Who's on first?
The Indians didn't need to add a first baseman in the off-season. They had no need for another left-handed hitter. And since the club is rebuilding for the future, they certainly didn't need to sign a 35-year-old, left-handed hitting first baseman.
But that's exactly what they did when they signed Branyan. Branyan's presence on the roster almost certainly would have bumped promising young outfielder Michael Brantley to Class AAA Columbus, even though Brantley is ready for the big leagues, and the Indians have a ready-made spot for him, left field.
Why would a rebuilding team with one of the top prospects in minor league baseball choose to block the progress of that player by signing a veteran nearing the end of his career, to play first base on a team that didn't need more age, much less another first baseman? A team, moreover, that isn't expected to contend?
Many of us were still asking ourselves all those questions when the Indians announced Sunday that Branyan will start the season on the disabled list. Oh yeah, Branyan also has a history of back problems, which is still another reason why the Indians' decision to sign him was so baffling.
Sure enough, Branyan hasn't even played in a spring training game yet, because of his back condition. So he'll start the season on the disabled list, which will presumably give Brantley the opportunity to play every day in the big leagues, an opportunity he should have had anyway.
What comes next? Stayed tuned. If Brantley gets off to a good start - remember, he was very impressive during his September callup last year - what will the Indians do when Branyan is ready to come off the DL? It would make no sense to send Brantley down. They conceivably could send Matt LaPorta down. But what if Brantley and LaPorta are BOTH playing well when Branyan is ready to be activated?
Then, and maybe only then, Indians officials might have to ask themselves, "why DID we sign Branyan?''