With the Astros off to a 9-18 start and headed for fewer than 75 wins for the third time in four seasons, Lance Berkman said yesterday that he’d consider waiving his no-trade clause if asked. He also said that if he were running the Astros he’d probably be trying to trade himself:
If it was me and I was running the show here, if we didn’t make a great comeback like we did in ’05 and be sort of around .500 by the All-Star break, I’d try to trade every veteran I could to reload. That’s the quickest way you’re going to be able to reload and get it going in the right direction. …
I’m not saying we’re at the point where they should start pulling the plug on us, but they need to start thinking forward. If this thing keeps going like this, they’ve gotta do something. If you’re running a team, you don’t want to get caught in baseball purgatory–where you’re not really getting young and you’re not really [competing]. Where you’re in this deal where every year you’re signing a marginal veteran and you just never get in the mix.
Astros fans probably don’t want to hear that, but Berkman is right on the money. In fact, based on that very reasoned and logical quote the Astros might be better off if he were indeed “running the show.” Houston has long been stuck between contending and rebuilding–with offseason signings Pedro Feliz and Brandon Lyon clearly fitting the “marginal veteran” label–and the end result is a poor MLB team, a lacking farm system, and little short-term hope.
Berkman is making $14.5 million this season and the Astros hold a $15 million option or $2 million buyout for 2011, but the 34-year-old first baseman seems ready to move on:
As a player, if they came to me and said, “Hey, we’ve got a deal to go to a contender,” I’d take it. Heck, it’s only a three- or four-month deal. It’s not like I’m signing on for 10 years with another team. … I have been fortunate to play on at least competitive teams for most of my career, and it just stinks, you know, when you’re getting older and really want to win.
And then you kind of think, “Aw, man, how long before we win here?” This organization has been great to me. I love the Houston Astros. No matter what happens, I’m always going to be an Astro at heart. But as you get older, you definitely start to look at things like that, and you say, “How many sub-.500 seasons do you want to play?”
If general manager Ed Wade asks himself the same question part of the answer should be trading Berkman.
There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.
Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.
Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.