Taking note of the Texas Rangers signing Lance Berkman for the 2013 season, my first reaction was, “That’s nice, but I thought he was retiring.” My second reaction, upon seeing that he will be paid $10 million was “Holy Toledo! Ten million bucks? Are you kidding me?”
First thing Berkman should do, if he hasn’t already, is send a thank-you note to Josh Hamilton for going to the Angels. Berkman will be banking Hamilton’s money. I’m thinking the Rangers must be crazy. Can Berkman run? Can Berkman walk (and I don’t mean get bases on balls)? My impression was that Berkman was planning on retiring not because he didn’t like baseball anymore, but because his body was kaput.
Since when do teams take $10 million gambles like this? Payrolls are all inflated, so you might think Berkman could command $2 million, plus incentives, but $10 million? For $10 million, you should be able to buy a town in Texas. Basically the Rangers can afford this investment because Hamilton left and they still feel they need to round up some bats. They may want Berkman to play the outfield, but he may have to be the designated hitter.
Berkman is 37, played in 32 games last season, and had two knee surgeries. No wonder he was pondering retirement. In fact he was more than pondering. He actually said the Rangers made such an irresistible offer they bought him out of retirement. Do the Rangers have any guarantees for their money if Berkman can’t play? There are no safety valves for teams when things go sour with a player. Big bucks go right down the tubes. This is a blatant example of spending too much for too little, though Berkman seems like a nice enough guy and has done some impressive things with the bat in the past.
He’s also not the only one who is cleaning up this off-season with contracts that pay them either more than they deserve or are for longer than is prudent. Hamilton, who will be 32 by the start of the season, somehow hooked up with a team willing to pay him $25 million a year for five years. The five years part is the really questionable number in that deal. Hamilton could be MVP this season and help the Angels win a pennant and a World Series to earn his 25 mil, but there’s no way he will produce at his peak numbers for all five years of this contract.
The Indians going all ga-ga over signing outfielder Nick Swisher for four years and $56 million seems a tad on the optimistic side, as well. Swisher is a good piece of a lineup, but he is not a lineup headliner. The Indians definitely not only overpaid, but committed to a deal that is too long.
Swisher will probably hit like 22 homers with 85 RBIS and a .265 average. Is that worth $14 million? He did some good work for the Yankees these last few years, but never was expected to carry the team. And for those with a little longer memories, Swisher never got untracked with the White Sox. In 2008 when he was five years younger he batted .219.
The Rangers are counting on Berkman having the type of season he had in 2011 when he blasted 31 homers, drove in 94 runs, batted .301 and psoted an on-base percentage of .412 for the Cardinals’ World Series champions. But the last time before that he put up comparable numbers was 2008. Texas can cross its fingers and hope, but don’t look for Berkman to replicate 2011 or 2008 for them in 2013.