At times last season Lance Berkman looked washed up, posting an OPS below .800 for the first time, but he’s bounced back in a huge way this season at age 35 by hitting .290 with 29 homers and a .975 OPS.
Not surprisingly Berkman plans to keep playing in 2012, but the big question is whether he’ll re-sign with the Cardinals after resurrecting his career on a one-year, $8 million contract.
Asked yesterday about his plans, Berkman told Matthew Leach of MLB.com that he’d definitely like to stay in St. Louis:
This would be my first choice. Hopefully it will be here, but part of that is not up to me. This is a great group of guys. I think it has a lot of potential. Even if things don’t go like we want them to this year, I still feel like this is not a team that is rebuilding. It’s not a team that’s very far away from being right where it needs to be.
Surely the Cardinals would love to re-sign him to another one-year deal, but Berkman has played well enough that getting multi-year offers on the open market seems possible. If the Cardinals re-sign Albert Pujols to a monster contract will they have enough payroll space left to give multiple years to Berkman? And if Pujols leaves St. Louis as a free agent will they want to rebuild rather than re-sign the 36-year-old Berkman?
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.