Astros general manager Ed Wade informed the agent for Lance Berkman that the club is not open to a reunion with their former slugger this offseason, according to Mark Berkman of FOX 26 in Houston.
“I heard from Mike Moye and he inquired about whether we had interest in bringing Lance back and I was candid with him and told him it didn’t fit for us,” Wade said. “As much as we love and respect Lance and what he’s done for our organization, We had these internal conversations in July when we made the decision to go ahead and move him.”
It was pretty easy to see this one coming, but the news obviously wasn’t easy for the “Big Puma” to take.
“To be honest I don’t know how I feel,” Berkman said. “I really need some time to digest it.”
Berkman, who turns 35 in February, batted just .248/.368/.413 with 14 home runs, 58 RBI and a 781 OPS in 404 at-bats between the Astros and Yankees this past season. He completely collapsed against left-handed pitching, batting just .171 with one home run and a 571 OPS over 82 at-bats, so he’ll be hard-pressed to find an everyday job this winter. The Yankees declined his $15 million option for 2011 this week, making him a free agent.
The Astros appear set at first base, whether with Carlos Lee or Brett Wallace. The 34-year-old Lee is virtually untradeable because of the $37 million owed to him over the next two seasons, so the Astros may decide to hide his defensive deficiencies at first base. He played 20 games there this season. Wallace, 24, batted just .222/.296/.319 with two homers, 13 RBI and an alarming 50/8 K/BB ratio over his first 144 major league at-bats, so he might not be ready for primetime.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.