Lance Berkman began a minor league rehab assignment last night with Triple-A Memphis and went 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored. He’s expected to play in four more rehab games before rejoining the Cardinals in a limited role down the stretch, but he could be reaching the end of his career.
According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Berkman acknowledged last night that he’s leaning toward retirement after this season.
“I don’t want to rule anything out. But if you asked me right now I’m leaning toward not playing next year,” Berkman said. “I don’t want to say for certain because I don’t want to do like Brett Favre and say, ‘I retired; I’m not retired; I’m retired; I’m not retired.’ I don’t want to make that call right now, but if you put a gun to my head and demand an answer today I would tell you I’m probably not going to play next year.”
And it would be tough to blame him if he does decide to hang it up. Berkman has had five knee surgeries in his career, the most recent of which was on his right knee in May. The 36-year-old is currently on the disabled list due to inflammation in the very same knee, but he was recently diagnosed with meniscus damage in his left knee. He’s just not sure whether it’s worth putting his body through it all for another year.
Berkman, a six-time All-Star, is a .296/.409/.545 hitter over 14 major league seasons. He has 1,842 career hits and 360 home runs.
The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.
Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.
Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.
12:15 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.
Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.
The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.
What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.
Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.