Published June 27, 2010
| Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) — Acknowledging that their season is lost, the last-place Cleveland Indians traded Russell Branyan back to Seattle for a couple of prospects and put their youth movement in fast-forward by bringing up first baseman Matt LaPorta.
LaPorta, acquired from Milwaukee in the trade for C.C. Sabathia two years ago, was in the starting lineup Sunday for the final game of an interleague series against the Cincinnati Reds. He'll become the everyday first baseman with Branyan gone.
"Russell did perform at the level we expected him to perform," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "The rest of the club, however, did not."
Shapiro has spoken generally with clubs about trading other players, but said nothing is close.
The 34-year-old Branyan had career highs with 31 homers and 76 RBIs with Seattle last season. He missed the last month of the season with a bad back. Cleveland signed him on Feb. 24 to a one-year deal that includes a $2 million salary and a $5 million mutual option, thinking he could help them be competitive.
The Mariners get Branyan and a player to be named or cash. Shapiro said the Mariners will cover the rest of his salary, and the Indians will most likely cover the buyout if the mutual option isn't exercised.
The deal between last-place teams gives the Mariners a power hitter and the Indians a little more depth in the farm system.
"He's fond of Seattle as well as the players, and they like him," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "It gives you the legitimate threat in your lineup, and it was important for us to do this at this time."
Branyan was expected to join the Mariners during the final game of their series in Milwaukee on Sunday. The Mariners' pitching has been dependable lately, but they could use more power in their young lineup.
"He was a big part of our team last year and a huge offensive lift for us last year, and obviously that's something we're looking for with our offense now," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "I know he feels comfortable in this organization, and we feel comfortable having him here."
The Indians acquired 22-year-old outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and 21-year-old shortstop Juan Diaz. Carrera currently is sidelined by a bruised hip. Carrera batted .268 with 19 RBIs in 61 game for Triple-A Tacoma. Diaz batted .295 with seven homers and 41 RBIs.
Cleveland's signing of Branyan in February relegated LaPorta to Triple-A Columbus. Branyan batted .263 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs for Cleveland, which had the third-worst record in the majors at 26-47 at the time of the trade.
Only three years after they won the AL Central and came within a victory over Boston of reaching the World Series, the Indians are on pace for their first 100-loss season since 1991.
LaPorta and outfielder Michael Brantley, also part of the deal for Sabathia, are considered future building blocks for Cleveland. The 25-year-old LaPorta was called up last season and played in 52 games, hitting seven homers. He had hip and toe surgery in October.
But LaPorta struggled this season in a limited role. He was batting .218 with one homer and seven RBIs in 35 games when he was sent to Triple-A in early June.
Brantley will likely be called up soon as well.
"That's what it's all about — getting those guys up here, getting big league experience, setting things up for down the road," manager Manny Acta said.
AP Sports Writer Colin Fly in Milwaukee contributed to this report.