The Astros are set to make the switch to the American League next season. And they have set their sights on a familiar face to be their designated hitter.
According to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said at the team’s uniform unveiling tonight that he plans to reach out to Berkman to gauge his interest about returning to his roots.
“We’re going to make a baseball decision for the organization and for the future of the Houston Astros,” Luhnow said “Clearly Lance has a great history here and he was a key part of a great franchise in a great time. If we feel collectively that there’s a fit in terms of what we need and what he can provide, we won’t be hesitant to pursue it.”
Berkman, 36, was limited to just 32 games this season due to knee problems and said in September that he was considering retiring and going back to Rice University to finish his degree. Health concerns aside, it’s not clear whether he’s willing to play in a league which he referred to as “Mickey Mouse” last month. And though it was a small sample, he was also pretty terrible as a DH with the Yankees in 2010.
Berkman, who still keeps a home in Houston, was a first-round pick of the Astros in 1997 and played 12 seasons with the club before being traded to the Yankees in 2010. He is fifth in team history in hits, fourth in games played, third in RBI, second in homers and first in OPS.
Free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas is drawing interest from at least four clubs, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Friday. The Brewers are the presumed frontrunners to land the infielder, but Heyman adds that the Angels may take the inside edge as Moustakas hails from the San Fernando Valley and has invested in charity efforts in California over the last year. The Phillies and Padres, on the other hand, have been involved to a lesser degree as they’re both thought to be in hot pursuit of fellow free agent third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado, though their interest in the veteran Moustakas could ramp right back up should they lose out on Machado in the weeks to come.
Moustakas, 30, declined a $15 million mutual option with the Brewers at the end of the 2018 season, and like many others left on the market, has yet to find a landing spot in advance of spring training. While he’s several years removed from his last All-Star performance, he ran a decent campaign with the Royals and Brewers last year, slashing a combined .251/.315/.459 with 28 home runs, a .774 OPS, and 2.4 fWAR across 635 plate appearances.
He certainly appears to be a fit in Anaheim, where he could supplant Zack Cozart at the hot corner and balance out the Angels’ right-heavy lineup alongside Kole Calhoun, Justin Bour, and Tommy La Stella. Even if the Angels have serious interest in the third baseman, however, they’re likely to wait and see what kind of contract Machado (and the as-yet unsigned Bryce Harper) fetches before extending any serious offers of their own. They’re far from the only club to use the four-time All-Star as a litmus test this offseason, which has only fueled a growing unrest among MLB players who believe that more serious action — such as a midseason walk-out or a league-wide strike — will need to be taken over the next few months.