01/13/10 1:09 PM EST
Branyan ready to move on from Mariners
Slugger had hoped to sign long-term deal in Seattle
By Jim Street / MLB.com
And thank him for last season.
"I wanted to express my appreciation to Jack for giving me a chance to play regularly," Branyan said. "I wish I could have come back to Seattle, but that apparently won't happen. We're looking elsewhere."
The 34-year-old slugger said he has been working out, feels great and there are a "couple of teams" interested in him. He wouldn't name them, but said he's confident that a Major League contract offer is forthcoming.
"I would be crazy not to think any other way," Branyan said. "I hit 31 home runs and played well at first base. I'm not sure what to expect, but as I sit here right now, I expect to be playing in the Major Leagues next season."
As evidenced by the phone call he made to the Mariners' GM, Branyan took the high road out of town. No hard feelings. No bitterness. No feeling sorry for himself.
"I really enjoyed my time there," he said. "I do not have one bad thing to say about Seattle. It's a beautiful place to play, and live."
It was a place that Branyan wanted to spend the remainder of his career, which he says should last "four, five or six more years.
"There comes a point in your career when you really feel comfortable playing in a certain place," he said. "For me, that was Seattle."
Branyan had a terrific first half of the 2009 season, packing a .303 batting average with 19 home runs and 40 RBIs into July. But a sore back -- eventually diagnosed as a herniated disk -- put him on the disabled list on August 29, and he never returned to action.
Even so, he led the team in home runs and finished second to Jose Lopez in RBIs.
The career-year put Branyan in position to seek a multiyear contract. He thought he should get at least a two-year guaranteed deal, but received a one-year offer that included a club option for a second year.
He rejected it.
The Mariners didn't budge, and eventually decided to go in another direction. They acquired Kotchman from the Red Sox for Bill Hall, a Minor League player to be named and cash on Jan. 6.
Kotchman brings the Mariners superb defense and a put-the-ball-in-play offensive approach. But when it comes to hitting the ball out of the park, he's no Branyan.
How much the Mariners will miss Branyan's big bat is uncertain. But he definitely made a strong impression in his one-and-done stint in Seattle.
"I can't say good enough things about Russell," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "Getting to know him and watch him accomplish what he did was a pleasure. We got a lot out of him. It's always tough when you build a relationship with someone and don't have them back. But we wish him the best."
Kotchman is seven years younger and covers more ground on defense, which fits the kind of team the Mariners are building under Zduriencik and Wakamatsu better than Branyan.
And there is the issue of Branyan's back, which began bothering him coming out of the All-Star break.
"I think they had concerns about my health going into next year and decided not to expand the contract talks," Branyan said. "They really didn't give me a lot of insight on their decision, but I was expecting to have more talks after the Winter Meetings.
"I felt we would have moved off the number we had talked about, but we never got that chance. The talks just stopped, and I could see the writing on the wall."
He saw clearly, and now it's time to begin the next chapter of his career.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.