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. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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..

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

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

    Jeter
    Berkman
    Teixeira
    Rodriguez
    Cano
    Swisher
    Granderson
    Cervelli
    Gardner

  11. 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.

  12. 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.