If you haven’t heard yet, the Mariners just traded for Russell Branyan. They gave up two prospects: Ezequiel Carrera, a slap-hitting speedy outfielder, and Juan Diaz, a decent-glove small-stick shortstop. If either of them develops into more than a bench bat in the bigs, it will be a surprise.
Some of the local Mariners blogs are trying to figure out the point of this trade and are claiming it’s hard to understand. I understand their perspective, but I think it’s pretty easy to understand. The Mariners had the worst collection of first basemen I’ve ever seen. They don’t anymore. It seems pretty simple. Sometimes you just have to get better in whatever way you can.
As amateur analysts and wannabe GMs, we tend to oversimplify. When the Mariners are clearly out of contention, as they are now, we focus on how to get better for the next season. The real management doesn’t have that luxury. They have to sell tickets, and Russell Branyan helps do that. He’s a name that I would bet many fans associate with last year’s season, and on top of that he brings some power, which is sorely needed and a lot more entertaining than what we’ve seen so far. After missing most of the first month of the season, Branyan has played in just over 50 games and is already at 1.2 WAR, better than any Mariner except for Guti and Ichiro. He has 10 homers, 3 more than Milton’s team-leading 7.
There’s the argument that the M’s should be giving playing time to younger players to see what they’re capable of. But who exactly are these young guys that Branyan is stealing time from? Carp is bad. Kotchman is the worst hitting first baseman I’ve ever seen. They could possibly trade for someone, but if Jack Z. has the opportunity to trade for a younger first baseman/DH with potential, Branyan’s not going to stop him. He’s a good stop-gap who could possibly factor into the future if needed
My first response on hearing about this trade was, “Great, someone who’s actually fun to watch!” It doesn’t have to mean something big and important. It’s just a move to make this team better. Not good enough to magically chase down the Rangers, but better. The more you lose, the harder it is to turn things around the next year. This team has plenty of room for Russell The Muscle and his home runs.