Diamondbacks Sign Russell Branyan

The Arizona Diamondbacks announced they have signed first baseman Russell Branyan to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Just a day before position players can report to the new Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers is still attempting to rework a roster that saw the team mired in last place the previous two years.

Branyan fits Towers definition of what he is trying to instill in the ball club; a veteran presence that is capable of adding depth to the 25-man roster and provide competition at each position. Branyan will battle youngsters Juan Miranda and Brandon Allen for time at first base.

With this addition, the Diamondbacks have added a home run threat. Branyan hit 25 home runs last season between the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians. If he can make the team he will minimize the loss of production from Mark Reynolds who was sent to Baltimore and Adam LaRoche who signed with the Washington Nationals.

Of course this added power production does not come without some challenges. Branyan has long been known as someone who strikes out a lot accumulating 131 last season and 149 in 2009. While those totals are huge, they are actually a decrease over what Reynolds has done the previous three years.

Branyan who is 35 has had his share of injury problems most recently suffering from a bad back last fall that limited his playing time. This signing seems to be one of those low-risk/high-reward type of deals that teams undertake at the last moment hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

Should Miranda or Allen fail to impress coaches during Spring Training the Diamondbacks now have a legitimate back-up plan for first base that has had success at the major league level. Who knows, maybe this will be the spark that will get the Diamondbacks offense started on the momentum train.

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