Every off-season, there are about three or four big players that are going to be the target of just about every team with a budget and some open roster spots. This year, it's the Josh Hamiltons, B.J. Uptons, and Zack Greinkes of the world, who will command multi-million dollar paydays over multiple years.
But what I enjoy more -- much more -- than those big signings, are the smaller, under-the-radar moves that get far less press, but still manage to be just as exciting, like when a team signs a veteran relief pitcher who just came off shoulder surgery and rediscovered his fastball. You know, the low-risk moves that can pay huge dividends if they hit. It's very exciting.
That, however, is not always the case, as it appears that the Phillies are looking into veteran free-agent Lance Berkman, according to Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle.
This, as the kids say, is the very definition of nightmare fuel, because unless general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. discovered how to travel back in time to 2006, signing Berkman to play any position other than first base would be an unmitigated disaster. Even then, that would be pushing it.
Now, don't get me wrong, Berkman can be a very valuable player for someone if the price is right and it doesn't require him to play the field. The soon-to-be 37-year-old isn't as spry as he used to be, and recent injuries have sapped him of whatever remaining defensive utility he may have had.
And unless they can bring the DH to the National League, there just isn't any room for him on the Phillies. With Domonic Brown pretty much guaranteed a corner outfield spot, with Darin Ruf making a push to win the other, and with Ryan Howard healthy again and firmly entrenched at first base, Berkman really doesn't fit in anywhere. He'd be a fine addition to the bench, but odds are the veteran slugger isn't going to take anything less than a starting role next season.
It's a shame, too, because he can still bring it with the bat. A career .296/.409/.544 hitter, Berkman breathed new life into his career in 2011, when he had a .959 OPS and 31 homers for the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. And despite being injured for much of last season, he still managed an .826 OPS in 32 games.
At best, Berkman would be a stop-gap for the Phillies; a one-year solution that would be little more than a bandage that covers up some blemish on the roster. Could he take less money and playing time to join their bench? It's possible, I suppose, but it's not something that should be counted upon.
While Berkman had some great years (he was one of the most underrated hitters of the last decade), it just doesn't make sense to offer him a starting job in 2013.