Just days after SB Nation's Rob Neyer speculated on where Russell Branyan might land, the mystery has been solved. Branyan is bringing his talents (which include home runs and strikeouts) to the desert. He will join a rather long list of characters vying for a spot in the first base platoon.
Xavier Nady, Brandon Allen, Juan Miranda, and even pitcher Micah Owings were all slated to see time at first. Enter Branyan who comes to the team with a minor league contract and a spring training invitation as a non-roster invitee.
One can assume Branyan, 36, had other options that would have been at least as attractive financially. Perhaps it was the fancy new digs at Talking Stick that convinced him to give the D-backs a try. It's a good thing that clubhouse is so big because the team now has 61 guys in camp which should make for some busy days once the position players report tomorrow.
Here's what Neyer had to say about Branyan:
[...]Branyan can hit, though. Over the last three seasons, he's got a .245/.337/.515 line in nearly 1100 plate appearances. Sure, he strikes out a ton and you don't want him facing left-handed pitchers. But if there's not a semi-regular role somewhere for a hitter like Branyan, the game must have changed while I wasn't looking.
It's a well-established truth that Kirk Gibson wants competition for spots and with Branyan in the mix, youngsters Miranda and Allen will certainly be pushed. Perhaps the team isn't thrilled with their progress and isn't comfortable with either moving forward. Or perhaps Branyan is just a cheap way to get those guys to push hard and fight for the job in spring training.
Here's his numbers and pedigree via the press release:
Branyan, 36, hit .237 (89-for-376) with 47 runs scored, 19 doubles, 25 home runs and 57 RBI in 109 games for the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners last season. He opened the season with the Indians before being traded to the Mariners on June 26. Branyan led the Mariners with 15 home runs despite playing in only 57 games with the club, averaging a home run once every 13.67 at-bats.
Over parts of 13 Major League seasons with the Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays, San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Mariners, he owns a .234 average (657-for-2807) with 394 runs scored, 136 doubles, 8 triples, 189 home runs and 453 RBI in 991 career games.
Branyan is one of 11 American League players to record at least 25 home runs in each of the last two seasons and his 56 long balls since the start of 2009 rank 11th in the AL. In 2008, he became the first player in Brewers' franchise history to reach 10 home runs in 20 games or fewer into his season after doing so in his 20th game. Branyan was drafted by the Indians in the seventh round of the 1994 First-Year Player Draft out of Stratford Academy in Macon, Ga.