This just in via Twitter, the Angels have signed Russell Branyan.
I’m not normally one to get excited about a team singing a 35-year old slugger with a bad back that the Arizona Diamondbacks recently decided wasn’t good enough to play for them, but I am going to make an exception this time.
Before this signing, if someone were to ask be the three things the Angel offense was missing the most my response would have been:
- More homers
- Bench depth
- A left-handed power threat
But now that Branyan has signed up, those three have all been addressed in one fell swoop. OK, so maybe they still need more power and their depth is just less of an issue now, but hey, its an improvement. Probably the best news of all is that the Angels finally have another guy over 5’10″ to put in the lineup.
In all seriousness, Branyan could prove to be a very cheap but savvy addition. Though he is quite the journeyman, Branyan knows what he is and doesn’t try to do anything more than that. He is a menace to right-handed pitchers, he draws a lot of walks, he hits the ball really, really hard and far and he knows his role.
Branyan isn’t going to be the aging vet who refuses to admit he has limitations (hello, Jorge Posada), so don’t expect to see him griping when he gets pinch-hit for against southpaws or doesn’t start for a few days in a row. That may seem unimportant, but given the trade options people had been suggesting, it might have been hard for the Halos to find a useful player that they could add without having to cause some sort of issues based on expected playing time.
As you can tell, I like Branyan very much, but he definitely has his limitations. For starters, he strikes out a ton and that is something that the Halos, who lead the league in Ks, actually could use less of. Nor does Branyan hit for a high average, so expect him to get the Napoli/Trumbo treatment and not bat higher than sixth in the order (at least once Wells returns), since Russell isn’t going to be a very trustworthy situational hitter.
The remaining question now is how much Branyan will play. With Wells and Kendrick on the DL, Branyan should begin playing a great deal, basically whenever a righty is on the mound. Branyan will likely either take over at 1B, where UZR suggests he is an OK fielder, with Trumbo getting his turn to audition in left or maybe Abreu dusting off his glove on occassion. Once the team gets healthy, it will most likely be a more strict platoon situation between Trumbo and Branyan since Trumbo has been a bit vulnerable to righties.
In a worst case scenario, Branyan could struggle like he did in his short-time with Arizona this year (his power might be gone after years of back problems) and end up getting released before long, but at least it won’t cost the Angels anything other than a few dozen Paul McAnulty-esque at-bats.
In a best case scenario, Branyan could crank out 250 ABs and 15 homers before the season is over while protecting Mark Trumbo from being overexposed as he continues to adjust to the big leagues. It might even go down as one of the more underrated moves but impactful moves Tony Reagins would have made in his tenure. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway.