A lot of outlets have looked at the Rays search for another hitter in the lineup, and one of the names that continues to be brought up is Lance Berkman. Marc Topkin looked at the possible fit for Berkman in his post on January 3rd for the Tampa Bay Times, and feels that even though Berkman played in only 32 games last season and is coming off two different knee surgeries, he would likely be of interest to the Rays.
Despite his injuries last year, Berkman was an All-Star in 2011 where he produced a .301/.412/.547 batting line with 31 home runs and 94 RBIs. He would likely be an intriguing name for the Rays, not just for his history as a consistent run producer. Even though at this stage of his career, he may fit best as a designated hitter, Berkman can potentially fill in at first base and in the outfield. As recently as the 2011 season, he appeared in 126 games in the outfield, split between left and right field. As it happens, the Rays could possibly be in the market for a fourth outfielder and a backup first baseman as well. Berkman may be able to fit both those needs.
However, the biggest possible obstacle could be salary. Coming off a $12Million per year contract, Berkman may not be interested in a make-good one year deal. In fact, Berkman was quoted as saying “It’s awfully hard to make the kind of money that we’re able to make doing anything else and I think I certainly have a realization and appreciation for that. So, if it comes down to it, there are definitely amounts of money that you just can’t turn down.”
Another name mentioned in Topkin’s post was Jim Thome, who we looked at previously here at RCG. Thome would be much more likely to take a one year deal with a lesser salary, but would likely only be able to contribute as a DH. With the Rays possibly looking for more depth, Thome would likely be a bit further down the priority list than Berkman.
The Rays are also rumored to be in the market for pieces in the bullpen, and that may have turned into a certainty last night, as J.P. Howell is set to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Howell is said to be slated to earn $2.85Million on the one year contract, with another $1.2Million possible in performance bonuses.
Howell’s impending departure creates two voids in the bullpen. First, he has been a dependable arm in the bullpen in three of the last four years that he pitched, aside from 2011 when he was coming back from a shoulder injury that kept him out for the entirety of 2010. Second, Howell was one of two lefty relievers in the pen, teaming up with Jake McGee. Unless the Rays look to transition Cesar Ramos, who made 16 relief appearances in 2012, to the bullpen, this may force the Rays to look for another left handed reliever.