ST. LOUIS, MO - Lance Berkman #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a two-run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
What would you pay for one of the best switch-hitters of all-time? What if you knew that he was in the middle of one of his best seasons yet? What kind of prospects would you give up? Top-50 prospects? Top-30 prospects? Heck, I bet you'd give up a couple of top-10 prospects. Here's the best part: there's no messy long-term contract. Now watch as we saw through this actual tin can using Lance Berkman's face ...
One of the best hitters in baseball this year has cleared waivers. There wasn't a team that wanted to claim Berkman just to make sure another team couldn't get him. There wasn't a team that wanted to claim Berkman in an honest effort to make a deal. Weird. He's kind of good, people. Maybe they all thought they heard or read "Dave Bergman."
The good news is that the chronic rosterbators who didn't go blind after July 31st can rejoice. Another top player could be traded away, so let's get to speculatin'. When the trading deadline came and went, the Cardinals were 2.5 games away from a playoff spot. Now they're 10.5 out, and with Berkman on a one-year contract, it would be a fine idea to move him for a prospect or two. That might hurt the Cardinals' chances to re-sign him, but it certainly wouldn't prevent it.
Berkman is a bit of a clunker in the outfield, both by statistical measures (-15.2 UZR as an OF in 2011) and by scouting measures (he kind of fields like a 35-year-old first baseman who is playing the outfield for the first time in four years), but his bat still makes him attractive to a contending team. But a month after the trading deadline, there are a lot fewer teams who are contending. The teams who might have interest in Berkman:
They're playing Andruw Jones and Jorge Posada at DH, so Berkman can help. But the Yankees tried the Berkman-as-rental-DH gag last year, and it was sort of a disaster. It's not often that you see teams make the same move twice, if the first time didn't work.
They just traded for Delmon Young, but it might make sense to get Berkman just so they can sit Magglio Ordoñez, whose OPS (.580) is just a tick above Berkman's SLG (.570). And if they're already used to the clompy defense in right ...
The Giants are four games back, and they've already given up their top prospect in one deadline deal. If the Cardinals are giving away Lance Berkman for a couple of panda hats, the Giants will sniff around. As is, though, they're probably done dealing prospects.
That's not a list that makes you think that the Cardinals will get a couple of teams into a bidding war, but of those five teams, you'd think that one of them would be willing to give up a Grade B prospect for one of the better hitters in baseball.
Big Puma will be with the Cardinals until Wednesday, at least. It was a gamble for them to sign Berkman to play the outfield, and it paid off. Unfortunately for the Cards, the payoff isn't going to come with a playoff berth. There's still a chance, though, that they can leverage Berkman into a young player who could help out future playoff runs.