Lance Berkman has started five of eight games since returning from knee surgery and both the switch-hitting first baseman and manager Mike Matheny indicated that the reduced workload may be a long-term plan.
Not only is keeping the 36-year-old healthy a big consideration, the Cardinals have a logjam of capable hitters and Berkman explained to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he’s perfectly fine giving up at-bats to guys like Allen Craig:
We’ve got a surplus of guys now for our lineup spots. Everybody deserves to play, really. You could make the case that everybody but me deserves to play. I’m OK with that. I think the development of young guys is fun to watch and I don’t want to retard AC’s development in any way. He’s certainly earned a place in the lineup.
Throughout his career Berkman has been much better against right-handed pitching, so giving him regular days off versus left-handers would seemingly be the easiest solution for what Matheny called “a lot of juggling going on.”
Berkman has struggled since coming off the disabled list, but overall this season he’s hit .281 with an .847 OPS in 21 games after being one of the NL’s best hitters last year.
The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.
Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.
As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.