One of my New Year’s resolutions was not to write about every rumored trade or possible free agent acquisition. No more Rick Porcello, Adam LaRoche. That resolution wasn’t going to last very long. I held off as long as I could before commenting on the latest, Lance Berkman.
Berkman is a free agent after an injury-marred year with the St. Louis Cardinals. He’ll be 36 next month, and has had a wonderful career. In the first 10 years of this century Berkman was one of the most underrated players in baseball, one of the best hitters, and a really good guy.
With the Astros, Berkman hit more than 300 home runs, drove in nearly 1,100 runs and batted just under .300. Because he was playing with Houston, he didn’t get much recognition. Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, two possible Hall of Fame candidates, got the publicity.
Berkman played part of 2010 with the Yankees, and had a dynamic comeback year with the World Series champion Cardinals in 2011. After playing just 32 games last year, Berkman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he wasn’t even sure about playing this season.
The Astros, who are relocating to the American League, Texas, New York and the Orioles are supposedly showing a modicum of interest in Berkman.
Berkman’s profile fits the Orioles, a classy veteran in the Jim Thome mold. He can play first base or do some DHing. One problem with Berkman is that he’s a left-handed hitter. Chris Davis is, too.
The other problem is money. If Berkman is motivated by money, Baltimore is probably not an ideal fit.
“If I’m going to play, I’m going to give my heart and soul to the team,” Berkman told the Post-Dispatch. “But if the carrot’s not big enough, the mule isn’t going to want to go.”
Berkman has earned well over $100 million in his career, and made $12 million last season. The Orioles would likely pay him a small fraction of last year’s earnings, plus incentives, probably not enough for the mule to get in high gear.
The Rangers would seem the best fit, geographically and economically. Texas is without a big win this off-season after losing Josh Hamilton and failing to attract Zack Greinke. Berkman would be a small consolation prize, but one that would fit their club.
The betting is that the Orioles will sign another power hitting free agent who hasn’t been able to find love elsewhere. Kelly Johnson, Carlos Lee and Delmon Young are all still on the market, though like Berkman, they’d probably have to take large pay cuts to sign here.
-The D Train is back—if you cared. Dontrelle Willis, who caused lots of tumult in the Orioles organization for the first few months of last season, is trying yet another comeback with the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs signed him to a minor league contract. Willis supposedly retired from baseball last July.
-The Red Sox signed outfielder Mark Hamilton to a minor league contract. Hamilton, a Baltimore native, played with St. Louis for parts of the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
-If Buck Showalter does sign a three-year extension, he could be one of the longest serving managers in Orioles history. Earl Weaver has managed the most games, 2,540. Paul Richards is second with 1,056. Showalter has already managed 391 regular season games, and if manages four more complete seasons, he’d have 1,039.
Mike Hargrove is the only manager since Weaver to manage four complete seasons for the Orioles.