The free agent dominoes are about to fall. Victor Martinez has signed with Detroit and Aubrey Huff has re-signed with the Giants. The Cubs still need a first baseman and have talked to Lance Berkman‘s agent. So is Lance Berkman a good fit for the Cubs? Let’s consider it.
There is an upside and a downside to Lance Berkman.
First, let’s examine the downside.
Berkman made 14.5 million dollars last season. For a player coming off of orthroscopic surgery and having a disappointing season following his return, Berkman cannot expect to be signed to a big contract this year. He is 35. Berkman realizes that he is viewed as a declining player, but blames his poor 2010 performance on his knee surgery. Last season, between the Astros and the Yankees, in 122 games, Berkman batted .248 with 14 HR’s and 58 RBI’s. Berkman wants the baseball world to know, that the injury-plagued season of 2010 does not reflect his abilities. He believes, after getting healthy, that he can return to form. He also understands that he will need to prove himself.
The upside to Lance Berkman is his bat. When healthy, Berkman has been one of the best hitters in baseball. In his 12 year career, Berkman has hit .296 with a .409 on-base per centage. His career fielding per centage at first base is .995.
Lance Berkman is a switch-hitter, which is an advantage.
Due to his disappointing season this past year, the Cubs could get a discount. Berkman knows he will need to prove himself so he is likely to accept a short-term deal on a smaller contract. Financially, the Cubs could afford to take a chance on him for the 2011 season.
The Oakland A’s have had interest in Berkman, but want to use him as a DH, which is something that Berkman is shying away from. He wants to play first base. He prefers to remain in the National League where he feels more comfortable. With the Yankees, Berkman struggled against the AL pitching because he wasn’t familiar with them, which makes a difference.
I can only conclude that if Lance Berkman is healthy and can regain his hitting prowess, and will agree to a short-term deal for less money, then he may very well be the best fit for the Cubs at this time. With the knee in question, which affects his hitting, the Cubs will have to decide if Berkman is worth the risk. Any deal would need to be contingent on passing a physical examination to prove that he will be healthy. If he is, he’ll be back in business.
Personally, I would rather take such a risk with Adrian Gonzalez, who had shoulder surgery recently. If a deal with the San Diego Padres can’t get done to bring Gonzalez to Chicago at this time, then Lance Berkman may be a short-term solution. Stay tuned!