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The Lance Berkman Trade: Yankees Perspective

Details aren’t official yet, but Lance Berkman will be a Yankee within 24 hours, according to Joel Sherman. Berkman will ostensibly become the DH for New York, supplanting Marcus Thames and Juan Miranda, and will also be able to fill in for Mark Teixeira at first base.

Berkman is in the middle of a down year right now, mostly due to a career low .279 BABIP. His power is down as well, as his .191 ISO is his first ISO below .200 since his first season in the big leagues, 1999. As such, 2010 has been Berkman’s worst full major league season. Still, he’s been productive. His wRC+ of 123 is solid, even at first base, as evidenced by his 1.9 WAR in 385 PAs. The plate discipline is as good as ever, as Berkman is walking a remarkable 16.8% of the time – 195% of the league average.

It’s not likely that Berkman will ever repeat his 162 wRC+ seasons of 2008 and 2006, given that this is Berkman’s age 34 season. However, there is reason to believe that he will improve. Power numbers can fluctuate wildly over the course of even half a season. ZiPS projects that Berkman will put up a line of .268/.386/.486 for the rest of the season – a roughly 140 wRC+. That’s a major improvement over the below average hitters that the Yankees are currently running out as DHes in Juan Miranda and Marcus Thames, and it also beats the projection for Jorge Posada, who has actually seen the most PAs at DH of the entire Yankees squad.

This one’s exceedingly simple for the Yankees. With Nick Johnson injured, DH was a bit of a weakness. Apparently, the cost for Berkman is minimal in terms of prospects, and the Yankees can easily absorb the roughly $6M remaining on his $14.5M contract – Buster Olney even reports that the Astros will pick up a significant portion of the money remaining. Berkman should be able to add roughly a win over Thames and Miranda over the course of the season, and there’s a chance that he sees a rebirth of his power in New Yankee Stadium, particularly batting left handed. Between the switch hitters Berkman, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, and Jorge Posada, the Yankees will also have a lineup that won’t be susceptible to specialist relievers. The Yankees used their cash reserves to effectively buy another hitter for the stretch run, and an impressive Yankees lineup will only get better now.