UPDATE: Cardinals sign Lance Berkman to one-year contract

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UPDATE: Hoo-boy. According to Jon Heyman of SI.com, Berkman got $8 million from the Cardinals.

This isn’t confirmed, but Heyman also hears that Berkman will play left field while Matt Holliday will be moved to right field. That’s right. The Cardinals are apparently moving their $120 million outfielder to make way for Berkman. By the way, Holliday has never played an inning in right field between the majors and minors. Fun times.

5:27 PM: Here’s a surprising one.

The Cardinals have signed Lance Berkman to a one-year contract, according to the team’s Twitter feed. No word on the exact terms of the deal.

Interestingly, he is described as an outfielder/first baseman in the Tweet by the team, though we can’t see him playing first base that much as long as that Albert Pujols guy has something to say about it.

Berkman is coming off a career-worst season in which he batted .248/.368/.413 with 14 home runs and 58 RBI over 481 plate appearances between the Astros and Yankees. He batted just .171/.261/.256 with one home run, five RBI and a 517 OPS over 82 at-bats against left-handed pitching.

The Athletics were aggressive in their pursuit of Berkman, but he reportedly preferred staying in the National League. A rebound season with the bat isn’t out of the question — and he probably represents an upgrade over what the Cardinals had in right field after the Ryan Ludwick trade, at least offensively — but it’s worth noting that Berkman hasn’t played one inning in the outfield since the 2007 season and hasn’t been a full-time outfielder since 2004. That’s quite a leap of faith to take with someone who turns 35 years old in February and needed knee surgery earlier this year.

Mike Rizzo and Shawn Kelley almost got into a physical confrontation

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A few weeks back the Washington Nationals designated reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment the morning after he threw his glove into the ground and glared at the Nats dugout in frustration after giving up a homer in a blowout win against the Mets. He was later traded to the Athletics. Nats GM Mike Rizzo said at that time that he thought Kelley was trying to show up his manager and that there was no room for that sort of thing on the team, offering an “either you’re with us or you’re working against us” sentiment in the process.

Today the Washington Post talks about all of the Nationals’ bullpen woes of late, and touches on the departure of Kelley as being part of the problem. In so doing, we learn that, on the night of Kelley’s mound tantrum, he and Rizzo almost got into a physical confrontation:

Rizzo headed down to the clubhouse and confronted Kelley, according to people familiar with the situation. The argument became heated, including raised voices, and eventually it almost became physical, according to people familiar with the exchange. Adam Eaton got between the two of them and separated them before things could advance further . . .

Might I point out that, the fact of this emerging now helps to vindicate Brandon Kintzler who, the day before, was traded away, some say, for being the source for negative reports from inside the Nats’ clubhouse?

That aside, the article does not make anyone look good, really. Rizzo had the backing of his team with the Kelley incident, but the overall story — how did the Nats’ bullpen, which was once a strength — get so bad? — does no favors for Rizzo. Mostly because he seems to have thought that they had so much extra bullpen depth that they could afford to deal away Kintzler, which he says was a financial move, not a punitive trade for being a media source.

Question: when was the last time you heard a baseball man say he had too much relief pitching? Especially today, in which the bullpen has assumed such a prominent role? Seems rather unreasonable to cut relievers when you’re trying mightily to come back from a sizable deficit in the standings, yes?