What Happens When Branyan Comes Back? Who Pays:Laporta or Brantley?
Matt LaPorta needs to play every single day his body allows it.
I will never understand Mark Shapiro's decision to sign Russell Branyan and then anoint him the starting first baseman.
When we needed a quality right handed bat, what did we get? A left handed strikeout machine with a serious back problem.
LaPorta bats from the right side, had tore up minor league pitching to the tune of a career batting average of .291 with 51 homers over three years and was the centerpiece to the C.C. Sabathia trade.
Despite being given sporadic playing time at the major league level he still hit a respectable .252 with seven home runs and only 42 strikeouts. The strikeout number represents a bad two week stretch for Branyan.
Not only had he shown signs of adapting to major league pitching despite the Tribe's haphazard handling of him, he tackled a new position, first base, and from all reports did it well.
During the first week of the season he has handled several throws in the dirt with aplomb and gained his infielders' trust.
Branyan has been out on a rehab assignment and should be ready to rejoin the team soon.
When he does, what happens with LaPorta? Does he move to left field and bump Michael Brantley to the minors? Baseball gods forbid, does he get farmed out to a league he has nothing left to prove, when we need a quality right handed bat to balance the major league lineup?
What was Shapiro thinking?
This team was left hand hitting heavy from the start of the offseason. Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, and Travis Hafner all swing from the left handed side of the diamond. Already this season teams have brought in left handed specialists to face the heart of our order and for the most part they've been successful.
Now we are going to add yet another left handed bat to the mix!
LaPorta could provide some lineup flexibility for Manny Acta as the season progresses to break up the run of lefties in the lineup.
The problem with Laporta moving to left field is that he is still recovering from offseason surgery and likely will be available to the manager less often as an outfielder than as a first baseman.
The team also loses Michael Brantley's playmaking ability at the bottom of the order and replaces it with Branyan's all or nothing stroke.
Less runners on base, less rallies, less runs.
Lost in the numbers shuffle is the psychological impact of having LaPorta and Brantley succeed.
As a city, we took the trade of C.C. Sabathia hard and so far, we haven't had a large return on the investment.
Mr. Branyan, I know its not your fault but could you please go MIA for the rest of the season and let the kids play!
Article update: on 4/19 Michael Brantley was sent to the minors and on 4/20 Russell Branyan was activated.
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