Carlos Pena Signing with the Houston Astros Will Force Lance Berkman to Retire

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Carlos Pena Signing with the Houston Astros Will Force Lance Berkman to Retire
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Carlos Pena's signing will force Lance Berkman to retire.

Though the Houston Astros have been speaking with fan-favorite Lance Berkman over the offseason, it now looks like the team might be going in another direction with the signing of former Tampa Bay Ray, Carlos Pena.

Pena, who recently signed a one-year, $2.9 million contract with the Astros, brings a much needed long-ball threat to the middle of the Houston lineup.  

Less than three years ago, Sports Illustrated called Pena, "the heart of the Tampa Bay's lineup and clubhouse."  Having averaged 32 home runs over the past six seasons, Pena may strike out his fare share, but will also be a positive impact in the clubhouse and contribute to the leadership of a relatively young Astro team. 

Berkman, on the other hand, recently told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, that he's still undecided about whether he'll play in 2013.  Though Houston is still open to bringing him back in a DH capacity, Berkman is also excited about the opportunity to spend more time with his family and helping coach the Rice Baseball team. 

In an injury shortened 2012 season, Berkman batted only .259 with two home runs and seven RBI in 81 at-bats.  Having come off multiple right-knee surgeries, Berkman recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "I don't have a lot of pain, but I'm gun shy. Part of me feels I can drag myself out there and pinch hit. Another part feels like I'm a step away from doing serious damage."

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Berkman recently met with Houston owner Jim Crane, but is still a "back-burner issue" for the Astros.

One thing is for sure—Houston needed a power bat in the middle of their lineup.  In a post-steroid era where big home run numbers are more valuable than ever, signing Carlos Pena over an aging and injury-prone Lance Berkman (who will be 37 next season) may seem to be the best option for the Astros. 

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