After issuing a statement that the long-time franchise cornerstone no longer had a place within the organization following the conclusion of the 2010 season, the Houston Astros have now reversed course and acknowledged they may be interested in a Lance Berkman reunion. Much has changed within the organization since they issued that damning statement, including a change of ownership, a new GM, and the team’s imminent transition to the AL West, where they will now need the services of a full-time designated hitter.
This is a good move by GM Jeff Luhnow, who will be entering his second season in the position for the 2013 season. It’s obvious Berkman still feels strong ties to the Astro franchise — evidenced by the fact he was chastised by Major League Baseball for calling their move to the AL West an act of “extortion” — and a reunion would seem to fit both sides, at least from a nostalgic viewpoint.
Berkman may not have anything left to offer at this point, however; his 2012 season included just 97 plate appearances due to various knee-related maladies, and as this is not a new injury development for the switch-hitting slugger, who will turn 37 in February. That said, when he did play, he was still productive, posting a triple slash line of .259/.381/.444, good for a .354 wOBA. His batting eye, of course, remains outstanding as well — he walked in over 14 percent of his plate appearances. A player who could provide that kind of production even in a part-time role is a very useful one and well worth signing the asking price is within reason.
While the Astros won’t compete in 2013, Luhnow has done nothing but pull the right strings since taking over as GM, and the rebuilding movement is well underway. If Berkman is healthy enough to return, the only way he doesn’t choose to end his career in Houston is if he instead decides to take a last shot at getting another World Series ring, something the Astros most certainly cannot provide.