Lance Berkman Rumors
The Cardinals have taken homefield advantage in the NLCS, as they will host the next three games against the Giants beginning with Wednesday's Game Three. Kyle Lohse will start for the Cards against Giants ace Matt Cain, a matchup that is also tentatively lined up for a possible seventh game between the two clubs. Here's the latest from St. Louis...
- Dan Lozano, Carlos Beltran's agent, says he kept his client "informed step by step" of negotiations with the Giants last winter, reports John Shea and Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. "The facts are, they never made us an offer, and we never talked money or years," Lozano said. "They put us in a holding pattern until they knew if they were going to pull off the [Angel Pagan] trade or not." Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans told Shea yesterday that the team had several conversations with Lozano about Beltran last offseason, discussing contract details but without making a formal offer.
- Lance Berkman won't make a decision about his playing future until February, reports B.J. Rains of FOXSportsMidwest.com (Twitter link). Berkman said he'll listen to offers from other teams but is looking to play for a contender and for a decent salary: "If it's Seattle for $500K, then no." The veteran seemed to be hinting at retirement earlier this season and already some post-career plans lined up as a student and assistant baseball coach at Rice University.
- In recent years, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak tells MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince that he has put more focus on personal character when acquiring new players. "Back in 2010, we really felt we had to change the makeup of our clubhouse," Mozeliak said. "We brought in guys like [Ryan] Theriot, [Gerald] Laird, Berkman. It just brought a level of professionalism and fun to our clubhouse....When you're young in this job, the first thing you're looking at is talent first. Then you realize it's got to be a tight-knit group for long-term success."
- Seventeen of the 25 players on the Cards' postseason roster were fully developed within the team's own minor league system, a testament to the Cardinals' minor league development process, writes MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. "For us it's the way we can have sustained success," Mozeliak said. "Strategically, we understood years ago that we had to produce players internally to be successful. That's not to say that we won't go to the free-agent market and that we can't augment that way, but it does not have to be our oxygen to survive."
Reds manager Dusty Baker suffered a minor stroke on Friday, the team told reporters (including MLB.com's Mark Sheldon). Baker was already in hospital being treated for an irregular heartbeat and was supposed to be released on Friday. The 63-year-old was released instead on Sunday and is reportedly in good condition, addressing the Reds clubhouse this afternoon. Bench coach Chris Speier has managed the team in Baker's absence and will continue to do so at least through Cincinnati's weekend series with the Pirates, though Baker is hopeful of returning for the Reds' final series of the year.
Here's some more news from around the baseball world...
- Long-time Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek tells Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston that he is "close" to taking a job with the team. Varitek will likely be a special assistant to GM Ben Cherington, though Edes notes that Varitek's teammates from Boston's 2004 World Series squad think he should be the next Red Sox manager.
- Bryan LaHair hopes to return to the Cubs next season, he tells CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney, though the team currently has no spot where he can get regular playing time.
- Eric Stults' good performances in the Padres' rotation may have earned him a spot in next year's rotation, writes Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
- Also from Bill Center, he examines the mixed results the Padres have thus far received from the seven players they signed to contract extensions this year.
- Lance Berkman tells Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle that he hopes to play for a contender next season, which would seem to eliminate him returning to the Astros as a DH. (Berkman has also considered retirement.) Berkman also endorsed ex-teammate Tim Bogar as his choice to be the Astros' next manager.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson discussed the Ike Davis trade rumors, the chances of the Mets extending David Wright and R.A. Dickey and other topics during a visit to the SNY booth during Tuesday's game. ESPN New York's Adam Rubin has a partial transcript.
- Willy Taveras is working out and hopeful of returning to the Major Leagues next season, reports MLB.com's Evan Drellich. Taveras, who turns 31 on Christmas Day, last played in the majors for the Nationals in 2010.
Late last month we heard that Lance Berkman was leaning towards calling it career after the season, but that does not mean his decision is final yet. The currently injured Cardinal spoke to Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch about potentially coming back next year as a DH with an AL club (Sulia link).
"I wouldn't want to just limp around as a DH," said Berkman, who continues to battle knee problems. "If I can't get [my knee] back pretty close to where it's 100 percent, I'm not going to fool with it."
There has been some speculation that the 36-year-old Berkman could join the Astros and fill their DH spot next season after they move into the AL. He came up with Houston in 1999 and remained there until the 2010 trade deadline, when they traded him to the Yankees as part of their rebuilding effort. Berkman has played just 31 games this year due to continued knee issues, which have hampered him for years.
Some links pertaining to baseball's two central divisions, as the White Sox and Tigers square off in the first game of a pivotal four-game series...
- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told reporters, including B.J. Rains of FOXSportsMidwest.com and Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that Lance Berkman will have season-ending surgery on his knee tomorrow. As Strauss points out, the procedure puts Big Puma's career in serious jeopardy (Twitter links).
- Reds minor leaguers Ernest (Niko) Vasquez and Jamie Walczak both tested positive for amphetamines and received 50-game suspensions, according to this Associated Press report (hat tip: Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News). Vasquez, a third baseman, and Walczak, a right-handed pitcher, will begin their suspensions next season.
- The Twins' lineup should be able to produce in 2013 even if they bolster their pitching staff by trading Denard Span this coming offseason, Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com writes. Mackey notes that the move would give Chris Parmelee a spot in the lineup by letting him play right field. He also notes that the Twins have a surplus of outfielders with both Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks having turned in strong Double-A seasons.
The Orioles drew first blood in their big four-game series with the Yankees, slugging six homers en route to a 10-6 victory. Mark Reynolds hit two home runs, and has now enjoyed three multi-homer games against New York within the span of a week. Baltimore is now tied with the Yankees atop the AL East.
Here's some news from around baseball...
- If Lance Berkman retires, he tells Mark Berman of FOX 26 Sports Houston that he intends to finish his degree at Rice and be an assistant coach for the school's baseball team. Berkman said he is still leaning towards retirement but is focused on the Cardinals right now and will save a final decision under the offseason.
- Between Bryce Harper's play in center field and new leadoff hitter Jayson Werth's performance (a 1.014 OPS in 14 games as the leadoff man entering tonight's action), Amanda Comak of the Washington Times wonders if the Nationals may not need to focus on these long-time problems areas this offseason.
- The Royals should re-sign Jeremy Guthrie to a two-year, $15MM contract and non-tender Luke Hochevar, opines Rany Jazayerli of Rany On The Royals. Jazayerli believes Guthrie would pitch well in the AL Central while Hochevar hasn't been able to translate his decent advanced metrics into on-the-field success.
- Fangraphs' Dave Cameron cites Angel Pagan as "the most underrated player in baseball." Pagan has a .284/.336/.430 line with eight homers, 78 runs scored and 23 steals for the Giants this season. He is also a free agent this winter, and compares well with bigger-name free agent center fielders like Michael Bourn or B.J. Upton.
- Players and owners aren't close to a decision about limiting September roster sizes, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. We heard earlier this week that MLB was looking to change the rules for next season, but Rosenthal reports that since different teams deal with the September rosters in different ways, some clubs aren't willing to commit to the players' demands for minimum number of active roster spots for each game.
It has been an injury-plagued season for Lance Berkman, who re-signed with the Cardinals last winter after hitting .301/.412/.547 and drawing MVP votes while helping St. Louis to the World Series in 2011. The 36-year-old slugger told Joe Strauss of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that right now he's leaning towards hanging up his spikes after the season...
"I don't want to rule anything out," said Berkman. "But if you asked me right now I'm leaning toward not playing next year. I don't want to say for certain because I don't want to do like Brett Favre and say, 'I retired; I'm not retired; I'm retired; I'm not retired.' I don't want to make that call right now, but if you put a gun to my head and demand an answer today I would tell you I'm probably not going to play next year."
Berkman is currently on a minor league rehab assignment in advance of rejoining the big league team in September. He's rehabbing from a right knee injury that required surgery earlier this season and was then re-aggravated on a hit-by-pitch. In 90 plate appearances this year, Berkman has put together a .267/.389/.467 batting line with two homers. He's admitted to considering retirement at several times in the past.
The light-hitting Pirates again didn't generate much offense on Friday, scoring just one run against the Cubs. Fortunately for the Bucs, that lone run was all they needed --- five Pittsburgh hurlers (started off by A.J. Burnett's scoreless 5 1/3 frames) combined to shut out Chicago in a 1-0 result. The Cubs have now suffered 10 consecutive losses.
Here's the latest from around the division...
- Lance Berkman was considering retirement two years ago before playing in pennant races with the Yankees and Cardinals reignited his love of baseball, writes Richard Justice for MLB.com. Berkman discussed retirement again in the wake of his recent knee injury, but he is expected to miss only 8-10 weeks of action, rather than the entire season. Justice can see Berkman signing to play DH with the Astros when they move to the AL West next season, but I'm not sure if Berkman's love of his old team would overcome his desire to play for a contender, should one exist this winter.
- The Cubs are expected to focus on Major League roster moves once the June 4 amateur draft passes, reports Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.
- Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy's rise to the majors is profiled by Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Lucroy is enjoying a huge breakout season and the five-year, $11-13MM extension he signed with Milwaukee in March is looking like a great bargain for the team, especially given the much more expensive deals signed by catchers Yadier Molina and Miguel Montero.
- "Rumors continue to swirl that Astros scouts prefer Byron Buxton but that higher-ups want someone who can provide more immediate help," writes Jim Callis of Baseball America. Callis thinks Houston should take Buxton, a high school outfielder who Callis compares to Matt Kemp, Justin and B.J. Upton in terms of overall tools.
- Astros legend Craig Biggio has been given the title of special assistant with the team, owner Jim Crane tells Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle.
FRIDAY: The Cardinals announced that Berkman will likely miss eight to ten weeks after undergoing surgery for meniscus and cartilage tears today, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Berkman could return this season if all goes well despite talk of an earlier-than-expected retirement.
MONDAY: It appears that Lance Berkman suffered a torn ACL in his right knee Saturday, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets. An MRI will take place today to confirm the early diagnosis. The injury could end Berkman's season and has the veteran switch-hitter considering retirement.
Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter provide the Cardinals with a pair of internal options at first base. Adams had a .340/.375/.603 batting line at Triple-A before getting called up this weekend and Carpenter has a .280/.345/.500 through 113 plate appearances as a corner infielder and outfielder with the Cardinals this year. Allen Craig could also play first base once he returns from the disabled list, ESPN.com's Buster Olney notes.
Berkman, 36, will earn $12MM in 2012 before hitting free agency this offseason. He is a client of Moye Sports Associates.
WEDNESDAY: Earlier this week, Lance Berkman learned that he likely suffered a torn ACL and the veteran acknowledged that he might not look to come back after the surgery, writes David Dalati of FOXSportsMidwest.com.
"I think the decision of whether I want to continue playing or not I would want to make in the offseason. It's just one of those things...you realize you can't play forever. Certainly when you get to be my age and you suffer a significant injury it can help push you out the door. I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't at least considering that possibility," Berkman said.
SUNDAY: The Cardinals and Lance Berkman have yet to disclose specifics about an injury caused by Berkman stretching for a routine throw from Rafael Furcal, but the veteran is unsure about his future as he awaits MRI results, writes Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"You think about it when you have a potentially major surgery at this stage of your career. But, again, right now we don't know what it is. But it gives you pause," the first baseman said. "I don't think it's one of those deals where you sit out a week and see where your are. I think it's much more serious than that."
Berkman, 36, added that he wouldn't automatically call it a career if he has re-torn his ACL and that he is hopeful that he will be able to bounce back from his injury. The veteran is earning $12MM this season but has appeared in just 13 games thus far.
For his career, Berkman owns a .296/.409/.546 slash line across 14 seasons and has earned more than $102MM in total, according to Baseball-Reference.
Here's the latest from around the league, on the night Yu Darvish made his MLB debut...
- Padres owner John Moore has retained investment banker Steve Greenberg to broker a sale of the club, reports Dan Hayes of The North County Times. Hayes says the club could fetch up to $700MM after the Dodgers sold for $2 billion last month.
- "If I could go back in time, I would have explored free agency earlier in my career," Lance Berkman told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The veteran missed the boat on truly massive contracts for first basemen, but he's still earned upwards of $100MM over the course of his career. Berkman, 36, is earning $12MM this year from the Cardinals.
- Giants owner Charles Johnson told Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle that he plans to stay out of the club's day-to-day operations. The billionaire upped his stake in the club in September 2011, making him the team's top shareholder.
- In his latest mailbag, MLB.com's Bill Chastain says that he wouldn't be so sure that Rays fans have seen the last of Wade Davis as a starter. James Shields will make $12MM in 2013 and it's not clear if the Rays will bring him back at that number or deal him. If that were to happen then Davis would likely return to the rotation.
- Many writers scoffed when the Royals handed the closer’s role to Jonathan Broxton this spring, but so far it looks like he might be ready to return to form, writes J.P. Breen of Fangraphs. The 27-year-old's deal is worth $4MM plus $1MM in incentives based on games pitched.
Mike Axisa contributed to this post.