Lance Berkman hasn’t ruled out playing again this season

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When it comes to the Cardinals and season-ending surgeries apparently “season-ending” doesn’t actually mean much of anything.

Chris Carpenter is set to return tomorrow from what was supposed to be “season-ending” surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome and now Lance Berkman is thinking about possibly returning from “season-ending” knee surgery. And in Berkman’s case he went under the knife just two weeks ago.

Here’s what the Cardinals first baseman said yesterday, via Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

I’m not ruling out a return by the end of the regular season the way it feels, but I’m not ruling it in either. I’m hopeful that if I can get the swelling calmed down and if I can get a little strength back in there and if I can get in the batting cage and see how it feels there … all these are big “ifs” … but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility.

Even if Berkman ultimately can’t return before this season is over that leaves the door wide open for the 36-year-old playing in 2013. When asked about that, Berkman cited “a lot of factors involved” in his recovery and added that “I’m holding off to the point in the offseason where I can see what kind of interest there is.”

At this point in his career moving to the American League as a full-time designated hitter would seemingly make the most sense, as it would keep Berkman’s still-productive bat in the lineup while lessening the wear and tear on his body.

With the Astros moving to the AL a reunion with his former team could be a fit for everyone involved, but Berkman downplayed that possibility to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com: “Obviously that’s been talked about. I’m not ruling anything out, but by the same token, as I sit today, it’s not something that I’m super interested in.”

The Pirates are, not surprisingly, leaning against trading Andrew McCutchen

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Over the winter there was serious talk about the Pirates trading Andrew McCutchen to the Washington Nationals. His move to left field to allow Starling Marte to take over center further served to make McCutchen a less important part of the Pirates long term plans.

Then the season began, Marte got suspended for PEDs and, after a bumpy start, McCutchen caught fire. He hit .411/.505/.689 in June he has a .333/.444/.561 line in the month of July. For the year he’s now at .292/.384/.507 with 17 homers and 57 RBI. Even with Marte back on the roster, McCutchen is the Pirates’ center fielder. What’s more, the Pirates, after beginning the season slowly have righted the ship somewhat and are now only three games back in the NL Central.

All of which makes this, from Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, unsurprising:

That option is a quite reasonable $14.5 million, so it seems sorta crazy that they wouldn’t pick it up. Of course if they remain coy enough about it for now perhaps someone will bowl them over with an offer. Letting McCutchen walk seems insane. Unloading him for a hefty haul would, well, still be kinda crazy given how popular McCutchen is with the fan base, but not truly insane.

The Brewers are talking to the Tigers about Ian Kinsler, Justin Wilson

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The Brewers were rumored last week to have been “aggressive” in talks for Tigers reliever Justin Wilson. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports, however, that the talks are a bit more wide-ranging than that.

Crasnick says that the two clubs are also discussing Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, potentially in a package deal with Wilson. Crasnick says that the Brewers “would love to have Kinsler,” but their main focus at the moment is pitching help. Of course, the Brewers current second baseman — Jonathan Villar — is hitting a meager .223/.285/.348 in 334 plate appearances.

Kinsler is having a down season for him — .237/.331/.400 — but he’s better than that and, of course, would represent an improvement. He’s under contract through the end of this year but he has a very affordable, $10 million club option for 2018. Wilson will be arbitration-eligible this offseason, so he’s still under team control as well. As such a Kinsler/Wilson package would likely cost the Brewers a high price, so you have to think they’d try to exhaust cheaper options before making such a deal.

The Brewers had been in first place in the NL Central since June 7, but the Cubs caught them yesterday. They’re in a virtual tie, with Chicago percentage points ahead. This should prove to be a very interesting week for the Brewers’ front office.