Better Ways the Texas Rangers Could Have Used Lance Berkman's $10 Million
The Texas Rangers took a nice step over the weekend to address the departure of key pieces to their offense this offseason.
They came to terms with Lance Berkman on a one-year, $10 million contract with a vesting option for the following season.
It's a huge chance to take for a player who saw action in only 32 games last season and who endured two surgeries on his right knee.
The Rangers had to pony up the big dollars to land Berkman, and Berkman, himself, said that receiving big money was the only way he'd consider playing this season.
"In a way they have to buy me out of retirement, and I know that sounds crass -- I wish it didn't -- but it's a big commitment, it can put a strain on the family," Berkman told the St. Louis Dispatch (h/t ESPN.com). "If I'm going to play, I'm going to give my heart and soul to the team. But if the carrot's not big enough, the mule isn't going to want to go."
However, was the carrot too big?
Considering Berkman's age and his lower body issues last year, were the Rangers foolish in giving Berkman $10 million?
Here are some other ways the Rangers could have used that money to upgrade their offense.
Free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche is still waiting on a contract this offseason. The Texas Rangers could very well have used the money they committed to Lance Berkman to sign LaRoche instead.
LaRoche's production last season for the Washington Nationals was clear proof that he was completely recovered from the delicate labrum surgery that cut his 2011 season short.
LaRoche is three years and nine months younger than Berkman and can easily take over at first base full-time, giving the Rangers more options with the designated hitter role.
Signing LaRoche would cost the Rangers a compensatory draft pick. However, in terms of committing at least $11 million for a known commodity over a player who is aging and coming off surgery, it certainly seems like a better use of money.
It would certainly seem that the Rangers' interest in LaRoche is now remote with the signing of Berkman. That could very well end up being the Rangers' loss.
Could the Rangers still sign free agents even after inking Berkman? Yes, but the Rangers now have $105 million committed to their payroll for the 2013 season, and that doesn't include contracts for arbitration-eligible players.
Once they've committed to signings for those arbitration-eligible players, the Rangers will be well above the $120 million payroll figure of last year.
The Rangers aren't the Los Angeles Dodgers—they're not going to sign players and worry about payroll later. Committing $11 million to Berkman definitely limited their ability to add other upgrades.
One of the top free-agent candidates is still out there, and his market is dwindling rapidly.
Michael Bourn may very well have scared off potential buyers with his early offseason contract demands. Teams who were reportedly once interested in his services have moved on to other options, leaving Bourn sitting at home and continuing to wonder where he'll be playing next season.
The Texas Rangers certainly could have used the money they spent on Lance Berkman to lure Bourn to Arlington.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Bourn could still be in play for the Rangers, even with the signing of Berkman.
However, signing both Berkman and Bourn would limit the Rangers from making any other significant moves.
At this point, Bourn would likely consider a shorter-term deal, especially from a contending team. Bourn at the top of the Rangers lineup would be an attractive option with his speed and ability to get on base.
Signing Bourn instead of Berkman would have given the Rangers other options in terms of making other moves to shore up their roster as well.
Heyman is right—the Rangers likely aren't done yet this offseason. However, their options are much more limited with the signing of Berkman in terms of their final payroll next season.
Trade for Giancarlo Stanton
Two weeks ago, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) suggested a blockbuster trade involving the Texas Rangers and Miami Marlins.
Bowden suggested that the Rangers could offer up prospects Mike Olt, Martin Perez and Jurickson Profar. In return, the Marlins would send right fielder Giancarlo Stanton and starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco to Texas.
Acquiring Stanton would certainly go a long way in replacing the offense of Josh Hamilton.
However, this deal, if in fact it were ever to be considered, would be difficult to make with the signing of Lance Berkman.
Throwing Nolasco into the deal means that the Rangers would have to pick up an $11.5 million salary. That salary, combined with the money paid out to Berkman, would likely make the Rangers balk at the idea of Nolasco being included in the deal.
The proposal offered up by Bowden was one that made sense for both teams. Acquiring Berkman, however, makes the deal much less of an option financially for the Rangers.
Trade for Justin Upton
As mentioned in an earlier slide, the signing of Lance Berkman by the Texas Rangers means that they currently have $105 million committed to payroll for the 2013 season.
Once they sign arbitration-eligible players, that figure is likely to jump well over the $120 million that the Rangers paid out in salaries last year.
Justin Upton will make $9.75 million in 2013. With Berkman on board, the possibility of entering into a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks to acquire Upton becomes more remote.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com suggests that a deal between the two clubs could still happen, though, regardless of the Berkman signing.
That's entirely possible, but it still limits what the Rangers can do financially in the future.
The bottom line is that the Rangers committed $11 million for a player who will be attempting to come back on a surgically-repaired right knee at the age of 37. There is absolutely no guarantee that Berkman can return to his 2011 form.
The Rangers are now financially limited in what they can do for the rest of the offseason. They're paying the Philadelphia Phillies $10 million for Michael Young and they're now committing $11 million for a player in the hope that he'll stay healthy.
This has been an offseason that the Rangers could well regret for years to come.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.