Yanks acquire Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns

New set of pinstripes for Fat Elvis

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the Yanks have acquired 1B/RF Lance Berkman from the Houston Astros and OF Austin Kearns from the Cleveland Indians. Kearns was traded for a PBTNL, Berkman (aka Big Puma and Fat Elvis) will head to New York in exchange for AAA reliever Mark Melancon and low-A second baseman Jimmy Paredes. The 5 mil remaining on Berkman’s 2010 salary will be picked up by the Astros, along with the 2 mil buyout of his 2011 option.

Berkman’s having a down year, but has maintained relatively good production (123 wRC+) and has been better of late (.925 OPS since July 1st.). Power’s down a bit, his .191 ISO is the lowest mark of any full season in the bigs. But power numbers can fluctuate wildly in small samples, and I hate comparing full seasons to partial for that reason. Sluggers tend to hit them in bunches, as the old line goes. You have to like having a switch hitter coming off the bench for late inning match ups as well. Berkman is comfortably a Type B free agent, but as we’ve seen in recent years that doesn’t mean the Yanks will wind up with a draft pick. It’s highly unlikely a bad-bodied 34 year old whose production is declining will be offered arbitration coming off a big contract and his prime earning years. So rather than go to arbitration where the Yanks will risk having to pay him something close to his 14.5 mil 2010 salary, chances are they’ll just let him walk. Don’t be surprised if he winds up back in Houston, aka as “the womb” for Lance. Berkman’s known to be a very good guy in the clubhouse, so no issues there.

I have some questions about how much playing time Berkman will get with Jorge Posada’s balky knee. The cyst in the back of Jorge’s knee prevents him from catching, but not hitting. So you have two switch hitters vying for time at DH in Berkman and Posada. But the Yanks may prefer to simply rest Jorge more going forward. He responded well with his bat to a reduced duties behind the plate this year, and with his injury history over the past 3 seasons it’s clear he’s breaking down and longer able to catch everyday. The most obvious use of Berkman would be righty-lefty OF/DH platoon with Marcus Thames, which would allow you to keep at least one butcher in the outfield most days, which is always nice.

After being ranked among the Yankees top prospects in 2009, Melancon has struggled this year. His H/9 has jumped from 6.3 last year in AAA to 10.1 this year. His walk rate has more than doubled (1.9 to 5.0) year over year as well. All indications are he’s healthy, so maybe his struggles in the bigs last year affected him more than we know, but that’s just a guess on my part. Paredes is a low ceiling middle infielder with little pop. Backup infielder at best on a team like the Yanks, so a trade is his best use.

Austin Kearns is a nice backup OF on a team like the Yanks who can flag ‘em down (+11.4 3 year UZR in RF). Doesn’t have a big platoon split, but he’s a bit better against Lefties. Fans should like him in short spurts of playing time, but he’s the type of player who’ll fall short of expectations if you play him everyday. Think Melky with a slightly better glove. With Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns joining the Yankees today, Colin Curtis and Juan Miranda will likely be headed to AAA, and that’s the best way to look at these two deals. Those are the two players they will be replacing on the Yankee roster, so it’s obviously a big upgrade in both cases.

BTW-Here’s a SI scouting report on Berkman from a while back.

0 thoughts on “Yanks acquire Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns

  1. Basil Fomeen

    Question: Where to bat Berkman? Do we bat him second with his MLB leading walk % (courtesy NOMAAS) & let Swisher bat 6th to protect Cano. Or just let Berkman bat 6th… IMO this is an interesting scenario.

    • Simon

      He will probably bat 6th. I think 6th is the better option even with his walk rate.

      • T.O. Chris H

        From what I understand he will be batting 2nd in our lineup against right handed pitchers…. Buster Olney made it pretty clear that the Yankees were looking to put either Adam Dunn or Berkman in the 2 hole with their high OBPs and basically replace NJ at the top of the lineup and allow Swisher to move down and be less exposed and protect either Posada or Cano in the 6/7th hole.

        Can you imagine having to navigate Berkman, Tex, Arod, Cano if you are a right handed pitcher? That is a very professional middle of the order to say the least. It almost sounds like an MLB 10 The Show lineup really.

  2. Alvin from JC

    great trade. astros picks up 4 mil of 5.5mil left and gave up nobody. Melancon may be decent reliever in future but he had his chance to stay in the bronx.

    jeter
    swish
    tex
    arod
    cano
    lance-o-lot
    posada
    grand
    gardner

    best lineup of alltime?

    • bornwithpinstripes

      alvin ..you are just kidding/ right?

  3. bornwithpinstripes

    I don’t like either trade.. berkman most..as the everyday DH,posada will be our catcher five days a week..that is a disaster for the yanks..the guy is the worst catcher in baseball..his game calling stinks..his hands are always hurt..balls bounce all over the place..afraid of contact..the pitchers as we know have a hard time with him ..what is his throw out %..berkman hits .188 VS lefties..now we have two starters averaging .200 vs lefties.. great so if kearns plays for grandy vs lefties, posada rests..cervelli catches…what did we gain? thames goes where? pinch hit twice a week.. if posada DH vs lefties ..he still would sit two other games..cervelli vs Rhers. now you berkman for posada…again no gain.. maybe some of you fellows can help me get it.. if posada was our five day DH and caught two..he would hit much better..our defense behind the plate would been great.. berkman is not berkman of years ago…this is a randy winn move.no upgrade all mediocre guys..so curtis goes with miranda.. our defense just went down a click.. boy..posada supposed to have a problem with his knee,,now he will catch more..

    • old fan

      Kearns is a decent fielding outfielder with a strong arm, and Berkman won’t be in the field much. He hasn’t played the OF in years, and considering his body type, I wouldn’t play him there. Berkman was always considered one of the best fielding 1B in the NL, but he may have regressed–haven’t watched him in a while.

  4. oldpep

    Was Kearns hurt in 2008 & 2009? His numbers for those two years seem way out of context. His career OPS is .067 higher than Melky, so I don’t think that’s a good comp.

    I like that we got two guys, either of whom can do a good job. The bench goes from being very weak to pretty strong (except 2b/ss/3b).

    As far as Berkman taking ABs from Cervelli, I see that as a good thing. The Cisco kid is anemic at the plate, and his defense isn’t nearly good enough to make up for it. On the days Po doesn’t catch, having him available to PH after sitting on the bench (instead of hitting, baserunning, etc) give JoeG another option.

    Hopefully the cost or BP guys comes down a bit in the next few hours and we can get a bit better there.

    • bornwithpinstripes

      Hello old pep..the defense of posada and cervelli are not comparable..i don’t mind cervelli not hitting…but i dread the thought of posada behind the plate the rest of the way..he is brutal..and it effects his hitting big time..if posada was the full time dh he would hit much better.i was not comparing cervellis bat to berkman..power wise . people talk about berkman walking alot…who cares we need a guy that can hit ..not walk.. thanks old pep

    • old fan

      Yes, he had a lot of nagging injuries. Plus, Washington had 5 or 6 outfielders (all wanting to play) with no DH.

  5. old fan

    I guess these two acquistions are an attempt to capture “lightening in a bottle” it could work out for us.

    Berkman–I would have been much more excited with Dunn, but he costs too much in talent, Berkman is cheap. Listen, this is a 300+ HR guy, with great OB abilities. He’s lost his ability to play the OF, and I would be surprised to see him there. He will be a DH and maybe give Tex a breather on 1B. His struggles this yr is due to injuries, and we are getting a 25-30 Homer rate guy, with a .380+ OBP and a .900 OPS.
    This could be electric for us! He was always his team’s 3rd or 4th place (and best) hitter. It continues the great Yankee tradition of getting fading NL stars for championship runs (Mize, Slaughter, Justice, etc.). I would expect this will help rest Posada to get him well for the playoffs, where we will see Posada at C, and Berkman at DH.
    With Berkman’s OB skills, maybe more of the getting hotter Granderson’s home runs will be more than solo shots, too.

    Kearns–I was never a big fan of Kearns, as he always disappointed and was held back by injuries, but he could help us here. He looks like a professional hitter—I remember when he first came up with Cincy, everyone was heralding him as the next big star, and he was actually 3rd in the NL in RBI’s at one point, when he got hurt, and was never the same afterwards. He has never been in a real pennant race, and this could be his chance to shine–a career highlight period?. He has pop in his bat (he will hit some key homers for us), and a strong arm.

    I wonder if Joe will sit Granderson against tough lefties, move Gardner to CF, and play Kearns in left? We’ll see.

    Miranda and Curtis (Slam excepted) wasn’t doing a whole lot for us, so let’s see what these two veteran hitters can do.

    • old fan

      Plus, Berkman will be playing for a job somewhere next year—always a added incentive to do well.

    • oldpep

      Love the Mize reference-I think it’s a fair comp, tho’ those yanks didn’t have a tex-level 1B.

      I think not having Po in the line-up at all when he’s not catching is better than having him DH for two reasons, which I tried (unsuccessfully it seems) to explain above:
      -he’s not hitting or running the bases-DH-ing is only a half day off. Po is better served by getting full days off.
      -Po is available to PH for Cervelli late in tight games. If he’s DHing and the PH for Cisco, they lose the DH. Having Cervelli bat in late inning pressure situations because you don’t want to lose the DH should be a rare occurrence.

      • old fan

        I agree wholeheartedly. If Posada can heal his knee so that he can catch well in the playoffs it would be a big gain for the team. He may not like sitting more, and he may get angry, but this might make him better when he gets his chances. It will be up to Joe to manage it right.

      • old fan

        Johnny Mize really shined for us in the Series–always hitting a key home run when needed. I read where he was a old school, demanding, ornery type. He and manager Casey Stengle were best buddies on the Yankees. Both were from the John McGraw school of baseball playing.

  6. T.O. Chris H

    The only problem with the Kearns-Granderson platoon split is that Kearns has actually been much better against righties this year and even though his numbers are better against lefties than Granderson his defense certainly isn’t as good as Curtis’ is.

    Vs LHP- .250/.330/.390/.720… 2 HR
    Vs RHP- .284/.365/.433/.798 …6 HR

    If anything these numbers say that Kearns should be getting at least some at bats against right handers as well because he is clearly seeing them better than lefties this year.

    07-10
    Vs LHP- .218/.352/.351/.703… 6 HR in 271 ABs

    • old fan

      It will be interesting to see what Girardi and Cashman have in mind.

      • T.O. Chris H

        I don’t think you are going to see a strict platoon with Granderson and Kearns I think you are going to see Kearns be more fluid than that and be used in both R/LF on any occasion Joe feels someone needs to rest or DH depending on the situation. When you look at the numbers it would be ashame to not let Kearns get at least some at bats against right handers and since he does play decent defense there is no real defensive liability you have to worry about like with Thames.

  7. T.O. Chris H

    Plus, Berkman will be playing for a job somewhere next year—always a added incentive to do well.  

    At the end of all this I think Berkman is going to head right back to Houston.

    Having lived in this city for close to 10 years now the guy is beloved by everyone here and is considered a home town boy, more than Oswalt Berkman is loved here and he really hasn’t known anywhere else in his HOF career. The guy was born in Waco, played for Rice and was drafted by Houston. If he can swing a deal to come back for less money he should be back in Minute Maid starting first baseman next season. Which is one reason I think it was so easy to get Berkman from the ‘stros.

    • old fan

      Great. I would like to see him help the team to it’s 28th, then go back to Houston and hit his 400th homer (or more) before the home field. A good friend of Andy Pettitte must have a lot of good things going for him. A good story may be developing here.

      The Rangers might be needing a 1Bman next year too—depending on what they do today.

      • T.O. Chris H

        If he goes to the AL next year I think he has to be a DH he is nearing the end of what he can do in the field both in terms of staying healthy and being effective defensively…. Like I said though I’m pretty certain it’s Houston or retirement for him which he has hinted at a couple of times before the season started.

        The owner in Houston loves him and he can mentor Brett Wallace who they traded for with a guy they got from Oswalt who should be playing 1B tonight for the ‘Stros actually.

  8. T.O. Chris H

    I don’t like either trade.. berkman most..as the everyday DH,posada will be our catcher five days a week..that is a disaster for the yanks..the guy is the worst catcher in baseball..his game calling stinks..his hands are always hurt..balls bounce all over the place..afraid of contact..the pitchers as we know have a hard time with him ..what is his throw out %..berkman hits.188 VS lefties..now we have two starters averaging .200 vs lefties.. greatso if kearns plays for grandy vs lefties, posada rests..cervelli catches…what did we gain?thames goes where? pinch hit twice a week.. if posada DH vs lefties ..he still would sit two other games..cervelli vs Rhers. now you berkman for posada…again no gain.. maybe some of you fellows can help me get it.. if posada was our five day DH and caught two..he would hit much better..our defense behind the plate would been great.. berkman is not berkman of years ago…this is a randy winn move.no upgrade all mediocre guys..so curtis goes with miranda.. our defense just went down a click.. boy..posada supposed to have a problem with his knee,,now he will catch more..  

    Thames and Berkman will platoon DH where both will get around 90% of the DH at bats against their strong side and the other 10% of the at bats will go to vets who need a DH day like Alex or Posada.

    Berkman Vs RHP- .261/.395/.479/.874
    Thames Vs LHP- .315/.406/.426/.832

    You’re telling me that doesn’t make one of the best DH combination’s in the league?

    I don’t think this means Posada will have to catch more he will simply catch the amount of games they have wanted him to catch from the beginning. Injuries aside the Yankees are a better team when Posada catches because his bat plays much better on the diamond when it allows for another bat to be put in at DH. Yes Cervelli catching 2/5 games ups the defense and because of that should still catch 2/5 games but I don’t think the Yankees every wanted to beat the point where Cervelli is catching more games than Posada because his bat is going to be overexposed as it has been this year which hurts the team overall.

    If you don’t see the upgrade we can’t show it to you.

    Jeter
    DH-Berkman
    Tex
    Arod
    Cano
    Posada
    Swisher
    Granderson
    Gardner

    Bench- Thames, Cervelli, Kearns, Pena

    Vs
    Jeter
    Swisher
    Tex
    Arod
    Cano
    Posada
    DH-Thames/Curtis
    Granderson
    Gardner

    That is what you are basically comparing to one another the main lineup when you have everyone where the Yankees want them.

    Now Vs a tough left handed pitcher you are right the lineup won’t be nearly as strong but even so I still think you are looking at a lineup that can mash.

    Vs LHP
    Jeter
    Swisher
    Tex
    Arod
    Cano
    DH-Posada
    Gardner
    Cervelli
    Granderson

    • bornwithpinstripes

      Thank you for taking your time and effort,,vs lefties why grandy? a .200 hitter..my opinion is posada can not catch any more..he stinks..he is half a player at DH, but a more healthy one.. he is hitting .260 on his way below .250, if he catches 5 days or more.. and berkman is a .260 hitter vs RHers..thames we had half the combo already.. i don’t see a 260 hitter being the best part of the combo.. in rather have miranda or they should have went and got ainkel.. his arm is great and gives his body for the game very intense type.. and he was playing for a contract already.. what will change there?.. the only thing that may factor is our line up, he will benefit from our 3 4 5 guys he will see more strikes,,he will have to hit…we don’t need another walker, we own him now and kearns also we just got wood..boy another bargain…the only thing i like about that move is chan ho is so long.. alba should have been brought up, and park sent away..wood is bad luck for me..hinski was good luck.. for me nothing good came from these moves.. podsednick a .300 hitter. speed demon..great defensive guy..why not him..but it has been these below or average rethreads … i hope i am wrong.. when do we get rid of mitre and chad.. .

  9. T.O. Chris H

    Jon Heyman is reporting on the MLB network that the Yankees are in serious discussion on a trade that will bring in Kerry Wood to the Yankees, no word right now on what would be going out but I assume a lot like the Berkman deal it would be a pure salary dump and we give up no prospects of worth.

    • old fan

      I just saw this and went, “Oh, s**t”.

      Maybe Girardi sees something in his splits that he thinks could fit a role. Also, the Yankees organization loves their power hurlers for late relief. But, he seemed washed up to me. I’m open-minded, though. He still throws hard and fast.

      I guess this is the year of trading for cheap. Blockbuster at Kmart.

      • T.O. Chris H

        I actually really like this trade.

        Wood is owed a little less than 5 million for the rest of the year and like with the Berkman deal I’m sure the Indians are going to pay part of that and take some nobody prospect in return.

        Kerry still averages 95+ on the fastball according to fangraphs and throwing a guy like that into a pennant race could be exactly what he needs to really get revved up and you could catch some lightning in a bottle.

        As I posted on I-Yankees not to long ago when I found out about this deal.

        “Basically what this tells me is that guys like Craig Breslow and Scott Downs were going to cost an arm and a leg in prospects and that everyone else available was among the Dotel line of less than spectacular relievers.

        This is the Yankees looking at the market and taking a calculated risk, Kerry Wood is the only guy available for the pen with plus stuff even this year he averages 95 on the gun according to fangraphs and I’m sure they are trying to get a little bit of luck and catch lightning in a bottle in the last year of Kerry’s contract. He has the highest upside of anyone available and he is going to be one of the cheapest in terms of prospects.

        I’m actually a little surprised the Red Sox didn’t make a push for Wood.”

        • T.O. Chris H

          I was right the Yankees are going to pay 1.5 million of the remainder of his contract and the Indians have to pick up the rest which is close to 4 million dollars.

        • old fan

          lol, Of course, I hope it works out. I was waiting to see what good reliever Cashman was going to pull out of his hat—I just was very surprised and amused that it was K Wood.
          Some observations……
          (1)-Wood was absolutely blasted in many of his appearances this year. But, he shut us down in 1 inning (9th) earlier this year. In that outing he looked good and competant to me, and I wondered what are his issues here?
          (2)-Wood’s troubles go back farther than just this yr. Are his health problems over?
          (3)-I wondered how someone who throws so hard can be hit so hard, but then I remembered Joba.
          (4)-I actually read a blurb about 2-3 weeks ago that stated that Theo was interested in Wood.
          (I laughed then, too).

          Look, if the Yankees see something here–I’m open minded.

          I wonder who goes–Gaudin, or is something else cooking with Park? Also, I agree with you on the high costs of the good relievers.

          It’s a Fun Day. And the game starts in about 3 hours.

          • T.O. Chris H

            Another thing to keep in mind here is that Joe Girardi actually caught Kerry Wood with the Cubs from 2000-2002 and in those 3 years Kerry had 2 very good years pitching over 170 inning each year as a starter so he has a lot of familiarity with Wood, his attitude and his stuff.

            From people who have watched him this year he was seemingly getting hot before he ended up on the DL with a blister problem.

            I think the fact that he is coming off the DL for blisters and not an elbow or shoulder issue is also one reason the Yankees are willing to do this, sure he has had those problems in the past but for this year at least it’s just been blisters and if anything his arm should be really rested.

      • bornwithpinstripes

        see now i like that old fan.. more like the dollar tree

  10. T.O. Chris H

    Here’s tonight’s lineup and Berkman is hitting 2nd.

    Jeter
    Berkman
    Teixeira
    Rodriguez
    Cano
    Swisher
    Granderson
    Cervelli
    Gardner

    • old fan

      I hope we light up Garza. I hope Derek singles on the first pitch. This game is for the series. I like the matchups tomorrow.

      • T.O. Chris H

        I’m really hoping Berkman comes out firing on all cylinders with some rejuvenation off the trade. He is a great guy and I wanted him to get a WS ring when the ‘Stros were making their run a few years ago and it just didn’t happen. Hopefully this team can correct that for him.

      • Simon

        Yeah, I hope he gets lit up. I hope Berkman hits a homer in his first at-bat, then A-rod comes up and hits his 600th, How sick would that be? It’s also very important we take this series from the Rays and put some needed insurance distance between us. Best of luck to Fat Elvis in his first Yankee appearance!

      • bornwithpinstripes

        i liked the match up last night…i just can not get by ,why posada called a fastball to a kid who was so fooled with hughes breaking stuff..the whole world knew this kid was looking fast ball. except posada..with two guys on bad call.still can not get by it..

    • bornwithpinstripes

      see this what i mean ,unless posada is hurt he should be in vs garza, maybe girardi didn’t know garza was pitching today..the guy thew a no hitter last start..he should have dh yesterday, and caught today

      • T.O. Chris H

        It’s called Lance Berkman.

        Yesterday during the game Girardi had no idea one way or the other that Berkman would be in the lineup and you have to play the games in the present moment not looking back on it the next day.

  11. oldpep

    I like the cuts-Curtis, Miranda, and Park.

  12. T.O. Chris H

    i liked the match up last night…i just can not get by ,why posada called a fastball to a kid who was so fooled with hughes breaking stuff..the whole world knew this kid was looking fast ball. except posada..with two guys on bad call.still can not get by it..  

    It’s the pitchers responsibility to throw the right pitch at the right time and if you don’t believe in what the catcher is throwing down you shake!

    I have never understood the people who yell at pitchers to just throw whatever the catcher puts down, the catcher doesn;t have W’s and L’s by his name and at the end of the day it is all on you on the mound. Hughes should have seen the fact that he missed that nasty curve and made sure he was throwing a curve on the 2-2 pitch.

    To blame Posada for that HR is the same as blaming Girardi for that HR neither one should have that responsibility. If Roger Clemens wanted to throw a forkball he threw the forkball it didn’t matter what the catcher wanted and if Hughes wants to be successful he is going to have to assert himself from time to time.

    You don’t have to shake every time like Chamberlain does but you should be able to read the bat of Matt Joyce in the situation and see that he just missed the 2-1 curve so your best bet on 2-2 is curveball and come back with the 3-2 fastball if you have to.

    • bornwithpinstripes

      i agree with you,but posada is the vet, and is as we all know stubborn…hughes must take control of the game more if he did not want a fastball…but to compare him to clemons is not fair.. posada likes fastballs when guys are on base,easier to throw out runners..so fastballs more often..

  13. T.O. Chris H, I completely agree. It’s the pitcher’s call. Only the pitcher truly knows how exactly he’s feeling with each pitch on every given night, and that varies from game to game, even inning to inning. This brings me back to the whole A.J. Burnett/Jorge Posada saga. Obviously it bothered Burnett, but that’s a problem. If you’re a 33 year old pitcher, you should know what you want to throw and when, and the catcher shouldn’t make a difference. This whole thing about a pitcher not throwing a pitch with as much confidence because he had to shake off, or because he gave in and threw the pitch the catcher called when he really didn’t want to throw it is so ridiculous to me.

    • bornwithpinstripes

      really, so how come when a pitcher has a good game,threy give credit to the catcher for calling a good game..so that should never take place or said…the catcher called a great game…posada stinks..and now that he will not dh…wait and see how bad he does at the plate…250 will be a high for him..and he will get hurt before this season ends.. just my opinion..