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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.

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