Diamondbacks Sign Russell Branyan

Arizona's master-plan to corner the global market in first-baseman continues apace, as Jon Heyman just Tweeted that Arizona has signed Russell Branyan - apparently to a minor-league contract.  Branyan hit .237/.323/.487 in 2010, between Cleveland and Seattle - no arguing about his power, as he hit 25 home-runs in 428 PAs. All told he has a 130 OPS+ over the past three seasons.

Branyan will never hit for average. From what I can see, his career number there, of .234. is ahead only of Jason LaRue's .231, among active major-leaguers with 3,000 PAs. However, the overall numbers are so good, one has to wonder why Branyan still found himself jobless in the second-half of February. It probably has something to do with his reputation for being injury-prone, which has seen him miss almost a hundred days since the start of 2009. Only yesterday, Rob Neyer wrote about Branyan, calling him "the most useful guy who's still out there," and suggesting he "would be a fine bench player for a number of National League clubs."

Regardless, it seems odd for the Diamondbacks to pick him up, not least because he's yet another left-handed option at the position, joining Brandon Allen and Juan Miranda - the former must be wondering if Kevin Towers has some kind of personal vendetta against him. However, I can understand us wanting to stock up on power-hitting lefties, as Chase Field seems to play particularly well for them - last season, the park factor for HR at Chase was 114 for lefties, and only 102 for righties.

But Branyan strikes out a hell of a lot - in almost 30% of all his plate-appearances since 2008. And that's actually cutting back a bit, since from 2004-2007, it was 34%, which is beyond the career number of Mark Reynolds. While he would be a potent weapon to have on the bench, even the newer, restrained Branyan doesn't seem to fit into the Towers model of 'putting the ball into play' and 'manufacturing runs.'  We'll see how this shakes out, but I think I'm going to have to revise my upcoming article on our first-base situation...

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