GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians finally made the signing of Russell Branyan official Wednesday. Now it's up to manager Manny Acta to decide what to do with him and what his presence means to the immediate futures of the two principle acquisitions in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade, Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley. Where LaPorta and Brantley once seemed bound for everyday duties at first base and left field, respectively, LaPorta might now be headed back to left and Brantley might be headed back to Triple-A Columbus, because Branyan is penciled in as Acta's regular first baseman.
"We didn't sign [Branyan] to be a backup guy," Acta said. The Indians were satisfied enough with the results of Branyan's physical examination to officially sign off on his one-year, $2 million contract. Branyan, who completed the exam Tuesday, can also receive up to $1 million in performance incentives, and the deal includes a mutual option for 2011 worth $5 million. In anticipation of the Branyan signing, the Tribe made a move to make room for him on the 40-man roster. Utility man Chris Gimenez was outrighted to Triple-A Columbus and will remain in camp as a non-roster invitee. Right-hander Anthony Reyes, recovering from Tommy John surgery performed last summer, was then added to the 40-man and placed on the 60-day disabled list. Reyes had an out in his contract at the end of camp, and the Indians wanted to keep him around as a potential option in the second half. Branyan, meanwhile, was not at camp Wednesday but will arrive Thursday, ready to take over at first base. "He adds depth we didn't have at first base," Acta said. "We were an injury away from not feeling as comfortable. We're more covered now." The Indians will be counting on Branyan to provide some muscle to their youthful lineup. The 34-year-old Branyan belted 31 homers in 431 at-bats for the Mariners last season, batting .251 with an .867 OPS in 116 games. Branyan, however, was sidelined for the final month of the '09 season because of a bad back, which is why the Indians' physical was not considered a mere formality. But the Tribe determined he carried a tolerable amount of risk. "He went through a rigorous physical and is moving around fine," general manager Mark Shapiro said.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.