UPDATE: Hoo-boy. According to Jon Heyman of SI.com, Berkman got $8 million from the Cardinals.
This isn’t confirmed, but Heyman also hears that Berkman will play left field while Matt Holliday will be moved to right field. That’s right. The Cardinals are apparently moving their $120 million outfielder to make way for Berkman. By the way, Holliday has never played an inning in right field between the majors and minors. Fun times.
5:27 PM: Here’s a surprising one.
The Cardinals have signed Lance Berkman to a one-year contract, according to the team’s Twitter feed. No word on the exact terms of the deal.
Interestingly, he is described as an outfielder/first baseman in the Tweet by the team, though we can’t see him playing first base that much as long as that Albert Pujols guy has something to say about it.
Berkman is coming off a career-worst season in which he batted .248/.368/.413 with 14 home runs and 58 RBI over 481 plate appearances between the Astros and Yankees. He batted just .171/.261/.256 with one home run, five RBI and a 517 OPS over 82 at-bats against left-handed pitching.
The Athletics were aggressive in their pursuit of Berkman, but he reportedly preferred staying in the National League. A rebound season with the bat isn’t out of the question — and he probably represents an upgrade over what the Cardinals had in right field after the Ryan Ludwick trade, at least offensively — but it’s worth noting that Berkman hasn’t played one inning in the outfield since the 2007 season and hasn’t been a full-time outfielder since 2004. That’s quite a leap of faith to take with someone who turns 35 years old in February and needed knee surgery earlier this year.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉