For someone who has been talking about retirement, Lance Berkman is a pretty popular guy.
Berkman told Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle today that he has been contacted by the Red Sox, Rays, Phillies and Astros, though nothing has advanced beyond “tire-kicking mode.” He’s “waiting to be blown away by an offer,” otherwise he’ll attend to his volunteer assistant coach job at Rice University.
Berkman met with Astros owner Jim Crane last week and said that new manager Bo Porter indicated that he would likely bat third and serve as the DH if he joins the club. The 36-year-old wouldn’t say what it would take for him to return to the Astros, but he wants to be compensated commensurate to where he’ll hit in the lineup.
“If I’m going to hit third for a major-league team, then obviously there’s a compensation level that accompanies that,” Berkman said. “It’s just a matter whether the Astros would be willing to pay that or not. If they are not, no hard feelings. I just feel like if you are going to do a job you deserve to be paid somewhere in the ballpark where the job description entails.”
The Astros are the sentimental favorite here and they’ll need a DH for their first season in the American League, but the other three options would give him a much better chance to win. However, after all his knee problems this year, it sounds like he’d be fine walking away from the game if he doesn’t find the right offer in the right situation.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.