. Marte’s .284/.867 against LHP in the minors, according to minorleaguesplits, and his .240 major league BA against LHP is an improvement on his RHP number–.208)

I also am severely not in favor of this move. Waste of a roster spot, waste of money, waste of time. And for all the conversations of Dye and his first base fielding abilities, it should repeated that he rejected a $3M offer from an NL team and has a total of 9 innings played at 1B (back in 2005) so most would legitimately question his ability to play the position. I was also agree with those that suggest that IF LaPorta is unable to start the year on the active roster than simply roll with Brown and Marte. What’s the worst that can happen, they actually hit the ball and field adequately? It is about time to stop making nonsense offers simply b/c its a buyers market.

And I realize that there will always be idiot fans out there who wonder, in all honesty, why the Tribe didn’t sign John Lackey, but this is perhaps the one off season where the rational fans would have no problem with the Tribe NOT signing any free agents. Given Shapiro’s track record with FA signings, you’d think he’d jump at the chance at saying “pass” this year.

The only reason I can think of to sign Branyan would be the belief that he’s have another monster power season and that, at mid-season, they can flip him to a contender for a good propsect.

That may indeed be the theory, to me it’s pretty flawed. If anyone could sign him cheaply now and every team is taking a pass, what kind of prospect are they going to get mid-season? Best case Branyan’s hitting a lot of HRs but still striking out a ton and not hitting above .250–basically he’s Kelly Shoppach. The Indians farm system is kind of loaded right now. They definitely don’t need any more mid-tier prospects. It’s not like they’re going to get a great starting pitching prospect for Branyan, and Branyan or any other veteran 1b will push Marte off the roster, which means they almost certainly lose Marte. Even if Branyan’s doing well and they trade him, the best they likely get is a Pino/Talbot type of player. And they lose a 3b “prospect” who dominated the Intl League last year and hit .280 in August in the majors, and there’s the distinct possibility that Branyan is awful this year. I guess judging by their push to sign someone to play 1b, they’ve decided to give up on Marte. I’m surprised that would be the case with the coaching changes, you’d think they’d give the new guys a shot to work with him, especially since Nunnally worked with him in Columbus last year … I’m really starting to question Shapiro’s decision making again. Wanting to sign Hudson was a bad idea, wanting to sign Branyan is worse. It seems the only thing the guy’s good at is flipping major league talent for good prospects. He’s clueless otherwise about how to build a team.

It also seems to me that they’ve given up on Wes Hodges as a viable 3rd base candidate, and have instead focused on Lonnie Chisenhall, which is fine with me, but what if he’s not ready for the majors in the next two years? Given the situation with Peralta, having Marte on the roster could end up being very, very important. Heck, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where he’s our starting 3rd baseman next season! So why push him out for a push where we already have a lot of options?

the Wes Hodges thing is an interesting comment as previously in his 3B inbox AC himself said that he was passing over Hodges mostly b/c he missed all of last year from a fielding development perspective. Chisenhall not only gets the local pub amongst those in the known but also national as he’s ranked like #2 in our farm system or something like that. Yes, 2012 does seem to be the more realistic year for Chisenhall but then again we have seen prospects rise and fall, or vice versa, in a 12-month period before so it wouldn’t be out of the realm of the possibility to see Hodges reclaim so prospect glamor. As for the infield, I would personally like to see the Indians move Carlos Rivero to 2B b/c it would seem that Cabrera would have SS locked up for the foreseeable future. I don’t know about the rest of you but upon occasion I feel justified as a semi-knowledgeable Indians fan when AC reiterates one of our points in his inbox. This IS the year to get Luis-V some ABs against LHP, more than 39 anyhow. Now if we can only convince AC that baseball would be better with a second professional baseball league, a separate entity from MLB away from the $100M payrolls. Kinda pathetic that Cleveland is only ahead of Oakland in terms of payroll for 2010. I’m not one to go off on this tangent and throw a temper tantrum about it (b/c there’s nothing I can do about it) but perhaps it might be time for the Dolans to cut their loses and sell.

LACF, I would lean on the economic principle of buying low and selling high as a reason for potential suitors to buy this team. Unfortunately for Dolan he bought high and although he’s not interested in selling he would do so now at a low value. One can make the argument that with the Indians farm system they would actually be a team on the rise for the future. All this is moot b/c he’s not interested in selling. However, we fans were told that when the team starts winning that the dollars would be spent to further the winning ways. After the 2007 season they stood pat thinking we were going to return to the ALCS. I’m not asking for a $100M payroll like the old days but seriously? Second lowest in the AL?

Level of responsibility the Dolans have notwithstanding, AM, the main issue with the idea of selling the team is this: who would buy it?
Right now, I can’t see there being a lot of people lining up to make bids on the Tribe.

I think the key is that they’ll have the second lowest pay roll THIS year. As evidenced by the supposed Hudson offer, they’re planning on spending money next year (since Hudson’s offer was backloaded in money for next year). I don’t have a problem with them having the second lowest payroll in baseball this year because there’s no reason for them to spend this year — they have too many unknowns and too many holes to fill it with another $20M to get them further up the food chain.
Once things shake out after this year and we know what we have, I’ll be upset if they don’t spend next season in the off season, because by that point they’ll know exactly what their needs are.

I understand that. Unfortunately after the 2007 season when we were close to the mecca they didn’t spend a dime. So your hope that they will spend money in 2011 after a .500 season in 2010 (at best IMO) would be surprising considering their lack of spending after reaching the Championship Series.

Great write up and it really updates you on what is going on in the Indians camp! From Russell Branyan to the new book on the 2010 Cleveland Indians – Top 100 Prospects and More? by Tony Lastoria, which has been released and available from his site!! There is a whole lot of information here! Will really have to follow this up when the spring camp opens in Goodyear where we can get to hear more on Indians!! | Colloidal Silver

Interesting website, i read it but i still have a few questions. shoot me an email and we will talk more becasue i may have an interesting idea for you.

On the other hand, Branyan would be, well, yet another left-handed bat on a roster full of them, and his defense at third base and in the corner outfield (where he’d presumably also be asked to help out) is suspect.

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