The Tribe finally signed veteran Russell Branyan yesterday after a week of speculation.
The signing didn't make any initial waves locally until first-year manager Manny Acta quickly then promptly dubbed Branyan the team's everyday first baseman.
A year ago, even two, this would have been fine with the Tribe expected to contend. Sure, the slugger strikes out a lot as all Indians fans know in having watched him three previous stints with Cleveland. But he's a dependable run producer.
But for the Tribe's 2010 rebuilding squad, making Branyan the everyday first baseman makes little sense on the surface.
Unless the Tribe brass isn't being honest about the health status of Matt LaPorta, who had hip and toe surgeries in the in the off season, LaPorta needs to get a bulk of at-bats at first.
Now, LaPorta's only real shot to make the Opening day roster is in left field. Last time I checked, another young prospect in Michael Brantley was looking to grab that spot.
Right now, we need to know if LaPorta can stay healty and hit for a full season. We need to begin the process of determining if he's a "core" player. After trading CC Sabathia for LaPorta and Brantley two years ago - it's time to get some return.
So why Branyan (yet another left-handed hitter) and why a promise to him to play first (when he could have collected at bats at first, DH, some third and even in the outfield)?
There are too many young players that need to be evaluated while we're rebuilding. Let's get this process going. Indians fans don't want to still be stuck rebuilding in two years.
Understand, I'm all about adding some more veteran presence in the lockkeroom. And perhaps if Branyan starts hot, I suppose he can be traded for more prospects at the deadline.
But we have plenty of them already thanks to giving up on Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez prematurely last year. Now, it's time to see which young players from those trades are worth counting on.
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