Where is the Giants’ Russell Branyan?

Posted By on May 26, 2009 9:09 pm

Today at FanHouse I have a story on Russell Branyan. In case you didn’t notice, Branyan is having a great year for the Mariners. The big first baseman is hitting .305 with 10 homers, and a .988 OPS.

How does this apply to the Giants? Because Branyan is the exact type of guy the Giants never get. He was sitting on the free agent market, ready to go to Japan, when the Mariners came in and signed him for a mere $1.4 million.

The point is that you don’t always need to sign a big name to get big production. You just have to out-evaluate the other GMs. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik (who had seen Branyan when both were Brewers employees) obviously saw something in Branyan that no one else did.

One of the ways that GMs score big is when they pick someone up off the scrap heap and hit the jackpot, like the A’s did with Frank Thomas in 2006, or the White Sox did with Carlos Quentin last year. When was the last time the Giants got more than their money’s worth out of someone they acquired, either via trade or free agency?

Still thinking?

You probably have to go back to Benito Santiago, signed for a bucket of balls in the spring of 2001.

Invariably, the Giants have done the opposite. They grab someone who is maybe a year or two past the peak of his career, and overpay to ride him downhill (see Morris, Matt; or Alfonzo, Edgardo). They’ve tried some reclamation projects, like Edgar Renteria and Randy Johnson this year, but they have still managed to pay full price, so there wasn’t much financial upside. At best, they’d get what they paid for.

The way to build a team is to concentrate on the guys at either end of the payroll spectrum. You need big money superstars or cheap guys, either those still under salary control or veterans signed to discount deals. The guys in the middle, all those 32- to 36-year-olds making $5 to $9 million, will get you into trouble more often than not.

The Giants would be better off signing nine Benito Santiagos for $1 mil apiece than one Edgar Renteria for $9 million.


6 Responses to “Where is the Giants’ Russell Branyan?”

  1. daniel says:

    so true

  2. doug says:

    When was the last time the Giants got more than their money’s worth out of someone they acquired, either via trade or free agency?
    - winn and molina? their value to the team in the last few years is far greater than the money spent on them.

  3. Mike says:

    Guzman might be another example, although we’ll have to wait and see. But yes, the Giants have too often gone for players on the way down.

  4. Augustus says:

    I think this column is, perhaps uncharacteristically, silly. Branyan is thirty-four, and has been with ten teams and been let go. His lifetime BA is .235. Either he’s having a freak year or–the greater probability–he will go bust. The Giants have so far done very well with Justin Miller and Brandon Medders, in similar situations, and may do equally well with Torres.

  5. GiantsBigWig says:

    It is well-known that the Giants employed a failed “sign proven vets” strategy in the late Bonds era. Is the same thing still happening now? No. This analysis inappropriately de-contextualizes the signings which the Giants made in the last off-season. The Giants signed Renteria to a two year deal because they had nobody in their farm system who was ready to play SS either offensively or defensively. Frandsen was coming off a blown achilles and his mobility, range, and durability were huge unknowns, not to mention the fact that he has very little big league experience, esp. at SS. Burriss showed signs of defensive woes at SS in the offseason. The Giants had no realistic internal options. Randy Johnson, who was given a one year contract, was clearly signed to hold down a roster spot which will be given to a prospect next year (Pucetas, Bumgarner, Alderson, or Sosa). The Giants release of Correia and Henessey which freed the roster spot was more debatable, especially because Correia’s poor numbers were surely impacted by endurance in the late season (he was converted to starter from the pen). Yet, the Giants needed a decent arm for one year and Johnson made a lot of sense once Correia and Hennesey were released. Yes, the Giants clearly overpayed, but they acted aggresively and early in the offseason and were left looking foolish when the market subsequently fell. It wasn’t crystal clear that the market was going to fall and I doubt that many guessed it would fall as much as it did (look at the contract Orlando Hudson received… who would have guessed in advance it would be that low… I doubt that YOU did).

  6. Ryan says:

    No one has a problem with the length of the Renteria contract. The problem is what Jeff pointed out, that they paid for what they hoped he could become, rather than what he was and what scouts projected he would be.

    Another problem with the Renteria contract was that their early signing strategy clearly bit them with the amount of money for the his contract; however, it has benefitted them with the Affeldt signing–thus far.

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