Yanks sign Russell Branyan to minor league deal

When Prospects Bust: Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens
Dark days behind the plate
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Yankees are looking for a left-handed DH on the cheap, and they may have found one today. Dan Martin reports that they’ve signed Russell Branyan to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, where he’ll get a chance to make the team. Joel Sherman says he’ll earn $750k plus incentives while on the active roster. Since it’s a non-guaranteed contract, the signing doesn’t necessarily preclude the Yankees from signing someone like Raul Ibanez or Johnny Damon.

Branyan, 36, spent last season with the Diamondbacks and Angels and was pretty awful. He posted a .300 wOBA with five homers in 146 plate appearances, his worst season in about eleven years. He is just a year removed from 25 homers and a .350 wOBA, however. Branyan does three things really, really well. He strikes out a ton (29.7 K% last three years), draws lots of walks (11.3 BB%), and hits for ungodly power (.248 ISO). He has eight homers in 14 career games at the New Yankee Stadium, including some of the longest blasts in the ballpark’s history (like this one off Javy Vazquez and this one off Al Aceves).

Over the last three seasons, Branyan has hit .250/.347/.507 against right-handed pitchers but only .208/.290/.435 against southpaws, so he’s strictly a platoon bat. Although he has some third base and left field experience under his belt, it’s been a while since he’s played anywhere other than first. Frankly, his best position is DH. Coincidentally, he was part of that 2008 Brewers team with CC Sabathia and the recently signed Bill Hall. If nothing else, Branyan should put on a show in Spring Training.

When Prospects Bust: Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens
Dark days behind the plate
  • Plank

    Nice, I much prefer Branyan to Damon.

  • Dan

    this is AWESOME!!!! I think he is a good fit for the long end of a DH platoon AND its a minor league deal.
    win-win. well done Cashman!

    • CJ

      Awesome? Really? He won’t make it out if Tampa. In the sad event he does, he will be cut by Memorial Day.

  • Urban

    Based on last year, he could very well be done. Then again, that was his first really bad year. No harm on a spring invite, and could very well pay off.

    • jsbrendog

      while i don’t disagree with you because you have both rational points, just to add to it, he is only 26 so there is some chanc of extreme upside

      • Plank

        He’s 36.

      • Ed

        He’s actually 36. He’s been around a long time. He’s probably more likely to be done than to bounce back.

        • Ted Nelson

          It’s definitely possible that he’s done, but as his wOBA against RHP has gone .422, .380, .375… .301… I think some degree of bounce back is pretty likely. It was also only 146 PAs on the season in 2011 coming pretty sporadically after the early season. After June he got a combined 32 PAs. An early season slump can happen to a lot of people as Swisher and Gardner showed last season, and maybe Branyan just never had a chance to pull out of his… or some nagging injury the Yankees think is healed. He did have a monster 13 PAs in August with 3 HRs, 2 BBs, and 1 2B… doesn’t really mean anything, but something to be hopeful about.

          • jsbrendog

            exactly, on a non guarantee minor league deal that’s all you need.

            • Preston

              His BABIP was dramatically low, his other peripherals looked fairly close to career norms.

      • jsbrendog

        wait. apparently not. poster below said 36. i checked.

        he is 36. this comment never happened.

      • Rick

        You couldn’t tell that was a typo when the words immediately following say that “it was his worst season in about eleven years”? I remember my debut in the majors at 15 before I was even a sophomore in HS. #Facepalm.

        • Plank

          Is that you Joe Nuxhall?

        • jsbrendog

          oh come on, why did you delete my comment? he totally deserved it and i didnt attack him in anyway.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

            I didn’t delete anything.

            • jsbrendog

              i couldve sworn i saw it posted. stupid computerz!!!! suxor!!!

              my apologies fine sir.

  • Johnny

    This works.

  • thenamestsam

    Seems like the perfect kind of guy to get on a minor league contract. He fell off a cliff last year, but if he is more like pre-2011 Branyan then he’s basically a perfect fit for the DH spot. And if he’s just completely 100% washed up (a very real possibility), that should be apparent pretty quickly, and you cut bait with no problems.

    • Brooklyn Ed

      If he could repeat his 2009 numbers, that would be perfectly fine.

      • Raza

        If only A-Rod and Tex can repeat their 09 numbers..

        • Brooklyn Ed

          If only A-Rod can repeat his 2007 numbers.

        • FIPster Doofus

          Jeter and Burnett too.

          • MannyGeee

            and Posada too… oh wait

  • Vegetable Lasagna

    Johnny would be a much better option. We know he can hit in Yankee Stadium. We know what he can do when the stakes are the highest. His steal of 2nd and then 3rd was one of the best moments of the 09 WS run. That and Matsui’s monster finale. Those guys are all gone now.

    • whozat

      Yes…35 year old Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui would be great fits, but they ARE both gone. 38 year old Damon and Matsui may or may not be still good (the former has better odds than the latter), but clinging to who they were does nothing but lead to poor decision making.

      It’s possible that Damon would be better than Branyan, perhaps even probable. But the things he did in 2011 are waaay more relevant to the evaluation than what he did in 2009.

    • Brandon

      Branyan hit 8 homers in 47 ABs at new yankee stadium.

      • Dieter

        He has the only upper-deck HR in the new Yankee Stadium. Right to the very seat I used to have in a Sunday plan. How many times I sat there wondering if anyone could hit it that far. Monster shot.

    • Ted Nelson

      Branyan destroyed RHP the three years prior to 2011. His wOBAs were .422, .380, and .375.

      If he bounces back a Branyan/Jones platoon could make the Yankees’ DH spot as productive as any in baseball. Not sure Damon has that upside and not sure if he’d sign for a minor league deal.

      • Woodrow Sweats

        awkward… “Yanks sign Russell Branyan to minor league deal”

        • Woodrow Sweats

          whoops, color me a fool, i thought you were referring to branyan and not damon signing a minor league deal…

          • jsbrendog

            pulls out fool crayola while whistling

      • CJ

        This is exactly my problem with the use of stats. If Branyan is used at DH only at YS only against RHP when ARod and Jeter dont need rest, these hitters will never get in a groove.
        It is almost impossible to maximize performance in 150-300 ABs baseball is too streaky with slumps/hot streaks.

        • Ted Nelson

          What does this have to do with hating stats? If a player doesn’t get into a groove, that’s going to be reflected by stats. General baseball stats are a quantification of outcomes, not the reasons behind those outcomes. No one claims that your wOBA can tell you what’s wrong with your swing.

          I don’t think your beef is with stats, but with oversimplification by people. I also don’t know if the correlation between regular playing time and performance is nearly as strong as you assume. This is an area where stats can be useful. You can look back at guys who got spotty playing time and compare them to themselves at similar ages in regular playing time (these guys are inherently going to worse than regular players… so not really fair to compare then as a group to regulars).

          RHP are the strong majority of pitchers and why is Branyan only going to DH at YS? If he performs to his 2008-10 level, I think he’ll get a whole lot of PAs. If he performs like 2011… he might not make the team, or might get cut fairly quickly.

    • CP

      We know he can hit in Yankee Stadium.


      He has eight homers in 14 career games at the New Stadium, including some of the longest blasts in the ballpark’s history (like this one off Javy Vazquez and this one off Al Aceves).

      It looks like we know Branyan can hit in Yankee Stadium too.

  • Gerald Williams

    Solid move.

  • Ted Nelson

    Interesting. I was expecting Damon, but I like this better. Another nice ninja move.

  • Mister Delaware

    Not Ibanez!

  • Leg-End

    Like this move.

  • Damix

    I almost lost my mind when I read Branyan was 26…he is actually 36.

    I’m sitting here at work thinking there is no possible way I was that wrong about his age (I had guessed 32-33).

  • Rey22

    Yeeeees! Zero risk/very decent return move right there!

  • Comrade Al

    Hope he makes the team just to hear Sterling’s HR call.

    • jsbrendog

      sterling uses branyans nickname for martin.

      Russell Oles Branyan (Russell the Muscle)

      and he was around before martin

  • Lysol

    Good signing. If he can make the team out of spring training, I think Kevin Long can work some magic on him like he did with Granderson

  • Scooter

    Oh this is just wonderful. I love Russell The Muscle! His presence in the box is arousing to my sight.
    Sick Kevin Long on him and let’s ride him to 25 HR’s and a .360 OBP against righties.

  • STONE COLD Austin Romine

    Unless the Yankees pull of a good trade from now till the all star break OR signing Damon for 3 million or less… This was possibly the best they could’ve made post Pineda/Montero trade.

  • JohnC

    I’ve been endorsing the signing of Branyan for 2 months. Glad they finally listened to me!

    • Cris Pengiucci

      So, if he’s washed up, can we blame you and link back to your endorsements?


      Looks like a good move. Plenty of upside with little to no risk.

    • http://yahoo sal

      this guy is a monster at the plate.in our lineup he can hit 25 hrs part – time.great signing.

  • TrollHunter

    I remember that one off Vazquez, I was amazed at Branyan and embarrassed for Javy. That was one of the hardest hit balls I had ever seen.

    • Woodrow Sweats

      now if only cashman can will the red sox into picking up vazquez…

    • Rey22

      One of the most impressive HRs I have ever seen. That ball was destroyed.

  • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

    If nothing else, he’s better than Bill Hall… maybe.

    The more the merrier, I assume tomorrow’s post will be “Yankees sign Raul Ibanez to minor league deal”.

    • Cris Pengiucci

      Now that would be great. Hell, why not go for Damon and Matsui on minor league deals too while they’re at it. :-)

  • JohnC

    I believe Branyan hit one of MO last year at the Stadium didn’t he?

  • paul a

    I been pushing for this. I love Branyans stroke for the stadium.This could turn out to be a real steal.If not we wait for A.J.Burnett to get traded for Garrett Jones.

    • Fernando

      Yes! I’d like that very much. Yankees probably have to eat about 13M-15 leaving Pirates to pay Burnett 9-10M for each of the next two seasons. They save $18-20 million and they get a useful player back.

  • mike_h

    I like the move, and to be honest if the backup infielder is Hall and Branyan the lefty DH then I’m fine with that. Sure I’d prefer Damon but he aint getting any cheaper.

    I was at the stadium that day Branyan hit that upper decker off Javy, man was that a monster shot.

    Guess this was the lefty bat we expected this week

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Yup, correctly predicted that the same crowd waiting to commit mass murder at the Ibanez rumor would have their pants around their ankles here.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    I liked him after the Montero trade. If he is used properly the production should be fine. Round peg in the round hole, Russell your starting today there’s a righty on the mound. Russell your sitting there’s a lefty on the mound. He would be interesting at anytime in the game. Just need a right hand bat available for the pitching change toward the end of the game.

  • Al

    “Since it’s a non-guaranteed contract, the signing doesn’t necessarily preclude the Yankees from signing someone like Raul Ibanez or Johnny Damon.”

    So what exactly can happen now? Can the Yanks carry both, Branyan and Damon?
    How can they give Johnny 2-3 million if Russell looks good in ST?
    I just don’t see how anything but another minor league contract can be expected (like Ibanez would get).
    Damon isn’t signing a minor league deal, so I guess that should take him out of the discussion now.
    Am I wrong? Help me out fellas!

    • jsbrendog

      if damon isnt willing to take a minor league deal then he is shitout of luck. I dont see anyone else looking to sign him. supply and demand (when not discussing bronx parking)

    • Steve (different one)

      My take: the yanks are still trying to create payroll space for Damon by moving AJ. Branyon is insurance if it doesn’t work out.

  • Cashman’s Third Mistress

    Man, Cash loves the swing and miss types – Bill Hall and Branyan, flirting with Carlos Pena…

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      Carlos Pena would have been the perfect LH Bat part of the DH platooon. Dude just straight up mashes RHP

  • http://none Favrest

    I love that move. He can be great with that porch. That and I hate facing him.

  • http://fendersonandhampton.com Cuso

    Those two homers alone are valid reason for giving him a minor-league contract.

    Take a flier, why not?

  • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

    Branyan+Hall=desperate measures

    • Steve (different one)

      Lol. The Yankees currently look like the best team in baseball. They are looking to round out their bench on the cheap. Total desperation!

      • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

        Currently looking like the best team in baseball if you don’t count offensive production from the left fielder, anyone except Cano hitting for average, and dh

  • Joe R

    I feel like this has the makings of a Richie Sexson rerun.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/KChinmaster KenC

    LMFAO WOW! Yesterday me and my friend were talking about going the Yankees Tigers game on April 27th. And I said we should go sit in the 4th deck in right field. And I reminded him of what Russell Branyan did to that ball. And he says ehhhhhhh hes not even playing anymore. NOW THIS! LMFAO!!!!

  • fin

    I see about a million Damon references. I dont see Damon comming to the Yankees. If he does hes giving up any chance of getting 3000 hits and therefore, any chance of making the hall of fame. I think Damon is going to whichever team he thinks he will get the most AB’s.

    • Ted Nelson

      Question is whether any other team will give him regular time either… I mean what team do you think would look at Damon as a starter right now?