Lance Berkman was reportedly mulling over retirement this winter following an injury-plagued 2012 with the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, but the soon to be 37-year-old decided to come back and play another year in his home state of Texas with the Rangers. Why, you ask? Well, the Rangers front office gave him good reason, as they offered him a one-year/$10 million deal that also includes a vesting option for 2014.
Berkman had a down year in 2010, which he split with both the Astros and the Yankees, but had a solid comeback campaign as he helped the Cardinals capture their second World Series ring in six years, as he put together a .301/.412/.547 line with 31 homers and 94 RBI in 145 games played. However, knee troubles limited him to 32 games last season, slugging only 2 long balls and driving in 7 runs to go with what still is considered a respectable .259/.381/.444 line.
Obviously, the Rangers wouldn’t throw this much money at Berkman without being assured he’s healthy enough to contribute in 2013, and they feel that him being their full-time designated hitter will help rest his knees enough to stay productive longer than he would if he had to play the field. He definitely has the reputation of being a power hitter, as he’s hit 20+ homers in 11 of his 14 seasons in the Big Leagues, as well as six 100+ RBI campaigns. However, reports say the Rangers have brought on Berkman to replace the recently traded Michael Young, as well as replacing the power they lost when Josh Hamilton decided to sign with the Angels.
That’s a real tall order for a 37-year-old veteran that almost retired because of chronic knee troubles. While I think Berkman is a solid pick-up for Texas, they definitely over-payed for him, and it’s likely because there were a few teams interested in his services, with the Yankees being one of them. How does a player earn $12 million in a year where he only played 32 games, then only has to deal with a $2 million pay cut the next season?
Word on the street is the Rangers aren’t finished rebuilding their roster after they failed to re-sign Hamilton, acquire Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks, or sign Zack Greinke, and they shouldn’t be. Some of these reports are making it sound like Berkman is the answer to all their issues 0n offense. At this point in his career, I see him as a complimentary player. I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if he hits between 20-25 home runs and drives in north of 80 runs in 2013, but there’s no way he’ll replace the 43 homers and 128 RBI Hamilton produced last year in Arlington, or the versatility Young gave manager Ron Washington. Now, the skipper is forced to pencil Berkman into the DH spot every night instead of using the position as a rotation to give his regular players rest.
Again, I think this is a good signing for Texas, but if they’re expecting Berkman to have the kind of year to help fans and the organization forget about Josh Hamilton or Michael Young, then they could be in for a rude awakening.