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 Mariners are in the midst of reconstructing their roster, a process which most recently resulted in the trade of first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnación to the Yankees, per a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan. While the teams have yet to publicly confirm the deal, the Mariners are expected to receive pitching prospect Juan Then and will likely eat a significant portion of Encarnación’s salary as well.
Encarnación is a sizable get for the Yankees, who could benefit from the veteran’s power and consistency in their ongoing drive toward the postseason. The 36-year-old infielder missed some time with a bout of lower back tightness, dental issues, and soreness in his left hand, but has still maintained a decent .241/.356/.531 batting line with an AL-best 21 home runs, an .888 OPS, and 1.7 fWAR through his first 289 plate appearances of the year. Per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, Encarnación has another $11-12 million left on his contract in 2019, with a $20 million option for the 2020 season and a $5 million buyout.
Then, 19, was acquired by the Yankees in a three-person trade with the Mariners during the 2017 offseason. The right-hander currently ranks no. 27 in the Yankees’ system and made his last pro ball appearance for New York’s rookie-level affiliate in 2018, pitching to a 2.70 ERA, 2.0 BB/9, and 7.6 SO/9 across 50 innings. It’s not clear if any other players are involved in the trade, though USA Today’s Bob Nightengale notes that no other prospects are thought to be included in the package for Encarnación.