Cardinals Extend Lance Berkman

The Cardinals and Lance Berkman agreed on a one-year extension on Thursday worth $12 million.

According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the deal includes a full no-trade clause. Though Berkman had retained 10/5 rights and signed a no-trade clause while with the Astros, he was without protection this season. The Cardinals weren’t very active in attempting to deal him as the trade deadline rolled around — much to the surprise of many analysts, myself included — and perhaps this is why. Then again, the events could be mutually exclusive as well, since he could have re-signed with the Cardinals even after being dealt this season. Unless, of course, he let the Cardinals brass know that trading him would detrimentally affect their odds of bringing him back.

Regardless, he’ll remain with the Cardinals through at least next season. But what position will he play? It’s easy to assume this is a great deal that makes everyone happy, but much more is potentially lurking beneath the surface.

For starters, the deal itself definitely appeases both parties. Berkman has had a career resurgence this season, hitting .300/.411/.552, with the fourth-highest wOBA in the National League, at .403. That mark also leads a Cardinals team featuring Matt Holliday (.394) and Albert Pujols (.389). The Cardinals may fall short of their epic late run for the Wild Card, but Berkman was a major reason they had a fighting chance to begin with. Per WAR, his 4.5 this season represent his highest total since 2008, when he managed to hit about the same, but also posted a +13 UZR and +5 baserunning score. That UZR stands out among his 2004-11 like the oddity in those “Which one doesn’t belong?” tests.

If not for poor fielding, Berkman would rate even higher. But fielding can’t be ignored, and in the outfield, he just isn’t very good at it. He plays right field because no other spot suits him on the diamond except for the one occupied by the franchise’s face. In any event, Berkman has proven himself a dynamite hitter. While he may not sustain a .385+ wOBA as a 38-yr old, all the Cardinals care about right now is his age 36 season, which makes this deal a clear win for the team. Players capable of hitting like Berkman generally have leverage in the market, and he forewent a potential multi-year deal to remain in St. Louis. Getting a superstar hitter and not having to pay him when he rapidly declines is tremendous for the Cardinals.

The situation gets rather murky when fielding is discussed in more depth, specifically where Berkman will play on the diamond. Is it possible that the Cardinals were eager to ensure Berkman remained in the fold, before the off-season rolled around, as an insurance policy should Pujols sign elsewhere?

One-year extensions worked out in September aren’t common, and all reports had indicated that extension talks between the Cardinals and Berkman had recently lost momentum. The Cardinals were also reportedly growing less confident that Pujols returning is a slam-dunk. While some may say that signing Berkman was a move to entice Pujols into staying, just like locking up Chris Carpenter and re-signing Matt Holliday, the other side to that coin can’t be ignored. The move may have been made to keep a talented player on the roster, but also to ensure that an elite level hitter plays first base next season, no matter his name.

It also ensures that the Brewers can’t sign Berkman to replace Prince Fielder after the season ends. The Cardinals made out like bandits on this deal, but the potential backstory behind the timing and rationale could have much more lasting effects than Berkman’s production next season.




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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


25 Responses to “Cardinals Extend Lance Berkman”

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  1. Don G says:

    The thought that Berkman may have been signed as insurance if Pujols leaves makes me want to vomit on my keyboard.

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    • chuckb says:

      I couldn’t agree more.

      What makes me want to vomit on everyone’s keyboard is the prospect that the $12 M the team just gave Berkman may preclude the Cardinals from offering Pujols a competitive contract this offseason.

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  2. Jack says:

    As a Cubs fan, the thought that Berkman may have been signed as insurance if Pujols leaves makes me want to ejaculate on my keyboard.

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  3. CircleChange11 says:

    the other side to that coin can’t be ignored. The move may have been made to keep a talented player on the roster, but also to ensure that an elite level hitter plays first base next season, no matter his name.

    It is interesting, isn’t it.

    I made similar comments about the carpenter signing. Carp, Wain, and now Berkamn have all signed deals that are good for the Cradinals. Now, they have money to [1] offer to Pujols, or [2] Offer to a 1B/RF FA.

    As a Cards fan, I generally haven’t been a fan of this FO. However, the Berkman signing and extension, The Carp contract, the Wain extension, are all very good moves for the team … and likely less than the players would get elsewhere (while not suggesting that they all took less money to play in front of the best fans in baseball — or the Morans). Even the Holliday contract looks to be a good one.

    Edwin Jackson has provided 8 Quality Starts in 11 games started as a cardinal (much better than what they were getting). Jackson could possibly touch 4 WAR for the year (3.7 now). Meanwhile Rasmus has been a below average hitter, fielder and baserunner on his way to a 1.0 WAR season. Jay could touch 3 WAR.

    Given the deals everyone else is making, I would not mind seeing Jackson re-signed to something like 3/42, and having him continue to put up 3.5 – 4.0 WAR seasons.

    A rotation of:

    Wainwright – 5-7 WAR for ~12-15M
    Carpenter – 3-4 WAR for 10-12M
    Garcia – 3-4 WAR for 2-4 M
    Jackson – 3-4 WAR for 12-14M

    That would look pretty damn good to me, especially considering the WAR the offense has put up, and could be projected to produce next year.

    The FO has done a pretty darn good job. I was critical of them for not giving Albert pretty much what he wnated, but that’s primarily for emotional reasons. If they can sign Albert for “reasonable money”, this would have been a tremendous season for StL, given that they started off losing their ace for the season.

    I’m interested in what happens with Allen Craig. This dude seems to be much better than I thought. Either he’s doing really well because they put in him in situations where he’s likely to do well, or this guy needs more playing time (or both).

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    • gnomez says:

      Unless they trade Westbrook, Jackson will not be here next year. They already have Wainwright (fingers crossed), Carpenter, and Garcia as rotation guarantees, and Kyle Lohse has a no-trade clause and is making over 12 million. This leaves Westbrook, who has one year left at 8.5 million, Jackson who is a free agent, and a slew of other (and cheap) options in Rzepczynski, Shelby Miller, and Lance Lynn. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they let Jackson walk, traded Westbrook, and went with one of the three other options mentioned or someone comparably cheap (Doug Davis?).

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  4. Hurtlocker says:

    I agree that this is agood move for the Cards, if Berkman gets even close to the
    offense he out up this year he is worth the money. The Cards might also be without Pujols, who knows?

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  5. Richie says:

    I’d predicted that whomever signed Berkman to a multi-year contract would seriously regret it. I’ll take that back now.

    However. If Berkman does go back to right field next year, I still think he’ll be as likely to underperform his 12 mill as overperform it. Actually, make that a bit more likely to underperform. But given the possibility of Pujols’ departure, this strikes me also as a good signing for the Cards.

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  6. chuckb says:

    There are rumors coming out of St. Louis that the likelihood of Pujols re-signing with the Cards isn’t very high. Without Pujols, the team is already committed to something like $90 M for next year now that Berkman’s under contract. To me, this seems like a horrendous contract for the Cards if it keeps them from coming up with the money it will take to sign Pujols. The team should’ve made due with Allen Craig in the OF, who’ll be about as good as Berkman out there, and re-signed Pujols.

    An organization who throws out long-term contracts to jokers like Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse and won’t come up with a few extra dollars for Pujols is seriously screwed up.

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    • Garrett says:

      I hardly think the difference in dollars between the Cardinals and Pujols camp is a “few.”

      I’d much rather commit one year and 12M to Berkman than around 10/300 to Pujols. Stick Berkman at 1B, shift Craig to the OF. Voilà.

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    • arch support says:

      I’m with Garrett. Long-term, having Pujols around might be worse for the Cardinals than letting him go.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      [1] Craig being almost as good as Berkman is a bold prediction. It’s also very vague.

      [2] 12M for 1 year (Berkman) isn’t keeping StL from re-signing Pujols.

      [3] Paying a player 30M/y for their age 38, 39, 40, 41, 42 year seasons is what’s keeping StL from re-signing Pujols. Albert needs to deicde whether he wants a higher yearly salary or a longer deal. He can’t have both (at least from StL).

      ——————————

      For 2012, I view AP5 as a 7 WAR player (similar to what he did in 2010). He’s no longer a +15 or +20 defender, so forget those 8-10 WAR seasons. At the stage he’s at, you don’t add 15-20 runs to your batting value, well not with BALCO out of business anyway.

      IMHO, 50 WAR over 10 seasons is best case scenario. That incorporates average aging (which incorporates average injuries as well). With an average aging curve a 42yo AP5 is still an above average ML 1B, which I find just laughably amazing. He’s that good.

      300M/10y is just too much for StL, no matter how much you slice it. If they want to give him 5/150, then go for it.

      ————————-

      An organization who throws out long-term contracts to jokers like Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse and won’t come up with a few extra dollars for Pujols is seriously screwed up.

      This kills me for two reasons …

      [1] Westbrook’s horrible deal is 2/17. So even if he’s “terrible”, it’s still just 17M and it’s still just 2 years. Westbrook is probably going to be a 7M overpay.

      [2] 2 Mistakes does mean that a team needs to make a 3rd. See the Chicago Cubs for why not. Just because the NYY gave ARod a dumb long-term extension doesn’t mean they had to do the same thing with Jeter. Pujols at 10/300 is a bad contract.

      Lohse can blow me. He’ll likely be worth half of his 4/41M contract.

      StL is preparing for the near future reality that AP5′s 8-10 WAR days are visible in the rearview mirror. He’s no longer their bailout plan.

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      • chuckb says:

        If you guys are expecting Pujols to get 10 years and $300 M you are delusional. He would probably take 8 and $200 from the Cards but if the Cards aren’t willing to go beyond 6 or 7 and $22 M per year, they’ll likely lose him. Thus, the difference between what Pujols will receive and what the Cardinals will offer is “a few million.”

        Right now, without Pujols, the team has something like $90 – 95 M already committed for next year. The team’s payroll this year was $109 M. Signing Pujols would put the team between $115 – 120 M which is probably its limit. The team has no 2nd baseman for next year and very little depth whatsoever so it’s entirely possible that, now that Berkman has signed, the team can’t afford to go beyond $20 or so million for Pujols. If that’s the case, they’ve lost him.

        Berkman should have been the team’s fall back option IN CASE they couldn’t sign Pujols, not the team’s 1st option. And now it’s possible that they won’t be able to go to $25 M per year for Pujols b/c they’ve already committed around $32 M to Berkman, Westbrook, and Lohse for 2012.

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  7. gabriel says:

    If $12m committed elsewhere in Year 1 prevents the Cardinals from making a multi-year $200m+ signing, they organization deserves neither player.

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  8. Bob Hudgins says:

    Berkman told the club in late July that if he were traded he would not come back.

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  9. Richie says:

    Didn’t somebody recently poll a half-dozen GMs about Pujols’ age, and all 6 said he was lying about it? If they do think thus, makes it more likely Pujols will eventually wind up back in St. Louis.

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  10. WY says:

    “While he may not sustain a .385+ wOBA as a 38-yr old, all the Cardinals care about right now is his age 36 season, which makes this trade a clear win for the team.”

    Not a trade (though I agree otherwise).

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  11. kkkathmandubirdsview says:

    Thanks for your post Eric. You say that the Cardinals made out like bandits in this deal. I was trying to figure out to what extent, but couldn’t. I think that Lance certainly appears to have given the Cardinals a “home town discount” by not testing the market. I would have thought some teams would have been willing to give him a two year deal with a higher average annual salary than the $12m that he got. But how much could he have gotten if he had tested the market? Satchel Price over at Beyond the Score also says that it is a bargain, but also doesn’t speculate on what he could have gotten, other than saying it could have been a multi-year deal. Trying to think of comparable players, Carlos Beltran comes to mind. Similar age, Both negative fielding (-7.7/-11.9 respectively, and WARS of 4.6/4.6. Fangraphs puts both their values above $20m ($20.5/$20.8). Beltran is currently making $19.3m. No idea what Carlos will get in the off season of course, but I would have thought that Lance could at least have gotten 2 years and $30m. What do you think?

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  12. John says:

    I don’t have a dog in the hunt, but St. Louis isn’t the Bankees. They can’t afford to pay people based on past performance. Short term, 3, 4 years, I’d go big $, past age 35, no way. My bet is, St. Louis would be better off taking the $ they’d have to sign Pujols and throw half of it into Latin America kids. Keep the other half if you’re in a playoff hunt and need to do a deal. But paying massive $ to a guy past 35 just because he USED TO BE GREAT, stupid.

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  13. CircleChange11 says:

    Reportedly Pujols turned down an offer from StL that was around 9/200.

    I think StL is more realistic than Pujols in this situation.

    Pujols may start at 10/300 and then see who can closest to it.

    Teams like the Nats and Blue Jays scare me. The Nats have money to throw around and may feel like they’re ready for a move like this.

    The Blue Jays could be players, but I think they’re smart enogh not to offer him that type of deal, but Pujols plus Bautista might be too tempting, especially in their division.

    IMO, Pujols and agent are wanting NYY and BOS to get involved in the bidding, and they may be wanting to see what Prince gets.

    I’m not sure teams have the money Albert is wanting, but the more teams get involved the better for Pujols.

    StL is probably going to be interested in Furcal as well.

    I’m really interested to see how Pujols demand decreases. He may be very disappointed in the offers … Well, as disappointed as one can be with 220-240 meeellion bucks.

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  14. David J says:

    C’mon Chuck, the Westbrook, Lohse $ was already committed, Adding Berkman to that duo for a total is silly, and it won’t prevent the Cards from signing Albert. I think that MO is tired of the prima donna, LaRussa and figures if Albert Walks he can build a team like a Real GM, instead of being hamstrung by one player who may be older than advertised, and who admittedly seems to think he is and mostly plays like he is bigger than the game.

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