QUESTION: What does your gut tell you, do you think Lance Berkman will be back with the Cardinals next season?
There's very little doubt in my mind -- if the Cardinals add a couple of million to the $8 million Berkman made this year. If he hadn't been signed over the winter, this would not have been the mediocre season it has been for the Cardinals, but a bad one.
It appears both parties will make an effort to make that happen. That Cardinals have said they want to bring him back, but statements are always easier than actions. As mentioned in Bird Land yesterday, keeping Berkman and not trading him is the biggest tell yet if the Cardinals plan to keep Berkman around for a second season. The next question is cost, because Berkman is open to that short-term deal that fits the Cardinals wishes. Will they be able to meet the salary that fits his?
He certainly wants to come back -- which means he would be willing to sign for a friendly price. That gives him a chance to come back, although Chris Carpenter and Albert Pujols would have to be much bigger priorities at this point. We'll find out just how badly all three veterans want to be here when contract negotiations start. Pujols figures to play out free agency, but John Mozeliak could work on extensions for Carpenter and Berkman before the season ends.
Based on the assumption that GM John Mozeliak had ample motivation not to trade him, I believe Berkman will be back.
Berkman said he wouldn't re-sign with the Cards if they traded him, so that means either Mo didn't get enough value to make it worth losing Berkman over the long haul or he thinks Berkman has big value for next season and it wasn't worth the risk to let him go now.
LARRY BOROWSKY (Founder of Viva El Birdos and editor of "Maple Street Press Cardinals Annual")
Wouldn't surprise me if the contract has already been signed. When have the Cardinals not brought back a veteran who came in on a short-term deal and delivered the goods? Retaining Berkman makes a lot of sense, as he provides value on the field, in the clubhouse, and as cover in case Pujols walks. He has said he wants to return. The fans like him. The manager likes him. Seems like a no-brainer.
Of course, once they've committed to Berkman, the Cards might be less able (and less motivated) to give ground in the Pujols negotiations -- which, in turn, might increase the chances that Albert signs elsewhere. I suspect the team has already made its peace with that scenario.