Lance Berkman Rumors


Quick Hits: Angels, Rays, Astros

Though he's arguably already baseball's best player, Mike Trout is working to improve his arm strength, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Some might say Trout's arm is the weakest of his five tools, which has produced "a little chip on his shoulder," according to Angels bench coach Dino Ebel. While the outfielder was once a fringe-average thrower, he's improved the tool so that it's now average or better, Ebel says. Here are more Saturday night Major League links:

  • The Rays are known for aggressively locking up their young stars long term, but the team increasingly shows a willingness to go multiple years with veterans, notes Adam Berry of MLB.com. Today's Yunel Escobar extension the most recent example, but the club has also recently given a two-year deal to David DeJesus and a three-year commitment to catcher Ryan Hanigan. "I think the common denominator is that they're three guys that we like a lot, that fit us well, that will help us win games in the current," GM Andrew Friedman said.
  • Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt both signed one-day contracts and officially retired as members of the Astros organization today. Alyson Footer of MLB.com has the details on a pregame ceremony in which the two greats were given personalized rocking chairs and custom Stetson cowboy hats.



Lance Berkman To Retire

Lance Berkman has confirmed that his playing career is over and that he will retire, reports MLB.com's Richard Justice (Twitter links). The 37-year-old had been expected to hang up his spikes.

Berkman has seen action in fifteen MLB seasons, posting an outstanding .943 OPS over his 7,814 big league plate appearances. He stands at 47th all-time with a 144 wRC+, nestled amongst a group of Hall-of-Fame caliber players. The switch-hitter swung well from the right side, but was devastating from the left. Over his career, Berkman put up a .304/.420/.575 triple-slash against righties, including 316 of his 366 total home runs.

Berkman ended his career with a disappointing 2013 run with the Rangers. He got on base at a .340 clip, but struggled to a career-low .359 slugging percentage over his 294 plate appearances. Hampered by injuries, including hip and knee issues, Berkman can retire comfortable in the knowledge that he was still an excellent player in his last full season of work. In 2011 with the Cardinals, Berkman was good for a .301/.412/.547 triple-slash with 31 home runs while still playing the outfield on a daily basis. 

Berkman did most of his damage, of course, for an Astros team that was among the best in baseball during much of his peak. In the aggregate, Baseball-Reference pegs Berkman's career value at 52.8 WAR, while Fangraphs puts it at 55.8 WAR. The Big Puma earned a total of just over $124MM during his time in the bigs.



Lance Berkman Leaning Toward Retirement

The Pirates reached out to Lance Berkman but were told by his agent that Berkman is leaning toward retirement, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Berkman, 37, appeared in 73 games for the Rangers this season, batting .242/.340/.359 -- hardly the numbers that Texas was hoping for when signing Big Puma to a one-year, $10MM contract last offseason. Berkman was slowed by injuries once again this year -- primarily hip inflammation but also some pain in the same surgically repaired right knee that cost him the majority of his 2012 season.

It feels like a long time ago that Berkman revived his career with a stellar 2011 campaign that helped the Cardinals to a World Series victory. The switch-hitting slugger slashed .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers that season, earning himself a one-year, $12MM extension with the Cardinals that proved to be a sunk cost due to the aforementioned knee issues.

Berkman is a career .293/.406/.537 with 366 home runs. If he decides to call it quits after this season, he'll have banked just north of $124MM in his big league career, according to Baseball-Reference.



Rangers Decline Lance Berkman's Option

The Rangers have declined their $12MM club option on designated hitter Lance Berkman in favor of a $1MM buyout, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter).

Berkman, who turns 38 in February, missed nearly two months of the season with a hip injury and also missed a week earlier in the season with knee soreness. Signed to be the Rangers everyday DH, his durability issues shone through, as he appeared in just 73 games and totaled 294 plate appearances. In those 294 trips to the plate, Big Puma slashed .242/.340/.359 with six homers.

As the season wore on, Berkman weighed retirement but ultimately decided that he felt he could make a comeback and return to the team. He did make it back to the club, but his injuries limited him at the plate and he wound up going hitless in just 12 September at-bats.

Designated hitter figures to be an area of need for the Rangers this offseason, along with catcher, left field and possibly first base if they'd like to upgrade over Mitch Moreland.



West Links: Washington, Berkman, Astros, D-Backs

It's time for a managerial change in Arlington, opines ESPN's David Schoenfield, who breaks down Rangers manager Ron Washington's questionable bullpen management over the past week. Schoenfield concedes that the Rangers have had poor luck this season, including injuries to Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando and Colby Lewis' failure to return. However, he ultimately concludes: "...a team with flaws can't win if its manager is making decisions that hurt its chances of winning. The Rangers have seven games remaining. I suspect they'll be the final seven games Washington manages for the Rangers."

Here's more out of baseball's Western divisions...

  • Lance Berkman hasn't decided if he will retire after the season or try to play again in 2014, he told Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle. Whatever Puma decides, no announcement will come until after the season.
  • The Astros have secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, and unsurprisingly they're already looking at NC State lefty Carlos Rodon, according to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. Rodon has long been assumed to be the No. 1 pick in next year's draft. Houston has selected Stanford right-hander Mark Appel and Puerto Rican prep shortstop Carlos Correa with the previous two No. 1 selections. McTaggart spoke with scouting director Mike Elias about the team's approach to the draft.
  • The emergence of Chris Owings leaves the Diamondbacks with uncertainty at shortstop, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. GM Kevin Towers would like to get playing time for both Owings and Didi Gregorius but knows that a time-share will hinder both players' development. As Piecoro points out, Arizona also has Cliff Pennington under contract for next season. Willie Bloomquist, a free agent, isn't likely to return to the Snakes, he adds.



Texas Notes: Astros, Rangers, Springer, Berkman

There's a chance that the two Texas clubs could find themselves on the opposite ends of the standings come season's end.  As the MLBTR reverse standings tell us, the Rangers entered today four games behind the Braves for the best record in baseball, while the 39-81 Astros have a firm grasp on the league's worst record.  The Astros are on pace to become the first team in baseball history to select the No. 1 overall pick in three consecutive amateur drafts. 

Here are some news items out of the Lone Star State...

  • Astros prospect George Springer will remain in minors through the end of the Triple-A season and their playoffs, general manager Jeff Luhnow tells MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.  The center field star could be brought up by mid-September if the club feels it would make sense.  Springer, 23, has a combined .303/.411/.605 line and 33 homers in 520 PA between Double-A and Triple-A this season.  Baseball America tabbed Springer as the 20th-best prospect in the sport in their midseason prospect rankings after ranking him 37th before the season; he was also highly-touted by both ESPN's Keith Law (43rd) and MLB.com (58th) in preseason ratings.
  • The Astros will make relief pitching a priority this winter, manager Bo Porter told reporters (including McTaggart).  Houston will likely try to obtain at least one veteran reliever to aid their young relief corps, McTaggart speculates.
  • The Rangers and Lance Berkman are trying to decide if they will wait until the rosters expand on September 1 to activate the veteran slugger from the DL.  Berkman played four games on a rehab assignment but told reporters (including Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News) that he has "concerns about competing at the level I think I am capable of. If I can’t do that, I’m not sure, I can be a positive piece for the team. There is no doubt I can compete. I just don’t know about the level.”  Berkman has a .732 OPS in 282 PA with Texas this year but he has been on the DL for over two months with hip and knee injuries and even considered retirement earlier this summer.
  • Adam Rosales could be a factor in the Berkman situation, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan explains.  The infielder would likely be the one designated for assignment to make roster space for Berkman and the Rangers don't want to lose him again.  Rosales has already been designated four times since July 8 and has bounced back and forth between the Rangers' and Athletics' rosters over the last few weeks.



2014 Vesting Options Update

As we turn to August, here's a look at the players who have vesting options for the 2014 season..

  • Kurt Suzuki, Nationals: $9.25MM option vests with 113 starts in 2013.  The Nats were relying on Suzuki during the first half of the season when Wilson Ramos was sidelined, but Ramos returned to action on July 4th, sliding Suzuki back down the depth chart.  The 29-year-old is 45 starts shy of the needed mark with 52 games remaining, so Suzuki's chances aren't too strong.  if/when the option doesn't vest, it'll become a club option worth $8.5MM with a modest $650K buyout.
  • Jamey Carroll, Twins: $2MM option vests with 401 plate appearances. Carroll has 185 PAs in 53 games this season.  The veteran has had more than his needed total in each of the last three seasons with 500+ plate appearances in each of the last two years, but he'll have his work cut out for him in 2013.
  • Wilson Betemit, Orioles: $3.2MM option vests with 324 plate appearances (combined 700 between 2012 and 2013). Betemit underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on March 26th and he'll begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday.  Needless to say, his option won't vest.
  • Lance Berkman, Rangers: $13MM option vests with 550 plate appearances.  Berkman has 282 plate appearances to his credit and the good news is that despite whispers that he might call it quits after his latest hip troubles, he pledges to return this season.  Unfortunately for him, his rehab assignment isn't scheduled to get underway until the end of this week and 550 sounds like a longshot.
  • Roy Halladay, Phillies: $20MM option vests with 259 innings pitched (combined 415 innings pitched between '12 and '13).  This was a longshot to begin with, but shoulder surgery earlier this season makes this one impossible.
  • Brett Myers, Indians: $8MM option vests with 200 innings pitched in 2013 and a passed physical after the season.  After logging 21 and 1/3 innings in 2013, Myers was sidelined with tendinitis and a mild ligament sprain in his right elbow and has yet to return.  When he does come back, it's possible that the Tribe will move him to the bullpen.
  • Barry Zito, Giants: $18MM option vests with 200 innings pitched. Zito has racked up 111 and 1/3 innings through 21 starts this season.  Zito probably won't get to lock in his sizable 2014 salary.
  • Johan Santana, Mets: His $25MM option could have vested with 215 innings pitched or winning the 2013 Cy Young Award, but he won't have a chance at that thanks to a season-ending tear in his pitching shoulder.

It's also worth noting that Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano has a $8MM club option for 2014, but it can vest at any of three levels - $5MM, $6MM, or $8MM - based on the number of days he is not on the DL this year with a recurrence of his right arm injury.  It's not known how many days the hurler must steer clear of right arm trouble in order to trigger each level of his option, however.  The left-hander made his season debut on May 11th and has a 2.02 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 through 16 starts this season.



Lance Berkman Plans To Return This Season

3:28pm: Berkman feels optimistic after running at 50 percent today, he told Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest (Twitter link). Big Puma is targeting August 8-9 to begin a rehab assignment and told Andro definitively, "I'm coming back."

THURSDAY, 11:17am: Berkman is not retiring, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

WEDNESDAY, 7:17pm: Berkman has not made any decisions and has yet to discuss the possibility of retiring with GM Jon Daniels, reports Anthony Andro of FOXSportsSouthwest. Berkman says he wants to act in the best interest of the team, and his concern is with being ineffective by playing with the hip issue.

11:12am: Rangers designated hitter Lance Berkman is considering retiring as early as this afternoon and forfeiting the remaining $4.4MM on his contract, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  He's meeting with team officials today.  Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, however, was told this report is premature, and reported previously about the possibility of a financial settlement.  Berkman is thinking about retirement, he wrote in a text to MLB.com's Richard Justice.

Berkman, 37, signed a one-year, $11MM deal in January but has been battling a hip injury.  The Rangers have been searching aggressively for offense, not being able to rely on Berkman or Nelson Cruz.



Lance Berkman Could Miss Season; Has Considered Retirement

TUESDAY: Berkman told MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan that he needs to make a decision on his future soon. Berkman is taking batting practice today and tomorrow but recognizes that if he can't be headed toward a rehab assignment soon, he may have to call it a season. Jeff Wilson of the Fort-Worth Star Telegram also spoke with Berkman, who told him that he jogged a short while ago and it was "not good, to be honest."

THURSDAY: The Rangers are already in the market for a hitter with eyes on Alex Rios, Hunter Pence and Kendrys Morales, but they may need more help than they originally thought. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that injured designated hitter Lance Berkman has considered shutting himself down for the rest of the season and possibly even retiring due to concerns over his surgically repaired right knee.

Berkman, 37, is currently on the disabled list with hip inflammation, but Grant reports that an inability to extend the right knee on which he has twice had surgery has been bothering him longer than his hip. Grant spoke to Berkman directly:

“I’ve definitely thought about it,” Berkman said of shutting down for the remainder of the season. “But I haven’t reached any final decisions on it. Hopefully I’ll do the best that I can and help the team. It could also depend on what the team’s needs are. This is an uncertain time of the year for everybody.”

Berkman was eligible to come of the disabled list on Monday but just began running on Wednesday, Grant reports. If he does sit out the remainder of the season, the two sides could work out an agreement in which Texas would only pay him a portion of the remaining $4.5MM on his contract in order to provide more payroll flexibility in trades.

Berkman signed with the Rangers this offseason on a one-year, $10MM contract that contains a $13MM vesting option for 2014. The option vests at 550 plate appearances, which Berkman will now surely not reach. In 282 trips to the plate this season, he's batted .254/.355/.377 with six homers. Injuries have limited him to just 100 games since the start of the 2012 season.

The Rangers, of course, have another veteran DH candidate in the organization after signing Manny Ramirez to a minor league deal earlier this month. Ramirez hit well overseas in Taiwain with the EDR Rhinos for the early portion of the season, but his bat has cooled after a hot start in Triple-A Round Rock. He's hitting .250/.323/.411 with three homers through 62 plate appearances entering play today.



2014 Vesting Options Update

As we enter July, let's check on the players who are hoping to lock in their options for the 2014 season..

  • Kurt Suzuki, Nationals: $9.25MM option vests with 113 starts in 2013.  The Nats planned to have Suzuki split time at catcher with Wilson Ramos, but Suzuki has started 59 games (counting tonight's game against the Brewers) behind the plate thanks to Ramos' hamstring troubles.  Ramos is currently rehabbing in the minors, however, and he could be back in action for the club on Thursday, according to the latest update from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.  Suzuki is slashing just .226/.286/.332, so it stands to reason that Ramos will see the lion's share of starts if he stays healthy.  If Suzuki doesn't reach 113 starts, the Nats will have an $8.5MM club option with a $650K buyout. 
  • Jamey Carroll, Twins: $2MM option vests with 401 plate appearances.  The veteran has had more than his needed total in each of the last three seasons with 500+ plate appearances in each of the last two years but has just 146 PAs so far.  
  • Wilson Betemit, Orioles: $3.2MM option vests with 324 plate appearances (combined 700 between 2012 and 2013). Betemit underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on March 26th and just resumed baseball activities late last week.  Couple that with Manny Machado holding down third base and it's hard to see Betemit's option vesting.
  • Lance Berkman, Rangers: $13MM option vests with 550 plate appearances. So far, Berkman is has 268 plate appearances through 64 games this season.  Berkman scared the baseball world when he took a tumble down the stairs of the team plane and tweaked his troublesome right knee, but the injury is said to be minor and shouldn't cost him serious time.  In 2011, his last full season, the slugger racked up 587 PAs.
  • Roy Halladay, Phillies: $20MM option vests with 259 innings pitched (combined 415 innings pitched between '12 and '13).  This was a longshot anyway, but shoulder surgery in May makes this an impossibility.
  • Brett Myers, Indians: $8MM option vests with 200 innings pitched in 2013 and a passed physical after the season.  After logging 21 and 1/3 innings in 2013, Myers was sidelined with tendinitis and a mild ligament sprain in his right elbow and is still working towards his return.  When he does come back, the Tribe will move him to the bullpen.   
  • Barry Zito, Giants: $18MM option vests with 200 innings pitched. Zito has 91 and 1/3 innings to his credit through 16 starts this season.  He'll still need some things to go in his favor, but so far his chances of locking up 2014 are still alive.
  • Johan Santana, Mets: His $25MM option could have vested with 215 innings pitched or winning the 2013 Cy Young Award, but he won't have a chance at that thanks to a season-ending tear in his pitching shoulder.

Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano has a $8MM club option for 2014, but it can vest at any of three levels - $5MM, $6MM, or $8MM - based on the number of days he is not on the DL this year with a recurrence of an injury to his non-throwing arm.  However, it's not known how many days he has to avoid missing time due to his right arm trouble in order to trigger each level of his option.  Liriano returned to action on May 11th and has looked strong in ten starts.  The left-hander has a 2.23 ERA on the year with 9.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9.









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