"I signed [in Tampa Bay] and I was really feeling good about the team here," Branyan said. "I told [Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman] I didn't sign to get traded, but ... I really enjoy playing in the National League, and to join a team that's in contention this late in the season, it'll be really exciting."
Branyan's no stranger to change, as he's also played for Cleveland, Cincinnati and Milwaukee during his nine-year Major League career. He was hitting .201 (34-for-169) for Tampa Bay with 10 doubles, 12 homers and 27 RBIs at the time of the trade, and is expected to fill the Padres' need for both a left-handed bat in the lineup and an occasional third baseman.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said Branyan's presence, both on and off the field, will be missed.
"Russ has done a great job for us," Maddon said. "We played him in specific roles and he's had some pretty big hits for us this year. He's played a better outfield than I thought he could play. I spotted him at third, a little bit at first. But overall his outfield play and his arm were better than I had known. So I thought he made great contributions."
Meek, a 23-year-old righty who went 6-6 with a 4.98 ERA in 26 games for the California League's Class A Lake Elsinore, will report to the Rays' Class A Visalia. Friedman said Meek would move to the bullpen at the start.
Tampa Bay announced it will call up Kevin Witt from Triple-A Durham to fill Branyan's spot on the roster. Witt, who will join the Rays in Baltimore on Friday for the upcoming series, leads the Minor Leagues with 36 homers and 278 total bases.
The 30-year-old first baseman hit .289 for the Bulls (139-for-481) with 29 doubles, a triple and an International League-best 99 RBIs. He's appeared in 127 Major League games in his career, averaging .249 with 10 doubles, 13 homers and 36 RBIs.
Witt's last Majors stint was with Detroit in 2003.
"We traded a left-handed hitter, and we're getting a left-handed hitter up who's had a tremendous year, and we're anxious to reward Witt for his year," Friedman said. "I think that he'll provide a good bat off the bench and [be] a spot guy for Joe."