ESPN.com is reporting free agent Lance Berkman visited the Houston Astros and discussed possibly signing with his former team to finish his illustrious career. Although he is near the end, a reunion between the Puma and the Astros would be a fitting conclusion to his career and could also possibly benefit the team.
Berkman is about to turn 37 and only played a total of 32 games in 2012. However, he was still effective when he played, posting a .826 OPS. A performance anywhere near that level in 2013 would be extremely valuable to the Astros.
Berkman spent the first 1,592 games and 11-plus seasons of his MLB career with the Astros, hitting .296 with 326 home runs and 1,090 RBI, while making five All-Star teams. He is the franchise’s greatest all-time hitter of outside of Jeff Bagwell.
The Astros offense needs to fundamentally change because of their 2013 shift to the American League. They were already the lowest scoring team in the majors in 2012, making it even more difficult to fill an additional spot in their lineup that was previously held by the pitcher.
If Berkman does come to terms with Houston, he would be used mainly as DH, although he could also fill in at first base on occasion. Adding a hitter of Berkman’s pedigree would simply be a major potential upgrade at any position.
Last season nobody on the Astros hit more than 18 home runs or drove in more than 55 runs, which represented the lowest number of RBI to lead an MLB team in a single season since catcher Tom Haller led the 1968 Los Angeles Dodgers with 53.
There would be no guarantees that Berkman could stay healthy or continue being a productive hitter, but it’s a gamble worth making. It was only 2011 when he hit .301 with 31 home runs and 94 RBI while appearing in 145 games for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The switch-hitting Berkman represents good hitting fundamentals, given his career .409 OBP. His presence in the Houston lineup could only help positively influence the team’s other young and unproven hitters.
Signing Berkman won’t break the bank for the Astros. With his injury problems and advancing age, he is not likely to have a large number of suitors. A team like Houston that can offer him familiarity and a chance to DH may be the optimal environment for him to finish out his career.
Berkman indicated that he will make up his mind whether or not to play in the coming months. A lot will hinge on his heath and the type of interest he garners from teams.
It will be a nice story Berkman and the Astros agree that they are a good match for each other. It’s always nice when a star can finish his career in the same city where he started. If Berkman can prove he still has something left in the tank he will not only provide a happy ending but also help the Astros with their transition to the American League.
Statistics via BaseballReference
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