You're familiar with Russell Branyan. Maybe you're familiar with Russ Branyan. Maybe you're familiar with Russell the Muscle. It's all the same guy. And that guy is now the newest member of the New York Yankees organization, at least so long as nobody else has signed as I've been writing this. Dan Martin:
The Yankees agreed to sign Russell Branyan to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training Wednesday.
Branyan is, or has been, a big-time lefty slugger. The Yankees are in the market for a big-time lefty slugger to pair with Andruw Jones. It seems like this signing might have an effect on the Yankees' pursuit of Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Raul Ibanez. Except Martin continues:
The move does not impact the team's chances of adding another lefty bat and they remain in the hunt for Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Raul Ibanez.
Okay, so not much of an effect. Branyan is real interesting as a depth piece, and maybe in a place like Oakland or San Diego he gets semi-regular time, but this is the Yankees. For the Yankees, Branyan is not option No. 1. He's just a guy to have around, in case.
Branyan's 36, with some history of back issues. He used to play third base, but at this point he's a third baseman only in the event of an emergency. And last year, with the Diamondbacks and Angels, he hit just .197 with a .665 OPS. But the year before that, he had an .810 OPS. The year before that, he had an .867 OPS. The year before that, he had a .925 OPS. Branyan swings and misses, but Branyan also swings and hits, and when Branyan hits, people watch. People watch and people gasp.
So, Branyan's got hope. There are worse depth pieces to have. He might not see the majors at all this year, but then he might see them a lot, and he might produce. It's worth noting that he's not projected to hit any worse than Ibanez is.