Monday, June 28, 2010

MARINERS COLUMN: The effect of re-acquiring Russell Branyan

By: Nathan Parsons

Joy. That's how I felt when I heard the Mariners re-acquired Russell Branyan from the Indians this past weekend. But then a little confusion quickly swept over me. What benefit would a 34-year-old First Baseman with an injury history have for the Mariners? What impact did the trade have on the already pretty dry farm system (i.e. the Erik Berdard and Cliff Lee trades)? I took some time to examine some stats and see how Branyan could hurt/help the already struggling M's.

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Short term: If you have followed the Mariners at all this season, you might have noticed we don't exactly have a sure fire, cornerstone first baseman. The current carousel we have includes Mike Sweeney (6 HR), Casey Kotchman (3 HR), Matt Tuisasopo (1 HR), and finally, the NOT amazing Mike Carp (0 HR). Josh Wilson has played at first base the last couple of days but not enough to be acknowledged, solely because he is considered an effective shortstop. With Branyan, though, you get 10 HR - the same amount of all our current 1Bs combined!

Keep in mind, Branyan has more HR with a lot less AB (190), and everyone else combined has 353 AB. Secondly, he gives us a sure fire, middle of the lineup bat, something we truly don’t have in Milton Bradley or Jose Lopez.

Finally, he has more RBI than any of our first baseman, beating Casey Kotchman’s 22 RBI to 24 RBI. So basically we get a pretty big upgrade offensively. What about defense though? Isn’t that important to Don Wakamatsu? Well the way I see it, Ryan Howard isn’t exactly a defensive stopper and he’s still good, so I think we can let Russell’s below average glove slide.

Long term: Yes, we can get excited about Branyan providing the Mariners a lot more home runs, but is he worth it long term? As I said earlier, he’s 34, has an injury history, and his contract ends at the conclusion of the season. Again, is he worth the trouble?

The answer is, Yes. Look at the Mariners right now. We don’t really have a first baseman ready to take the starting job yet from the minors and Jack Zduriencik and Don Wakamatsu are smart enough to know that Casey Kotchman is not the answer. We can re-sign him at the end of the season on a 2-year contract, and probably get another 2 decent years out of the Tennessee native.

The Farm System: Thankfully, the Mariners did not give up an arm and leg for Branyan this weekend. We gave up a decent outfielder, Ezequiel Carrera, who was leading the AA Mid-West league in batting average but was never really going to start considering we already have Gutierrez, Ichiro, and the still-developing Michael Saunders.

The other prospect we gave up was a Single A shortstop by the name of Juan Diaz. Diaz batted .311 this year and drive in 29 RBIs. But when you look at it big picture, the maximum potential these guys could realistically have was a bench player.

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