Those weren't the only moves in the last few weeks; the Braves also extended NRIs to several players, including Jorge Valendia. When Valendia learns to hit, I'll write about him. Looks like the Braves had almost convinced themselves that DeRosa would be a more than adequate option to start at third base until eventually getting cold feet and snatching up Branyan at the bargain basement price of a Non-Roster Invite.
He's a peculiar fit for the Braves, not least of all because he does things well that the organization does not normally value and does things poorly that the organization loves. He'll strike out…what's that phrase I'm looking for? Oh yeah, "a lot." He'll annoy the living Hell out of a lot of fans with ugly looking three pitch strikeouts against flame throwing closers.
Terrence Moore and Furman Bisher will likely have a few columns poking fun at Branyan, arguing that his swing-for-the-fences "technique" is selfish. (Now that Brian Jordan, there's a team player!)
Those things will happen and they will mostly be irrelevant. Branyan is what is he is and he's not likely to change. Ever. Terry Pendleton will make noises about cutting down on Branyan's swing, making him "go the other way", all the things hitting coaches say when they acquire a shiny new power hitter with strikeout tendencies.
If he strikes out 120 times in the roughly 300 at-bats he may get shuttling between the corner positions he also may hit 15-20 homeruns, and he's likely to draw enough walks to push his OBP at least into Vinny Castilla2003 territory. That's a pretty darn valuable bench player; being able to call on a guy like Branyan when you're down by one and you need to tie is pretty nifty.
If the Braves handle the roster construction correctly and jettison Jesse Garcia, Atlanta might actually have a solid bench for the first time in recent memory. Branyan-Gary Matthews-Eli Marrerro-Julio Franco-Eddie Perez is solid, assuming the Braves decide to go with 12 pitchers. Again. There's no one to back up the middle infield positions, but in case of an injury to Furcal or Giles, DeRosa can shift over with Branyan playing third. If both the middle infielders get hurt in a game, then we might well get to see what Mike Hampton looks like at shortstop. But that was also the situation last season and the Braves survived well enough.
The other moves aren't unimportant, but are basically routine pre-spring training maintenance. Cunnane finally followed through on some excellent minor league numbers with a solid big league performance and earned his $500,000 base salary for next year.
Furcal's rebound 2003 earned him a cool $3.7 million for 2004. He won't be the Tim Raines-at-shortstop we all thought he'd be after his 2000 campaign, but he was one of the best NL shortstops last season and the Braves are better off for his presence.
Drew is worthy of more ink and I'll give him that in the off-season wrap-up that should be appearing soon.
Andrew Bare can be reached at AndrewBare29@hotmail.com