Lance Berkman is interested in returning to his hometown Astros, reports Mark Berman of FOX 26 Sports Houston. If Berkman does decide to keep playing in the wake of recurring knee problems, regular playing time and money seem to be Berkman's primary concerns for not just the Astros, but any team looking for his services.
"It just depends on what kind of money they are talking about," Berkman said. "Am I going to come back for a couple of million bucks, no. If they want to pay me close to what I feel like my value is in terms of what I bring to the table...if they're going to ask me to be there and hit third and play every day and DH every day, I want to be compensated like a guy who is a Major League three-hole hitter.
"Obviously I would be willing to take a little bit less because it's my hometown and for the opportunity to get back to the Astros organization. I'm just waiting for them to make some sort [of] offer and go from there."
Berkman has hinted at retirement following a tough 2012 season that saw him undergo two surgeries on his right knee and limited him to just 97 plate appearances for the Cardinals. Berkman will be 37 on Opening Day but isn't far removed from a 2011 season that saw him hit 31 homers and post a .959 OPS in 587 PAs for St. Louis.
If healthy, Berkman would give the Astros lineup some sorely-needed pop from the DH spot as the club moves to the American League for 2013. A healthy Berkman, however, would draw interest from a number of clubs, and the lure of playing for a contender might be stronger than the attraction of returning to the site of his first 12 Major League seasons.
Astros owner Jim Crane met with Berkman last week for what Crane described as "a get-acquainted meeting." There was no talk of a contract as Crane said that all decisions about Berkman and the team would be made by general manager Jeff Luhnow. The GM said that he planned to talk to Berkman later this winter and see if bringing Berkman back to Houston would work as a "baseball decision."
Berkman already has post-retirement plans in place as an assistant baseball coach at Rice University, plus Crane said he wanted to hire Berkman to work for the Astros in some capacity once the slugger's career is officially over.