Cleveland Indians sign Russell Branyan to a minor-league deal

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Today, the Cleveland Indians made the type of move our Days of Future Past series was designed for:

Yes. You read that tweet correctly. Heck, the team even provided Russell Branyan‘s Baseball Reference page to make sure everyone was aware that yes, this is the same Branyan whom the Indians drafted 20 years ago (1994, seventh round).

Branyan, now 38-years-old, hasn’t played in the Majors since 2011. By now, the book is out on Branyan – he’s essentially a “three true outcomes hitter,” meaning in a given at bat, he generally will either strike out, walk, or hit a home run, but in the Major Leagues, The 14-year veteran has never posted great OBP rates (his career average is .329), but does, or did, have power (194 career home runs), and in 2,934 at bats, he has 1,118 strikeouts. To his credit, he’s only grounded into 31 career double plays.

Branyan was traded by Cleveland in 2002 to the Cincinnati Reds for first baseman Ben Broussard. Broussard was later traded to the Seattle Mariners, which netted the Indians Shin-Soo Choo, who was later involved in a three-way trade that brought the Indians back both Bryan Shaw and Trevor Bauer, so it’s fair to say the Indians have gotten some mileage out of this trade tree.

It’s unlikely this signing has much, or any, consequence on the Indians. Branyan has been assigned to AAA Columbus, but had been playing in Mexico since being released by the New York Yankees in 2012. There’s a good chance that if Branyan had anything left to offer a big-league club, one of them would have signed him by now.

However, the other side of this argument would be with rosters expanding in September, the Indians can certainly afford to give Branyan the league minimum to sit on the bench until the team needs a pinch-hit home run. Stranger things have happened.

So laugh today, for the Indians have signed Russell Branyan to a minor-league deal. I know I will. And we might still laugh tomorrow, and this might still be hilarious until the end of time. But there’s a non-zero chance this signing could benefit the Indians, and with no risks attached, I’d be happy if the Indians’ front office were the ones with the last laugh.

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