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02/19/10 4:08 PM EST
Branyan accepts Indians' deal
Veteran reportedly agrees to one-year, $2 million contract
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Russell Branyan has reportedly accepted the Indians' contract proposal and could emerge as the club's primary first baseman. ESPN.com reported Friday afternoon that Branyan and the Indians have come to terms on a one-year contract with a $2 million base and up to $1 million in additional incentives. The deal would also reportedly include a 2011 mutual option worth $5 million. The Indians did not immediately confirm or deny the report. If the two sides have come to terms, Branyan, whose ailing back prevented him from playing the final month of the 2009 season with the Mariners, would have to complete a physical examination before the deal is complete. Branyan was not at the Tribe's Goodyear, Ariz., complex, where the physical would likely be conducted, on Friday. Branyan was mulling over offers from the Indians and the Rays in recent days. The Indians were targeting veteran options at first base, where Matt LaPorta will be coming off left hip and left big toe surgeries. But Branyan, coming off a strong season with the Mariners, also has experience at third base and in the corner outfield, which could come into play. He could also be an insurance option at designated hitter, should Travis Hafner's surgically repaired right shoulder continue to give him problems. LaPorta has been cleared to resume full baseball activities, which certainly helps his chances of being ready for Opening Day. In the left-handed-hitting Branyan, the Indians would have a veteran bat to potentially platoon with the right-handed-hitting LaPorta at first base. It's also possible that LaPorta could go back to left field. The Indians have a long history with the 34-year-old Branyan, going back to when they took him in the 1994 Draft. He made his Major League debut with the Tribe in 1998. In 2002, the Indians traded Branyan to the Reds, only to reacquire him two years later in a trade with the Braves. Branyan spent a couple months with Triple-A Buffalo in that '04 season before he was traded to the Brewers. Near the end of the '07 season, the Indians signed Branyan to a Minor League deal, then sent him to the Phillies two days later. Branyan seemingly resurrected his career in Seattle last year, batting .251 with 31 homers, 76 RBIs and an .867 OPS. But concerns about his back made it difficult for him to land the multiyear deal he was looking for this winter. He has reportedly made significant progress in his recovery from the back issue. All of Branyan's time with the Mariners came at first base. He hasn't played at third since 2008 and hasn't been in the outfield since 2007. In 882 games over the last 12 seasons, Branyan has compiled a .234 average, .822 OPS, 164 homers and 396 RBIs. He has logged 946 strikeouts in 2,431 at-bats. Branyan would be just the second -- and, likely, final -- free agent signed by the Tribe to a Major League contract this winter. The club also signed backup catcher Mike Redmond to a one-year, $850,000 deal.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.