Casey Kotchman, the 26-year-old first baseman joining his fourth team, has been acquired from Boston in exchange for utility player Bill Hall, a minor league player and cash in a deal likely to be announced later today.
Can you say ‘Farewell, Russell Branyan’?
Almost certainly, Jack Zduriencik’s trade means free agent Branyan – his power and troublesome back – is out. In its place, a left-handed hitter who’s never hit more than 14 home runs or driven in more than 74 in a season.
What the Mariners get in Kotchman is a former Angels prospect who’s been bounced around, in part because he’s never been the prototypical first baseman.
His critics point to his lack of power – seven home runs in 385 at-bats last year. His defenders say he has the potential to become a Mark Grace-type hitter, that he doesn’t strike out much, has a career .337 on-base percentage and plays solid defense.
Trading Hall was easy – his salary was all but paid by Milwaukee, and the Mariners simply shipped that money on to the Red Sox. In Seattle, Hall had no real role, not after hitting . 201 here last season and striking out at will.
In essence, the Mariners trade Branyan for Kotchman, and will now proceed with Kotchman at first base in 2010.
Branyan, 34, led the Mariners last season with 31 home runs in 431 at-bats, had a career-best 76 RBI but hit under .200 in the second half. Worse, he was laid low by a herniated disc – and no team has yet to make him a viable contract offer this winter.
That made bringing him back a risk, and when Branyan demanded a two-year deal, the Mariners quietly moved on.
Now, Kotchman is the starter and rookie Mike Carp most likely a candidate-in-waiting in Tacoma.
As Dave Cameron at U.S.S Mariner suggests, this clears left field for another Zduriencik move. With Milton Bradley the likely DH, Hall would almost certainly have platooned in left field.
Now, the Mariners can add a bat in left field or let rookie Michael Saunders try to win the job.
Figure the Z-man has something in mind.