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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Angels Disable Howie Kendrick, Sign Russell Branyan

Victor Rojas, among others, have tweeted that the Angels have disabled Howie Kendrick, and signed Russell Branyan. Branyan had been released by the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier in the month; the 35-year-old was hitting .210/.290/.339 with one home run as the team's sometime starting first baseman. He hit .215/.319/.483 in 2010 with Seattle, with 15 home runs. He's always had a lot of strikeouts, and isn't especially good at getting on base, but he can hit for some power when he's working right — and there's little reason to think that he's right now.

Earlier in the week, MSTI named him as a possible Dodger pickup to help salvage something like respectability, especially considering the Dodgers are getting next to no production out of first base:

Russell Branyan, 1B. Despite the protestations of DodgerTalk announcer Joe Block, whom I generally like, Branyan is without question a superior bat to James Loney. Between 2008-11, Loney has had 2134 plate appearances, with which he’s produced a line of .276/.336/.399 (.735 OPS) and 37 homers. In that same timeframe, Branyan has had 1154 plate appearances, just under half as many, and has put up .243/.334/.504 (.839 OPS) and 69 homers. Look past the batting average, which we know isn’t super important, and Branyan has the same on-base skills and is far more powerful. I believe Block has been taken in by the “RBI” narrative, which we know isn’t an accurate portrayal of skill.

But I wouldn’t be bringing Branyan in as the everyday first baseman, or even to replace Loney on the active roster. Branyan is 35 and a poor defender, and only three times has he received 400 plate appearances in a season. He’d be here because he can murder a baseball, and on a team with the weakest bench in baseball – remember, this is the club that had to throw Castro up with the bases loaded last week – that’s an incredibly valuable skill. Branyan’s role would be as a bench power bat who gets a start at first base once a week or so. We could easily make room by DFA-ing the failed current lefty bench power bat who gets a start once a week or so, Jay Gibbons. Any flexibility lost by not having Gibbons to play in the outfield some would be minimal as Tony Gwynn is barely playing right now anyway, and both Casey Blake and Russ Mitchell can spot out there as needed. Ideally, Trayvon Robinson comes up later in the season to push Jerry Sands to first base and Loney off the team, and then Sands and Branyan can be a nice lefty/righty duo.

Earlier, Mike Scioscia again reaffirmed that the team will not call up top prospect Mike Trout.

Update: The Times has more.

Update 2: Scioscia expects Branyan will be the left-handed half of a first base platoon, with Mark Trumbo taking the right-handed at-bats against lefties. Trumbo is hitting .222 vs. righties, but what that means is that the worse defensive glove will get most of the playing time. Dislike.

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