Indians extend offer to Branyan
Left-handed hitter would provide depth at corner positions
CLEVELAND -- Looking for depth at the corner infield and outfield spots, the Indians have an offer on the table to free agent Russell Branyan. It is a Major League contract believed to be for one year, though the financial specifics were not available.
In negotiating with Branyan, who, according to FoxSports.com, has also received interest from the Rays and Red Sox, the Indians are seeking an insurance option at first base because Matt LaPorta will be coming off surgeries on his left hip and left big toe. But Branyan, who had a strong 2009 season with the Mariners, also has experience at third base and in the corner outfield positions, and that versatility could come into play.LaPorta has been cleared to resume full baseball activities, which certainly will help his chances of being ready for Opening Day. In the left-handed-hitting Branyan, the Indians would have a veteran bat to potentially platoon with the right-handed-hitting LaPorta at first base. The Indians have a long history with the 34-year-old Branyan, going back to when they took him in the 1994 Draft. He made his Major League debut with the Tribe in 1998. In 2002, the Indians traded Branyan to the Reds, only to reacquire him two years later in a trade with the Braves. Branyan spent a couple of months with Triple-A Buffalo in that 2004 season before he was traded to the Brewers. Near the end of the '07 season, the Indians signed Branyan to a Minor League deal, then sent him to the Phillies two days later. Branyan seemingly resurrected his career with Seattle last year, batting .251 with 31 homers, 76 RBIs and an .867 OPS. But concerns about his back, which sidelined him for the last month of the season, have made it difficult for him to land a job this winter. He has reportedly made significant progress in his recovery from the back problem. All of Branyan's time with the Mariners was at first base. He hasn't played third base since 2008 and hasn't been in the outfield since 2007. In 882 games over the past 12 seasons, Branyan has compiled a .234 average, .822 OPS, 164 homers and 396 RBIs. He has logged 946 strikeouts in 2,431 at-bats. Branyan would, of course, do nothing to address the decidedly left-handed nature of the Tribe lineup. He likely wouldn't get many at-bats at the DH spot, which belongs to fellow left-hander Travis Hafner. Manager Manny Acta had said earlier this winter that he'd like to see the Indians add another right-handed bat to the mix.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.