Shappy’s Telling Quotes On the Brantley/LaPorta/Branyan Triangle

Scott put it in this morning’s WWW, but Indians.com’s Castroturf blog has some very telling information in it yesterday. Two things really jumped out at me. The strange case of Russell Branyan and the Michael Brantley dilemma.

Both stories are intertwined.

Michael Brantley is clearly the future in left field and as the leadoff man. Yet, despite a .313 September with the big club playing every day, the Indians seem content, no matter what happens, to send Brantley back to Columbus for more seasoning. Meanwhile, unless he isn’t ready due to his offseason hip and toe surgeries, Matt LaPorta is all but assured to be on the opening day roster as a starter.

Check out the quote from GM Mark Shapiro from yesterday:

“LaPorta’s a guy that, age-wise, profile-wise and experience-wise, is ready to compete at the big league level. Regardless of what adjustments he has to make, he has to be up here in order to get better.

Michael Brantley is a different story. He’s 22 years old, he had a solid but not special Triple-A season, and he had 100 good plate appearances up here, whatever that means. He does have an approach on the field that’s above his chronological age. That being said, there’s benefits to him being here and there’s benefits to him being finished in the Minor Leagues. We’re not going to make a decision off a Spring Training performance for anybody.”

Can you say “service time?” This decision reeks of wanting to make sure that the 22 year old Brantley stays under the team’s control as long as they possibly can. Despite the fact that Brantley is hitting .316 (6-19) this spring, his fate seems to be already decided. To his credit, he is taking it all in stride.

“Branyan or no Branyan, it did not matter,” he said. “I just wanted to compete and earn a job and just battle. I try to put up good at-bats, steal a few bases and show the overall aspects of my game.”

“At the end of camp, we’ll find out where I’m going. It’s up in the air. There’s nothing I can do except play on the field. I try not to worry about where I’m going or what people are saying.”

And speaking of Russell the Love Muscle, Anthony Castrovince portrayed the following picture of the Indians big offseason free agent acquisition:

He strolls into the complex around the time his teammates are heading out to stretch, and he’s coy — if not completely evasive — with the media regarding the status of his recovery from lower back problems. Branyan has a herniated disc in his back, and it has prevented him from setting foot on the field with his teammates for something so simple as a morning batting practice session. He told reporters the other day that he had stopped taking groundballs and swings and was hoping to play catch on Sunday. Not the best timetable to be on with three weeks left in camp, obviously. But the company line is that as long as Branyan can play the final week of games, he can be adequately prepared for the season.

I’ve long been on record as saying the Branyan signing was a huge mistake, but now it seems as though he is being treated like he is the second coming of Jim Thome. Guess what – he isn’t. He is still a windmill who happens to be coming off the best season of his mediocre at best career. However, that season ended with a month on the DL with the same bad back he is dealing with now.

I’m calling my shot – Branyan will start the season on the DL and the Indians still will have Brantley in AAA. Your starting left fielder will be Austin Kearns. That will be an extremely weak and cheap decision. LaPorta should be at first and Brantley should be in left. But that’s just one guy’s opinion.

photo via Cleveland.com

  • Hamsterdam

    The Tribe being cheap? No. This season is going to be an absolute disgrace.

  • Chris

    TD, that would make perfect sense to me that the Indians would pull something like this. My question is, how does it benefit them to play Austin Kearns and Russell Branyon as opposed to Brantley and whomever another younger guy (other than keeping control of a player longer, I understand that part)?

    I’m not sure who feels the same way I do, but to be completely honest, I wouldn’t mind paying to watch some exciting young guys play. However, I absolutely refuse to pay to watch the two aforementioned stiffs occupy space on a baseball field. There have to be more people like me, right?

  • Chris

    This sentence didn’t make sense – “My question is, how does it benefit them to play Austin Kearns and Russell Branyon as opposed to Brantley and whomever another younger guy.

    Fixed.

  • AMC

    TD – right on the money. The Branyan signing was just a INEXPLICABLE move and it just continues to get worse because he’s already hurt. The Indians will be lucky is they get 1/4 of a productive season out of the windmill. Guarantee Brantley will be up with the big club the second he can be without picking up service time. Leave it to the Indians to get against the number one rule of sports – put your best guys on the field.

  • Jon Steiner

    I know I keep beating this drum, but doesn’t it matter that Brantley really struggled at AAA last year? Sure, he’s having a nice spring and had a 10-game hitting streak during September call ups, but those are relatively small samples compared to 528 plate appearances against AAA pitching where he bat .267.

    Couple his apparent need for development with the good idea of limiting his service time (controlling a valuable asset is a good thing), and I don’t see a huge problem with sending him back down.

    Starting his arbitration clock is irrelevant. It’s already started; he has 34 days of ML service time from last September. If I were the Indians, I would try to make sure that over the course of the 2010 Season, two things happen with Brantley: (1) he plays everyday somewhere so that he gets better; and (2) he doesn’t accrue more than 138 days on the active roster, keeping him under 172 for his career (which gives us an extra year of control in 2016, assuming he’s on the active roster from 2011 on out).

  • Max

    Dear Cleveland Indians,

    The weather in Cleveland is bad enough without you, as an organazation, trying to piss in my ear, and tell me its raining. I can deal with a cycle of perhaps 2-3 good years, and 7-8 years of suckitude (not well, but the world won’t end), but to be treated as if I’m a moron in the meantime is a bit insulting. I’d be a moron if I bought into this crap and gave you any of my money. Let the young guys play. I dont want to pay to watch you run a business the “right way” (i.e. keeping players service time down so you have longer to control them before you trade them for a water cooler, and a jugs machine). Fans pay to watch exciting players do things they cannot do. Im not interested in donating funds to the spin machine.

    Regards,

    The Kid who used to ride his bike from Hunting Valley to the Green Road rapid station and ride the Rapid downtown, walked from the Terminalto Municpal Stadium in order to spend his lawnmowing money to watch Mark Lewis and Felix Fermin scuffle around the infield.

  • Lyon

    @2… 100% agree. I’m not paying to watch some old guys play crappy ball. But I would be more willing to watch the younger guys go out there and grow & get better.

  • Max

    *please note, my family were serfs in Hunting Valley, we were not landowners

  • Lloyd Braun

    TD – I agree with you on Branyan. Not a good signing at all.

    However, I don’t understand the urgency to have Brantley open with the club. I have no problem with the Tribe delaying his service clock. Why have Brantley up for the first two months in a season in which you won’t be contending and lose a year down the road when Brantely would be in his prime?

  • Lloyd Braun

    @5

    I agree.

  • http://draftpick.deviantart.com Joe

    I know that it seem to make no sense for Branyan to play over Brantley this year, but that whole MLB service time has a lot to do with it and kind of makes sense.

    Brantley has about 34 days of service time. Now a player can become a free agent after they have reached 6 years of service time. If Brantley were to play the entire year that would make him a free agent after the 2015 season because then he would have 6 years and 34 days of service time. Now if they put him in AAA for about a month or two to start the year it will essentially be giving the Indians control of him for another whole year making him a free agent after the 2016 season.

    So essentially signing Branyan for this year is allowing us to keep Brantley for an extra year on his rookie contract.

  • Carlos Baerga

    I don’t know what your basis is for believing that Brantley is clearly ready to outperform Kearns. None of the projection systems at Fangraphs seem to think so (looking at the wRC+ measure). Brantley probably will become a nice player, but the evidence that he puts the team in a better position to win right now is scant, and I think that future you will be glad that the Indians sacrificed what probably amounts to a few stolen bases right now for a couple more years of club control down the road.

  • http://draftpick.deviantart.com Joe

    Oops #5 got it before I did.

  • tom

    jeez after watching brantley last year i figured he was a lock to start right off the bat this year…or at LEAST be on the team and not in the minors..are you frickin kidding me!? i cant believe we’re even discussing this…what a joke

  • JD

    @ #5…you’re right on the money. I actually think that the Indians are justifiably cautious with a 22 year old player that posted a relatively unimpressive .267/.350/.361 slash line in AAA last year. I think we’ll see Brantley in Cleveland before long, but let him get a few more AAA at bats under his belt so that the next time he comes up to the majors, he’s here to stay.

    Now, that doesn’t mean the Branyan signing still isn’t terrible…and perhaps I’m letting my own personal dislike of Russell Fanyan creep into that statement, but so be it. But it seems clear that LaPorta’s long-term future with this team is at 1B, so having a creaky veteran roadblock him from getting more time to develop at the position (he’s only played 58 pro games at 1B) seems just…well…dumb.

  • EG

    please go away Shapiro, haven’t you done enough damage already, or did you feel you needed to do more damage by bringing Branyan back?

  • http://www.metcalfupthemiddle.com Scotty

    i’m already hating this new regime, its like the Tribe and Browns are connected at the hip (and pocketbook).

  • http://www.msblsim.com boogeyman

    When will Rachel Phelps (Major League) move the team? This sounds like the updated version of the movie all they need is Jobu!

    “I stick it up for you Jobu. You no help me now…I say **** you Jobu. I do it myself.”

  • 216in614

    @Jon Steiner you hit the nail on the head. 1 brantley plays every day and 2. < 138 days on the AR.

  • JM

    I find it to be hilarious that Branyan will be on the DL when the season starts. Kinda reminds me of Juan Gonzalez from 2005.

  • The Other Tim

    Love the story Max.
    One of the most anxiety filled experiences of my young life was taking the Rapid alone to meet my dad at Terminal Tower for an Indians game.
    I’m kind of a wuss.

  • Pat18970

    @20 And remember who the Indians had to call up to replace Gonzalez?

    Grady Sizemore.

  • MattyFos

    @Chris-
    I agree I’d rather pay my 5 dollars to sit in the outfield, then sneak up to the dugout around the fifth inning to watch Laporta and Brantley than watch Kearns and Branyan…

    I’d actually pay the big bucks to watch Marte though.

  • Karsten

    Tribe looked pretty darn solid today against San Fran and Lincecum. Jus’ sayin

  • saggy

    this, in all honesty, is why I am more interested in Brett Gardner than Grady Sizemore anymore.

    I gave up on the Indians when they gave up trying to compete.

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  • fielder

    How about this? The indians trade Michael Brantley to the Yankees for Brett Gardener. The Yankees would love to have a hitter like brantley in their lineup and he can start in LF immediately. Brett Gardner can go to Columbus for more seasoning given he doesn’t hit as good as brantley does.