For the last decade, Lance Berkman was the face of the Cardinals' closest rival. But, according to his comments in the Houston Chronicle, the Redbirds have inquired with him about the possibility of coming to St. Louis in 2011.
He didn't elaborate on the scenario. But I imagine the Birds would like to see Berkman spend some time in right field and bat fifth in the order behind Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. In theory, it's a good idea. Berkman is a switch hitter with a power bat. What more could you ask for than that.
But the downside is that he's been very brittle over the last few years and that switch hitting bat seems to be in serious decline. He hit .312 with 29 homers in 2008. But Berkman sagged to .274 with 25 homers in 2009 and .248 with 14 homers in 2010. I have to wonder how many of those long balls were products of Houston's hitter friendly home park, too.
My other question is: How much outfield could Berkman handle? He hasn't played a game there since 2007 when he made 27 starts in right for the Astros. The last time he played most of his games in the outfield was 2004. He's played first base most of the time since then, a position the Cardinals hopefully won't need any help at -- at least in 2011.
Whether or not I think this is a good idea depends largely on how much money Berkman wants. If he is willing to take the salary of a complementary type player as opposed to being paid as a star, it's worth the gamble. But he rattled his sabre quite a bit about wanting the Astros to pick up his $15-million option before they traded him away. He's probably going to have to play for something in the vicinity of a third of that amount to get a job in St. Louis.
Berkman told the Chronicle that the Cubs, Rockies, Athletics, Pirates and Blue Jays also have called to express interest. I don't know if it means anything toward his preferences, but that's the order in which he named the clubs -- with the Cardinals at the front of the pack.
For his career, Berkman is a .296 hitter who averages slightly less than than 30 homers a season. He's going to be 35 years old in February.
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