Free Agent Stock Watch: Lance Berkman

Less than a year ago, Lance Berkman felt that the Astros picking up his $15MM option for 2011 was a possibility.  He was since traded to the Yankees, who declined the option without pause.  Let's examine his free agent story.

The Good

  • Berkman's .368 OBP this year was actually his worst since his rookie campaign.  If his batting average comes back up from .248 he'll be even more of an on-base asset.
  • He can still play some first base, logging almost 800 innings there in 2010.
  • Berkman will not cost a draft pick to sign and ought to be open to a one-year deal.

The Bad

  • Like Manny Ramirez, the walks are still there but the power is slipping.  Berkman slugged just .413 in 481 plate appearances this year, about on par with Miguel Cairo and Ty Wigginton.  Berkman did not finish strong, slugging .349 in 123 Yankees plate appearances.
  • Berkman turns 35 in February.  He had 41 DL days this year due to knee surgery and an ankle sprain.  On the flip side, if he acts mostly as a DH in 2011 and stays healthy, some power could return.
  • He's a switch-hitter, but left-handed pitching has been a problem the last few years.

The Verdict

Berkman could make a quality platoon bat, but he's probably not ready to take that role.  If he's flexible on first base versus designated hitter, he can probably find 500 plate appearances in 2011 for around $5MM.  The Orioles, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Rangers, Nationals, Cubs, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Giants, Tigers, Athletics, and Mariners could have openings.  However, a few DH types figure to be left out in the cold this offseason so it makes sense to sign early.


31 Responses to Free Agent Stock Watch: Lance Berkman Leave a Reply

  1. moonraker45 5 years ago

    Sadly I could see the Jays taking a chance with Berkman..

    • The_Porcupine 5 years ago

      At least he’ll get on base. But yeah, not the lineup upgrade that will make them more consistent.

    • Why is this a bad thing? Berkman ranks 45th all time in adjusted OPS+ for his career. He’s an outstanding hitter. Just one year ago he hit 274/399/509 (907 OPS, 140 OPS+).

      He had a down year because of injuries, but he’s an excellent buy low candidate. On a one year deal there’s no downside. I’d be thrilled if the Jays pick him up. If he rebounds he’d arguably be their best hitter.

      I don’t think a lot of people realize just how good of a hitter Berkman is. He had one bad year because of injuries. There’s a pretty good chance he becomes this years Jim Thome in terms of value and production.

      • The_Porcupine 5 years ago

        I’m an Astros fan that goes back before Berkman was drafted. Berkman is certainly capable of bouncing back, but his power numbers have been in decline for a few years. He has had a lot of nagging injuries that seems to have sapped his skill set a bit. He’s got the body type and age where his body is starting to naturally break down a bit. He might be a good buy low candidate, but he’s more of a complimentary player. Depends on the money and length of the contract.

      • The_Porcupine 5 years ago

        I’m an Astros fan that goes back before Berkman was drafted. Berkman is certainly capable of bouncing back, but his power numbers have been in decline for a few years. He has had a lot of nagging injuries that seems to have sapped his skill set a bit. He’s got the body type and age where his body is starting to naturally break down a bit. He might be a good buy low candidate, but he’s more of a complimentary player. Depends on the money and length of the contract.

      • True dat. As a Red Sox fan, he’s one guy I’d be happy if they were able to get him at a buy low price. That depends somewhat on Youkilis being able to play 3rd still (no guarantee there), but he could easily be the best buy value candidate among guys who can play 1B.

    • mattevilspawn 5 years ago

      But he will not take a chance with them. He’s a proud Texan. He wasn’t happy about going north to NY. No way he signs with the Jays. They’ll take a shot at someone else if they feel the need to strengthen 1B.

    • mattevilspawn 5 years ago

      But he will not take a chance with them. He’s a proud Texan. He wasn’t happy about going north to NY. No way he signs with the Jays. They’ll take a shot at someone else if they feel the need to strengthen 1B.

  2. BWOzar 5 years ago

    I like Berkman and to the extent being a ‘good guy’ and a ‘clubhouse leader’ can help a team I believe he’ll be a great benefit to whoever signs him.

    Something I would point out about his OBP is that it might actually be more of negative. When an aging batter’s AVG and SLG decrease but their walk rate increases it is generally a sign of decreased bat speed and an apprehension to swing at pitches they might have previously been able to drive. Berkman’s walk rate from ’06 through ’08 were 15.2%, 14.1% and 14.9%. The last two seasons have seen that rate increase to 17.2% and 16.0%. Not an enormous leap – but considering his decreased productivity and increased platoon split it seems a strong indication that his bat speed is dramatically decreasing.

    I hope I’m wrong. Big Puma is one of my favorite players in the game and I’d love to see him catch on with an organization where he can get 550 ABs and have a strong rebound. He’s already got a fringe case for the Hall of Fame (56.2 fWAR, 1B average is 72.4 but drops to 66.6 if you take out the monstrously high numbers of Gehrig and Foxx) and I’d love to see him accumulate some of the counting stats (400+ HR, 2250+ hits) to make him a serious candidate.

    • BWOzar 5 years ago

      Also Puma’s low BABIP this year was not really a function of luck as much as it reflects his career low LD%, career high GB% and near career high IFFB%.

  3. pirates?

  4. Peet29 5 years ago

    i

  5. Peet29 5 years ago

    Why couldn’t the Braves sign him to play LF? The guy used to play CF and I’m sure he can play as good a defense as Garrett Anderson or Eric Hinske did. He shouldn’t be expensive and give us more depth at 1B behind Freeman.

    • mattevilspawn 5 years ago

      Ditto, Wonderboy. No way Berkman takes an OF gig. He’s aging and has had leg injuries. Not the guy you want in the OF. And he wouldn’t want to play there, either. His glove is still good and belongs at 1B.

    • inkstainedscribe 5 years ago

      I wonder why the Braves might not look at him as well. He can’t be any worse in the field than Pat Burrell, who seems to be on the Atlanta radar. Unless Berkman is so banged up that he could not log the innings in the OF.

  6. The Yankees “declined his option without pause” because declining the option was a requirement imposed by Berkman as a condition for agreeing to the trade in the first place.

    • Peet29 5 years ago

      Even if it wasn’t a condition I doubt that the Yankees would be willing to pay Berkman 15 million to be a DH/1B next year.

    • Slopeboy 5 years ago

      Thank God for small miracles. I remember his earlier years, when he had a quick bat and could really play and was truly surprised at the player NY got at the trading deadline. He was slow, overweight, no range in the field and carrying a sluggish bat.Possibly he didn’t like NY and couldn’t adapt, but he was no where near the player I remember from just a few years back. To his credit, he didn’t make excuses and owned up to his poor play and answered the tough questions like a real stand up guy. If he’s looking to play again, he’s needs to arrive to ST in much better conditioning and much lighter. I wish him all the best because he’s demonstated that he is a good individual.

  7. mattevilspawn 5 years ago

    One word: Rangers. He’s a born & bred Texan. He even stayed there for college. Berkman loves Texas and would be a great fit for its Arlington team now that Houston’s decided to go with a youth movement. He’d slot-in as their #1 1B while the younger guys develop. And if Vlad doesn’t re-sign he could DH, although he’s still a very good defender at 1B. Because of age and past injuries, putting him in the OF would be a stretch, but he’d be okay in LF, were it only to spell someone else for a very short time. (i.e., give someone else a day of rest or fill in for someone with an injury that will not require the 15-day DL.)

    This is one rare instance where a free agent is going to place years/$ second. His first priority is going to be “Do I want to play there and is it a good fit for both me and the team.” A class guy and one Nolan Ryan will connect with.

    • j6takish 5 years ago

      Normally I’d say yes, because the Rangers made it to the world series with essentially a rotating black hole at 1b and that production would really help them, but Mitch Moreland looked pretty good in his brief stint…I think he’s atleast got a shot at the starting job.

  8. mattevilspawn 5 years ago

    One word: Rangers. He’s a born & bred Texan. He even stayed there for college. Berkman loves Texas and would be a great fit for its Arlington team now that Houston’s decided to go with a youth movement. He’d slot-in as their #1 1B while the younger guys develop. And if Vlad doesn’t re-sign he could DH, although he’s still a very good defender at 1B. Because of age and past injuries, putting him in the OF would be a stretch, but he’d be okay in LF, were it only to spell someone else for a very short time. (i.e., give someone else a day of rest or fill in for someone with an injury that will not require the 15-day DL.)

    This is one rare instance where a free agent is going to place years/$ second. His first priority is going to be “Do I want to play there and is it a good fit for both me and the team.” A class guy and one Nolan Ryan will connect with.

  9. RealityGM 5 years ago

    I like Berkman except I don’t think “he’d slot in as their #1 1B” The way Moreland performed last yr and in the postseason 1B is his to lose. The Rangers may go after Berkman if they can’t re-sign Vlad to DH but to sign him to be the starting 1B is doubtful.

  10. budman3 5 years ago

    I see the Rays agressively trying to sign him. he was a target at the dealine in July before the Yankees jumped in on him. Perfect high OBP guy who can play first and DH. He is only a year removed from 25 HR’s and injuries could have been a factor last season. If healthy and gets days off to DH, he could regain some power and as it is his gap power should olay well for the rays. 4-5 million dollars fits theie budget as well. Very good hitter to either bat in front of Longoria(to be on base) or behind him to provide some protection.

  11. budman3 5 years ago

    I see the Rays agressively trying to sign him. he was a target at the dealine in July before the Yankees jumped in on him. Perfect high OBP guy who can play first and DH. He is only a year removed from 25 HR’s and injuries could have been a factor last season. If healthy and gets days off to DH, he could regain some power and as it is his gap power should olay well for the rays. 4-5 million dollars fits theie budget as well. Very good hitter to either bat in front of Longoria(to be on base) or behind him to provide some protection.

  12. Im surprised he could be a good fit for the white sox incase they dont resign konerko which i think they will but as a DH and occasional starter to give a rest to Konerko it works out well.I think Manny will go to toronto and the rays will stay inhouse or get a cheaper guy.The red sox got ortiz so that wont work.Tigers can also come into play they can make a big move or 2 will some contracts coming off the books.He be good for the A’s to cuz there rotation and bullpen are fine just have such a weak lineup a few power bats would help them go far.i doubt he’d want to go to seattle they need a few pieces get a starter to go with felix and work on there lineup more.If Huff dont return he can go to the champion Giants who have the best starting 4 in my opinion in there rotation.

  13. Nacho999 5 years ago

    Totally agree with the statement above about Moreland. Sleeper big time. I think he’s 2-2 lifetime against the great Mariano Rivera for fun and games. I like his bat and there is no reason to clog up their collective development with Berkman unless Vladdy is deemed disposable. Man he looked bad in the postseason. Berkman actually performed fairly well though. Berkman isn’t done and Texas makes some sense, but not at the expense of Moreland…just my two cents…

  14. durf81 5 years ago

    The Rangers and Rays do seem likely landing spots, but why aren’t the White Sox mentioned? Just b/c Berkman chose the Yanks over them this past year?

    Regardless of whether Konerko is resigned (or any other firstbasemen), Berkman would fit the White Sox rotating DH/field requirements.

  15. DempseyK 5 years ago

    I think the Pirate suggestion above is a fantastic fit also. They need a first baseman to either platoon with or permanently supplant Garret Jones. I assume Jones would then give Berkman days off and also platoon right field with Lastings Milledge and Ryan Doumit. And Doumit presumably giving Chris Snyder days off behind the plate.

    Berkman would love being a switch hitter in PNC Park. Neal Huntington has proven to love buy low candidates. If he hits just 20 home runs and hits .280 it would be a upgrade for the team. Plus he would be an instant fan favorite, a clubhouse leader, and a proven middle of the order switch hitting bat.

  16. hunterboy 5 years ago

    mariners will get him cause they dont have a dh

  17. The_Silver_Stacker 5 years ago

    He would be a good fit for the Rays, 1b is open since Pena is not expected to return and they should afford Berkman. Another option for Berkman that makes sense would be the Rangers.

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