Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman told mlb.com's Matthew Leach that he's planning to keep playing in 2012.
And, despite a second half swoon that has swept the Redbirds from contention, his first choice is to remain in St. Louis.
"This is a great group of guys. I think it has a lot of potential," Berkman told Leach. "Even if things don't go like we want them to this year, I still feel like this is not a team that is rebuilding. It's not a team that's very far away from being right where it needs to be."
Asked by Leach if he would be open to advances from the club about a deal for next season, Berkman didn't hesitate.
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"Oh yeah, absolutely," he said. "This would be my first choice."
Berkman pointed out that it's not just up to him where he plays next year. The Cardinals front office will have a say to. But how much he wants to cash in on his 2011 renaissance season will also be a facor.
The Cardinals will be pressed to give Berkman a raise despite his great season with a .291 batting average, 29 homers and 77 RBIs. Besides addressing the Albert Pujols free agency issue, the Cardinals also have tough decisions to make regarding Chris Carpenter's $15-million option, Adam Wainwrght's two-year option that would pay him $9 million in 2012 and holes at shortstop and second base.
But Berkman turned down a two-year, $16-million deal last off-season to sign with the Redbirds for one year at $8 million. So he's already shown that getting the last dollar isn't his top priority.