Bradley and Branyan
I think there is one wrinkle to the Milton Bradley acquisition that has not been discussed much, and that is how the presence of a player with Bradley’s health history affects what the team will do at first base, specifically with regards to Russ Branyan.
Bradley’s risks do not just end with his personality. He has had 500 plate appearances in a season twice in his career, and he’s only played in more than 130 games once. Thanks to the great injury tool, we can see that, in the last five years, Bradley has spent 188 days on the 15 day DL, 49 days on the 60 day DL, and been labeled day-to-day on 96 different days. He has had problems with his knee, hip, thigh, lower leg, groin, “general medical”, back, wrist, forearm, shoulder, trunk, ankle, hand, abdomen, and even his face.
The man gets hurt an awful lot. He makes up for it by playing well when he’s on the field, but it is going to be a fairly common occurrence that he’s not available to play. And that reality is going to make it hard for the M’s to also have a guy like Russ Branyan as their starting first baseman.
We already have an infielder with a history of injury problems in Jack Wilson, and we just acquired an OF/DH with an even more extensive series of health problems. As we saw last year, Junior’s knees will keep him off the field fairly regularly as well. Over a 162 game season, there’s a good chance that there are going to be days when all three of those guys are just not available due to various tweaks and pulls.
If you add Branyan to the mix, now you have four guys who you can’t really count on, health wise, to play everyday. A herniated disc is no joke, and even if he rehabs well and puts in a ton of work, there are going to be days when he just can’t go. And if that happens on the same day that Jack Wilson’s hamstring is bothering him and Milton Bradley’s (insert any body part here) is ailing, then what? Hannahan’s playing short, Hall goes to left, and Langerhans plays first, while Jr is the DH? Better hope the opponents aren’t throwing a southpaw that day. And if Junior’s knees are bothering him as well, well, apparently Rob Johnson would be your DH and you just play without a bench.
This might sound implausible, and it wouldn’t happen more than a couple of times all year, but the team would be playing with a short bench almost the entire year. On any given day, you would almost expect that one of Bradley/Griffey/Wilson/Branyan would be unavailable for one reason or another. That really limits Wak’s options at the end game. You have to think that there are going to be numerous occasions where Wak is going to want to pinch-hit for Jack Wilson in high leverage, late game situations, but he may be very hesitant to do that if Hannahan was starting at first base and Branyan wasn’t available to go into the game.
Also, you’re likely to see Langerhans used as a defensive replacement for Bradley quite a bit (both to improve the defense and just keep Milton healthy), so if he’s being reserved for that role and the team has another guy on the bench who can’t go that day, they will not be able to pinch run without significant risk.
In the end, I think three 30+ guys with a lot of nagging health problems is probably enough. I don’t know that the Mariners are going to want their #3 and #4 hitters to both be needing frequent rest days as they try to win the AL West. The addition of Bradley makes bringing Branyan back a little less palatable.
I’m certain the M’s have already had this discussion and are aware of this. Perhaps they already know that Russ isn’t coming back, and that he has a two year offer from a team that we haven’t heard about yet. But even if that’s not true, I think this acquisition lowers the value that Branyan can offer the Mariners in relation to someone who is a bit more reliable from a health standpoint.
I could be wrong, but to me, the Bradley acquisition means that we probably won’t see The Muscle back in Seattle next year.