Despite being something of an outspoken critic of the American League and its style of play, it seems Lance Berkman is less critical of doing what it takes to continue living in the swanky style to which he became accustomed.
Though he made some retirement noise this off-season, the Rangers ponied up the required dough to get Lance Berkman back on the field, reportedly reaching a one-year deal with the former Astro, Yankee, and Cardinal for $10 million, with a vesting option based on plate appearances for 2014.
Lance Berkman was extremely excellent for the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals in 2011, posting a 5 Win year through his .408 wOBA. It was smack dab in the middle of that successful bounce back campaign after an injury-riddled and middling 2010 that the Cards extended Berkman’s contract for 2012. A risky move considering his age but the Cards stood poised to lose Albert Pujols so some slugging insurance is not a bad idea. Besides, there are no bad one-year deals, are there?
While the Cards weren’t exactly pleased with getting fewer than 100 plate appearances from Berkman in 2012, it hardly killed their season (they’re the Cardinals, after all.) The Rangers are in a similar situation – they could sure use the sort of production Lance Berkman typically provides but if he is unable to play 100 games, they won’t be up the creek.
Typical levels of production for Lance Berkman is absurdly good, you might be shocked to realize/recall. Like Chipper Jones, Berkman (roughly) owns a .300/.400./.530 career line, with 360 home runs coming from a switch-hitting first baseman and outfielder. His numbers are gaudy and worthy of praise but, according to JAWS, he likely ends up on the outside looking in when his turn on the Hall of Fame ballot comes around.
The Rangers got a good look at Berkman during their fateful 2011 World Series matchup, as Berkman went .423/.516/.577 in the Cards seven game victory. Berkman’s legendary patience is a nice counterpoint to the notoriously free-swinging Rangers, a 15% walk rate dropped squarely into the middle of a lineup of hackers (and also Adrian Beltre <3).
Lots to like about this deal from both sides. Berkman can anchor the Rangers offense with his patience and offsets the loss of power through the departure of Josh Hamilton and (presumably) Mike Napoli. The vesting option dangles a tidy carrot for an aging player going through the kind of injury woes associated with being a 37-year old player with a lot of miles on the odometer. The Rangers aren’t done but can tic one box on their list for now.