...especially when teams like the Brewers are giving away guys like Russ Branyan for free. The cornfed righty-masher was designated for assignment today, meaning that the Brewers have ten days to try and work out a trade, or else risk losing him to waivers. Odds are on the latter, since Doug Melvin's been trying to trade Branyan all winter, to no avail. Whoever wants him is pretty much going to get him for free.
Although it seems like dumping Branyan to make room for Corey Koskie is a questionable move, Branyan isn't a National League player - he can't field any position worth a damn, and his bat is too good to keep around on the bench for the occasional pinch-hit appearance. He's a born DH, and although he's totally lost against southpaws, whichever AL team gives him 400-450 platooned at bats is going to have itself one hell of a quality player. Guaranteed.
Back when he was a part of the organization, it seemed like I was comparing Justin Leone's offense to Russ Branyan's every two or three weeks. When healthy, they're both textbook Three True Outcomes kinds of bats, drawing walks and blasting homers while piling up the strikeouts. They're also both pretty helpless against same-handed pitchers. The difference? Where Leone would've faced an uphill battle in Safeco Field, Branyan's an extremely pull-conscious left-handed hitter. Huh.
To me, Branyan looks like the rarest of the rare breeds - the no-downside acquisition. What's the worst-case scenario, here? That he completely bombs? That he gets hurt in Spring Training and misses the season? The only potential concern here, as far as I can tell, is that Branyan gets loaded and tries to smack the living daylights out of Felix Hernandez in a mid-afternoon barfight, but Felix could probably take care of himself, and besides, it's Thornton's fault for giving him a fake ID. That's it. The worst possible outcome is that Branyan sucks as much as Greg Dobbs and costs the Mariners $800,000 that they probably wouldn't have spent on anyone else anyway. How horrifying.
And the upside? Branyan becomes the second-best hitter against right-handed pitchers in the lineup while supplying much-needed depth at the corner infield positions should either Beltre or Sexson go down. For less than $1m. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better example of freely-available talent.
Alas, as desirable a character as Branyan may be among the more statistically-inclined Mariners fans, this is a move that has a 99.9% chance of never happening, since he and Carl Everett would essentially be redundant (in the eyes of the front office), and Matt Lawton's already signed up as the #1 lefty bat off the bench. Sure, Branyan's a better hitter than both of them, but in all fairness they got here first, and it's too late to backtrack. So, failing a sudden change of heart by Bill Bavasi, here's hoping that Branyan gets his shot somewhere else - preferably outside of the division - and proves his worth to the rest of the league, ensuring steady employment for the next several years. After all, in a world that thinks Ryan Franklin is valuable, a guy like Branyan should get at least one seven-figure contract before calling it quits.