The Yankees signed Russell Branyan this offseason as a guy who could compete with Raul Ibanez in spring training for the DH job against right handed pitchers. Unfortunately a back injury has kept him from playing at all.
It looks like the Yankees are intent to give him a shot though despite his no-show this spring. According to Mark Feinsand of the NY Daily News, the Yankees released Branyan from his minor league contract and signed him to another minor league contract.
Why would they make such a nonsense move? There could be two reasons. The first is that as per the new collective bargaining agreement veterans signed to minor league deals are owed $100K if they stay with an organization beyond a non-roster invite to spring training. This could be the Yankees way of getting around that. The second is that there may have been specific language in his contract that they must work around to keep him in the organization. It’s not like Branyan has many other options after not playing at all this spring.
Where it gets interesting is once Branyan actually starts playing again. He’s sure to report to extended spring training at first, but as a DH it won’t take him long until he’s in a minor league game. At which point he will have to compete with Jack Cust for playing time, the guy the Yankees recently signed as alternate Ibanez insurance.
For now there is no word on when Branyan will actually be back on the diamond. Obviously, keep checking back here for eventual updates.