CINCINNATI -- Russell Branyan is headed back to familiar territory in Seattle, and the Indians have recalled Matt LaPorta to play every day at first base. LaPorta was inserted into the lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Reds, playing first and batting sixth. Branyan was informed after Saturday's loss to the Reds that he has been traded to his old club. The Indians will receive two Minor Leaguers, Triple-A center fielder Ezequiel Carrera and Class A Advanced shortstop Juan Diaz. They will also either fund the buyout of Branyan's $5 million mutual option for 2011, if the Mariners choose not to exercise it, or send the Mariners a player to be named later. This is the first of what could be multiple deals done by the Tribe before the Trade Deadline, as the already young Indians get younger and try to rid themselves of some veterans in the final year of their contracts.
The Mariners' motives are much less clear, as they are 31-43, 14 games back in the American League West. The Mariners opted not to re-sign Branyan after he hit a career-high 31 homers and drove in 76 runs in 116 games last year, and the Indians opted to add him to a rebuilding ballclub. During Spring Training, the Tribe signed Branyan to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2011. It was his fourth stint with the organization that first drafted him in 1994. The 34-year-old Branyan, in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak, is batting .263 with 10 homers, nine doubles, 24 RBIs and an .819 OPS in 52 games this season. He's made five errors in the field at first. Branyan began the year on the disabled list because of a bulging disk in his lower back. It's the same condition that caused him to miss the final month of his career year in 2009, but it hasn't prevented him from becoming a regular in the Tribe lineup. LaPorta was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on June 7. The Indians sent LaPorta, the key acquisition in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade, back down so that he could get regular at-bats, as Branyan was claiming the bulk of the time at first and Austin Kearns was cemented in left. In 17 games with the Clippers, LaPorta hit .353 with five homers and 16 RBIs. He was batting .218 with one homer and seven RBIs in 35 games in the bigs. As far as the prospects gained from the trade, the Indians can only hope they'll fare nearly as well in this deal as they did when they shipped Eduardo Perez and Ben Broussard to the Mariners in separate deals before the 2006 Trade Deadline and got back Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo. Carrera is headed to Triple-A Columbus, but he's currently on the disabled list with a hip pointer. He's no stranger to being traded. He was involved in the three-team, 12-player behemoth of a swap that, among other things, sent J.J. Putz to the Mets during the 2008 Winter Meetings. That's the same deal in which the Indians sent Franklin Gutierrez to Seattle in exchange for Luis Valbuena from the Mariners and Joe Smith from the Mets. A left-handed hitter with speed, the 23-year-old Carrera was batting .268 with a .654 OPS, nine steals, six doubles, two triples and 18 RBIs in 64 games for Triple-A Tacoma. In six Minor League seasons, Carrera, a native of Venezuela, has hit .291 with a .750 OPS and 115 steals. He won the Southern League batting title with a .337 mark and was also first in on-base percentage with a .441 mark while at West Tennessee. Diaz, a 21-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, is headed to Class A Kinston. The switch-hitting Diaz was batting .295 with a .779 OPS, seven homers, eight doubles, three triples and 41 RBIs at High Desert. In five Minor League seasons, he's hit .255 with a .668 OPS, 16 homers and 159 RBIs.