MLB Trading Places: Lance Berkman Joins the New York Yankees

Baseball PressContributor IJuly 31, 2010

HOUSTON - JULY 24:  First baseman Lance Berkman #17 makes a play atr first base against the Cincinnati Reds at Minute Maid Park on July 24, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

After shipping long-time ace Roy Oswalt   off to Philadelphia yesterday, the Houston Astros sent another tenured member of their squad out on Friday, dealing first baseman Lance Berkman   to the Yankees for minor league pitcher Mark Melancon   and infielder Jimmy Paredes .

Berkman joins a strong Yankee lineup that lacks only a consistent hitting option at the designated hitter spot.  For most of this season, the Yankees' DH spot was filled by players with slight injuries who were unable to play a field position or sub-par hitters who made up the weak spot of the batting order.  Jorge Posada   was often there too, giving way at his catcher spot to younger backstop Francisco Cervelli   .

However, Berkman is suffering through a sub-par and injury-riddled season, hitting just .245 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI in 298 at-bats, though his 60 walks and .372 on-base percentage are still impressive.  With his ability to get on base, Berkman will likely thrive in the hard-hitting Yankee lineup, scoring runs and having opportunities to drive them in as well.  His days as a premier slugger are behind him, but he's still a pretty solid major league hitter.

As for the other side, Houston comes away with a decent return.  They will pay $4 million of Berkman's remaining salary and buyout for 2011, while the Yankees will handle the rest of the $7.1 million total.  Berkman had requested his club not pick up his 2011 option, so Houston probably wouldn't have kept him past this season anyway.

The Astros acquired a good prospect in Melancon, who has seen brief stints with the big club in 2009 and this year, and was the number 15 prospect in the Yankee organization entering 2010, according to Baseball America.  Melancon had elbow issues as a 9th round draftee in 2006 and had Tommy John surgery soon after, but has recovered nicely as a bullpen arm.  His fastball sits mostly in the low 90s, and his curveball and changeup have good movement, though he sometimes struggles to command them for strikes.  He projects as a good late-inning pitcher and may even become a closer at some point down the road.  In 212 total minor league innings, Melancon is 18-3 with a 2.84 ERA and 209 strikeouts, plus a 1.15 WHIP and just 178 hits allowed.

21 year-old infielder Jimmy Paredes is a much less highly-touted prospect than Melancon, as he is not a top minor leaguer and was ranked as just the fourth-best second basemen in the Yankees' minor leagues.  He has shown pretty good contact ability throughout his career, hitting .280 in 1036 total minor league at-bats, but lacks power and plate discipline.  His career on-base percentage is just .313 and he's drawn just 42 walks in over 1100 plate appearances.  He has some base-stealing ability, and has 36 for class A Charleston this season, but has also been caught 10 times.  He may reach the majors as a reserve infielder, but lacks any real star potential.

Overall, Berkman will probably improve in a potent New York lineup headed for another playoff run, while Houston received a fair return for him.
Dan Port has been a writer and article editor for Baseball Press since the fall of 2009. He's a Wisconsin native and Los Angeles resident, as well as an aspiring novelist, moderately successful gambler, and avid craft beer aficionado. You can reach him at dan@baseballpress.com  or on Twitter @danport .