Those that frequent the site or follow me on Twitter probably know by now that I have personally given up on Dan Johnson and do not think Casey Kotchman will continue his hot hitting; nor does anyone in their right mind. It has been well established that there is no immediate solution with long term ability within our organization for first base either.
Russ Canzler might be the closest thing we have. He has put up decent on-base numbers in his first shot at Triple-A but the power is lacking a bit with only 2 homeruns in 105 at-bats. He is 25-years-old but has a .390 OBP this season after hitting .287/.372/.566 as a 24 year old Double-A repeater last season. He does show good patience with an 11.5% walk rate over his last 798 plate appearances spanning back to 2009. I had the chance to see him in Spring Training and he has an overly lofty swing that seems to produce a lot of high fly balls. The power wasn't special and he may need the help of a hitter's park for his power to work out. He may be a decent option for a little while but he is not the long term answer and is completely unproven at the highest level.
The Rays need to make a trade and there are a lot of options out there. The Rays have the necessary means to acquire almost any first baseman but will likely not jeopardize their future to try and land a Billy Butler when guys like Kila Ka'aihue and my personal favorite, Russell Branyan, can possibly be had for cheap. If I were given the choice, though, it's easy: Russell Branyan. Kila is a nice thought for next year but since we are already in 1st place and on a roll I would rather have a guy with a proven track record.
Branyan's career track record includes the 14th highest AB/HR ratio in the history of the game and an 11.8% walk rate. Yes, I know, he does have a career 38.2% strikeout rate but since he was called up by the Brewers in 2008 he's had close to a full-time job and has hit .244/.337/.509 in 1143 PAs and has been worth 6.3 fWAR. Oh, his glove is legit too. He has +5.5 UZR in 1564.2 innings at first base since 2008.
The Arizona Diamondbacks seem set to let Branyan rot on the bench for the majority of the games. They currently have a logjam at first base with Branyan, Juan Miranda, and Xavier Nady. Also, they have Brandon Allen (another guy the Rays would not mind having) and the hot hitting Paul Goldschmidt not too far from joining the Big League club. If ever there was a team with first base options to spare it is the Diamondbacks.
Branyan, before his start on Thursday, went 9 straight games without getting a start even though he is the best first base option on the big league club at the moment. Arizona really has little-to-no chance at making the playoffs and holding on to three first basemen, especially one that is 35 and goes 9 games in a row without a start; it is a little ridiculous. Then one has to consider Brandon Allen is hitting .295/.386/.475 in Triple-A at the ripe young age of 25.
The Diamondbacks have no need for Branyan. They won't play him and have a myriad of other options to replace him. The Rays and D-Backs can each trade from a position of strength. Tampa Bay can dip into it's pool of pitchers (perhaps Kyle Lobstein?) while Arizona gets something in return for their impressive first base depth.
Now, can we please just have Russell Branyan already?