The Astros traded first baseman Lance Berkman to the Yankees on Friday night for right-hander Mark Melancon and infield prospect Jimmy Paredes. Berkman went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his debut as the Yanks’ new designated hitter on Saturday, but most people like the fit and believe he will be plenty productive for the 27-time World Series champs as they try for their 28th. Of course, everyone has a different opinion, and that’s why we play this “What They Are Saying About…” game.
- As Craig pointed out early Saturday morning, SI.com’s Jeff Pearlman thinks that Berkman is not “meant for New York” because he is an “off-the-charts right-winger” and because he has spent most of his adult life in the state of Texas. Of course, that has nothing to do with baseball and it seems like political conversations can be easily avoided in a major league locker room.
- Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News writes that the Yankees’ trade deadline moves, including the additions of Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns, scream of “insecurity.” Lupica calls them “sidebars” to Roy Oswalt, who he thinks would have been the real catch.
- FanGraphs’ David Golebiewski thinks that Berkman’s production at the plate “should pick up” in the cozy confines of the new Yankee Stadium, “though not to the level of his glory days.” No surprise there. He is 34, after all.
- Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle says that the Berkman trade “put an end to the Astros as they were known to half a generation of fans.” He’s probably right, and it’s hard to see that as a bad thing. The ‘Stros got younger this trade deadline and they also shrunk their payroll — two things that needed to be done in order to ensure a quality future.
- Joseph Pawlikowski of the Yankees blog River Ave. Blues notes that Berkman has “gotten better from May through July,” and is now hitting with more power while also drawing more walks. If he can play to his full potential, Pawlikowski writes, Berkman may be “the complete package in New York: a lefty who can spray the ball the other way but still take it over the short porch.”
The new Yankees DH is batting .242/.367/.430 on the season with 13 home runs and 49 RBI in 302 at-bats. He had a .221/.388/.494 batting line in the month of July. The Yankees, meanwhile, are two games ahead of the Rays in the American League East with a MLB-best 66-37 record.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.