Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Should the Mariners Guarantee Russell Branyan a Second Year?

If you were a GM, would you feel comfortable guarateeing two years to Russell Branyan? The Mariners might be, but they look a little hesitant to give Branyan anything more than a one year deal off the bat:
"Branyan is coming off a 31-homer breakthrough season that was marred at the end by a back injury. He didn't play after Aug. 28 because of a herniated disk, but said Tuesday his back is considerably improved.

"I really want to get something done; I really want to stay in Seattle and be there the next couple of years," he said. "That would be awesome. It would be nice to finish out my career there. But it's obviously in their hands. It really is. I'm not being too demanding. I just want a fair shake.

"I've said all along I would like more than a one-year deal. I would like to try to find some sort of security. I played my whole career under a one-year contract. I feel like I'm in position now I can be a little larger part of a ball team and factor into bringing a championship to Seattle."
The article goes on to state that the Mariners did indeed offer Branyan a one year deal with an option for a second. I think Branyan made the right choice in turning that offer down because I think he can do far better than that on the free agent market.

However, the Mariners are now in a very interesting spot. Russell Branyan was the Mariners top power hitter last season and could have hit 40 home runs if not for a September injury and a weak second half. Without him in the lineup, there's no way that the Mariners would have stayed in contention for as long as they did. Simply put, Russell Branyan was awesome at the dish for the Mariners in 2009 and if the Mariners are going to compete in 2010, they will need Branyan (or a power hitter like him) to put up big numbers in the middle of the Mariners lineup.

With that in mind, if the Mariners can lock up Branyan for $4-$5 million dollars annually and he hit 30-40 home runs in 2010, then that contract will look like a steal for the Mariners.

At the same time though, the Mariners have to be careful here. This is the same Russell Branyan, who for years had teams salivating over his power, but disappointed by his inability to put it all together. Sure Branyan had a solid 2009, but what if the Russell Branyan's 2009 season was simply a fluke? There is some risk here in signing Branyan to a multi year contract simply because his history does not suggest that he will be able to sustain such a high level of performance.

Sure, the Mariners have a payroll that allows them to take some chances, but giving two years guaranteed to Branyan has the ability to bit the Mariners in the butt if the 33 year old Branyan struggles at the dish.

In the end, I think Branyan and the Mariners will come to terms on a two year pact. The reason why: locking up Branyan to a reasonably priced contract will allow the Mariners to focus their money and efforts on the bigger prizes this offseason: Jason Bay, John Lackey, and maybe even a contract extension for Felix Hernandez.

So...what should the Mariners do?

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