Update: Rangers sign Lance Berkman

9:00pm: Berkman has agreed to a one-year contract with the Rangers according to multiple reports. He received $11M guaranteed with a vesting option based on plate appearances. It was going to be tough for the Yankees to pry Puma away from his home state at any price, especially that one. I was thinking like, half that amount.

10:00am: Via Ken Davidoff: The Yankees have interest in, and have been in contact with Lance Berkman, presumably to fill their DH position. The Astros, Rangers, and Orioles also have interest in Fat Elvis, who is a free agent for the second time in his borderline Hall of Fame career.

Berkman, 36, missed most of last season with continued knee problems (including two surgeries), but he is just one year removed from a .301/.412/.547 (163 wRC+) showing with the Cardinals. Puma needs a right-handed platoon partner these days despite being a switch-hitter, and after seven total knee surgeries, I can’t imagine he could be counted on to play the field. Berkman spent time in New York in 2010 and is reportedly good friends with Andy Pettitte, but it would be tough to lure him away from his home state with both the Astros and Rangers involved.

Given the way they Yankees have prioritized one-year contracts and, ahem, veteran players this offseason, Berkman is a perfect fit for that DH spot. He’ll bring some much-needed on-base skills to the lineup and might even hit some homers too. The questions are his knees and willingness to play far away from home more than anything.

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Mailbag: Special Hot Stove Rapid Fire Edition

Remember when I said I would like to do a rapid fire mailbag featuring a lot of questions and short answers? I’m doing that now. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Jason Szenes/Getty)

Joe asks: Do you think it’s a possibility the Yankees and Dodgers swap A-Rod for Carl Crawford?

The Red Sox put a ridiculous clause in Crawford’s contract prohibiting teams from trading him to the Yankees after they acquired him from Boston, so a trade isn’t possible. Even if it was, I don’t think the Dodgers would go for it. They’d probably rather add Alex Rodriguez to Crawford and go all-in than sell-off an undervalued asset. I think Crawford can come back and be a very good outfielder again, but it just won’t be with the Yankees.

John asks: Do you think this postseason has changed the mindset of ownership on Robinson Cano? There is no question he is a great hitter but this was an opportunity to make this his team and he has totally failed. Also with history of second basemen, do you think they will not sign a new deal?

I don’t expect the Yankees to change their long-term opinion of Cano based on one postseason, and frankly they shouldn’t. It’s not like Robbie has never hit in the playoffs (he mashed in October from 2010-2011), it’s just an ill-timed (and really ugly) slump. Barring a catastrophic injury or a total collapse in performance, I fully expect the Yankees to sign Cano to a massive extension at some point in the next 12-14 months.

Mat asks: Is Lance Berkman a viable one-year stop gap? Granted he’s coming off an injury but a one-year deal could make sense. With Michael Pineda needing time to heal and question marks about rotation, is Edwin Jackson another possibility? Finally with his versatility would Marco Scutaro make sense? He can back up 2B, 3B and SS and he’s still showing he can hit for average.

No on Berkman, his knees are so bad that he’s considering retirement because he can’t run anymore. That would be too much of a risk for the Yankees to take. I do consider Jackson an option regardless of Pineda’s status, but I think the team would look to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda and/or Andy Pettitte to one-year deals first. That’s what I would prefer. I’m a Scutaro fan but he’ll sign somewhere that guarantees him a spot in the everyday lineup, likely back with the Giants. Maybe he becomes more of an option if A-Rod is actually traded somewhere. He’d be a great fit though.

(Chris Trotman/Getty)

Travis asks: Would the Yankees be interested in Scott Baker, Blake Hawksworth, or Mike Pelfrey (if he is non-tendered) this coming offseason?

I’ll say yes on Baker and Hawksworth but not on Pelfrey. Baker would have to be a minor league contract only since he missed all of this season and wasn’t exactly Mr. Durable prior to having elbow surgery. Hawksworth has a nice arm but is just a reliever (he missed 2012 with a shoulder injury), so adding him on a minor league deal and stashing him in Triple-A for depth is fine with me. Pelfrey just flat-out isn’t that good and I don’t expect the light bulb to turn on after Tommy John surgery. He could be a bargain for an NL team in a big park, but not the Yankees.

Kyle asks: Hey Mike, I saw Ryan Ludwick declined his half of the mutual option and (barring a new deal) will be a free agent. Any interest as a stopgap right fielder?

I’m skeptical of Ludwick because he’s never strung two really good years together back-to-back. He’s struggled for a few years, had one great year, struggled again, so on and so forth. That said, the crop of reasonably-price free agent outfielders is weak and Ludwick does have the kind of big right-handed power that would play in Yankee Stadium. He wouldn’t be Plan A or even Plan B, but he is a viable option.

Joe asks: What do you think about the Yanks bringing in Delmon Young to play right field? He’s had his character issues in the past, however he’s young and a playoff producer.

Not a fan at all. Don’t care that he’s young (27), don’t care about his playoff performance. We’ve got over 3,500 plate appearances telling us he’s a below average big league hitter (96 wRC+), and the last 1,100 plate appearances have been even worse (89 wRC+). Young also isn’t any kind of outfielder, he’s a DH. Unusable in the field. The character issues are pretty severe considering that he has a criminal record now, so add that all up and you get a big “no” here.

Travis asks:If the Rockies wanted to trade Carlos Gonzalez to the Yankees, but wanted Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, David Robertson and Brett Marshall, would you do it?

That’s basically every young pitcher in the organization who is a) healthy, and b) worth a damn. At the same time, Hughes will be a free agent in a year and Robertson in two years. Marshall is unproven above Double-A and we have no idea if Phelps can cut it as a starter in the big leagues. That deal would cripple the team’s pitching depth, but I also don’t think it’s an insane asking price for someone of CarGo’s caliber. I’d say no, too much pitching to sacrifice in one trade.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Will asks: As I’m watching the NLCS, I’ve had an opportunity to watch Jon Jay. His style of play really reminds me of the core guys during the late-90’s. What kind of package would the Yankees have to offer for him?

It’s funny, I actually liked Jay quite a bit in his draft year (2006), but he’s turned into the exact opposite of what I thought he would. I thought he would develop into a .260/.370/.440 type who drew a ton of walks and hit 20+ homers while playing a decent right or left field, so basically a number six hitter. Instead, he’s a .300/.380/.400 leadoff guy who plays a legitimate center field and steals bases with little power. Funny how that works. Anyway, it would take a lot to acquire him since he’s still under team control for another four years, so something along the lines of the three players the Yankees gave up to acquire Curtis Granderson. I don’t think the Cardinals are looking to move him anyway, but he would be a great fit for New York.

Patrick asks: How serious is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome? Have there been enough cases to know what to expect how someone’s going to bounce back? How much would that procedure deter you from signing someone like Mike Adams?

Long story short, TOS occurs when a pectoral muscle (using on the pitching arm side) displaces an artery and it can lead to numbness, an aneurysm, all sorts of nasty stuff. I remember early last season, when the Yankees were still trying to figure out what was wrong with Hughes, there was some concern that he had TOS. That turned out to not be the case, however. Chris Carpenter had surgery for TOS in mid-June and didn’t return to the team until mid-September, and he’s the most notable recent example of the problem aside from Adams. Adams has a history of arm problems but TOS wouldn’t stop me from at least kicking the tires on the right-hander, who is one of the very best relievers in the game. You’d just have to go through the medicals very thoroughly and understand that he carries more risk (and reward) and your typical free agent reliever.

Ethan asks: Would you do Hughes and Nova for Tim Lincecum? I have no idea how much this makes sense (and yes, it probably totally sucks), but with Madison Bumgarner getting tired down the stretch and maybe affecting next season, Barry Zito being Barry Zito, and Ryan Vogelsong maybe going up in smoke, I think they could use some back-enders that can at least give innings. Plus the whole AL-to-NL thing.

I would hold off on that deal for a few reasons, most notably that Lincecum has seen his performance decline steadily in recent years. He was basically league average this year in a big ballpark in the NL, so sticking him in Yankee Stadium could be quite ugly even if he doesn’t decline any further and remains the same guy. You dream of him turning back into the Cy Young caliber pitcher who could dominate anywhere, but it’s not a safe assumption. Lincecum will be a free agent after next season, so you’re getting one year of him, plus the Yankees would be creating a rotation opening with the deal. I don’t think it’s an unfair asking price, if anything it’s probably a steal considering what the Giants could fetch for him in a bidding war, but I don’t believe it makes sense for the Yankees at the moment.

Yankees ties to the World Series

(Photo via CBS Sports)

For the second consecutive year, the Yankees are not playing in the World Series this fall (oh what a horrible drought!), but that doesn’t mean they’re an afterthought. There are Yankees ties to both the Cardinals and Rangers, thanks in part due to the age of free agency and non-stop transactions. Texas knocking the New York out of the playoffs last year is another connection as well, but that’s not really the angle I was planning to take.

Two players on the Cardinals once suited up for the Yankees, and two current Yankees helped get the Rangers to the Fall Classic in consecutive years by virtue of their departures. Let’s dig in…

Lance Berkman

More than anything, Berkman is the reason why I’m pulling for the Cardinals in the World Series. A platoon DH for the Yankees late last year, Puma hit a respectable .255/.358/.349 in 123 regular season plate appearances (.298/.404/.417 in his final 99 PA) before emerging as the team’s third best hitter in the postseason (.313/.368/.688). He became far more important than expected in the ALCS thanks to Mark Teixeira‘s hamstring injury in Game Four.

One of the conditions of the trade that brought Berkman to New York was that the Yankees could not exercise his $15M option for 2011, which was perfectly fine because he had all the look of a declining and increasingly injury-prone player. Fat Elvis signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals, had a monster season (.402 wOBA) that won him Comeback Player of the Year honors, and will bat cleanup behind Albert Pujols in the Fall Classic. Go Puma go.

Mark Teixeira

There’s not a direct Yankees-Rangers relationship here, but there’s no doubt that current Yankee Mark Teixeira helped the Rangers get to where they are today. Less than a month after reportedly turning down an eight-year, $140M extension offer, Tex was traded by Texas to the Braves (along with Ron Mahay) for a five-player package that included starting shortstop Elvis Andrus, closer Neftali Feliz, and likely Game Four starter Matt Harrison. That’s some haul, the gold standard when it comes to trading elite hitters.

Alex Rodriguez

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

A-Rod‘s connection to the Rangers and their success is a bit more concrete than Teixeira’s, at least from the Yankees point of view. When the Yankees acquired Alex in exchange for Alfonso Soriano and Robinson Cano Joaquin Arias in 2004, Texas gained more than $112M worth of financial flexibility through the 2010 season. That money was redistributed in a multitude of ways; some of it went to Michael Young and his long-term deal, and some was invested in prospects via the draft and international free agency (Derek Holland, Mitch Moreland, Alexi Ogando). Who knows how they rest was spent. That money wouldn’t have been available to the team if the Yankees hadn’t taken A-Rod off the Rangers’ hands.

Octavio Dotel

There’s not much connection here, especially since Dotel has seemingly played for all 30 teams at one time or another, but the right-hander did appear in 14 games (10 IP, 18 H, 13 R, 11 BB, 7 K) for the 2006 Yankees. They signed him off the scrap heap following his Tommy John surgery, rehabbed him for the first half of the season, then stuck him in the bullpen for the stretch run. It didn’t work out. Five years later, Dotel is still slinging it at age 37, this time in middle relief for the Cardinals.

* * *

There are a few other very loose ties (Cards backup catcher Gerald Laird is Brandon’s brother), but those four up there cover most of it. Berkman is the most obvious connection, but I think it’s clear that the Tex and A-Rod stuff will have more impact in this World Series in the grand scheme of things.

Link Dump: Comeback Player of the Year, Ortiz

Another rainy, yucky afternoon in New York, so I’ve got some inks that will hopefully brighten up the late lunch hour…

One of the two times Fat Elvis went deep in pinstripes. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Berkman, Ellsbury named Comeback Players of the Year

MLB announced today that Jacoby Ellsbury and former Yankee Lance Berkman have been named the AL and NL Comeback Players of the Year, respectively. Call me a homer, but I think Bartolo Colon should have taken home the AL award. I view this season as a breakout year for Ellsbury, not a comeback. Colon’s career was basically over, it had been four full year since he was last an effective pitcher. Put it this way, what would have surprised you more in March, Ellsbury having the year he had, or Colon having the year he had? Oh well, just my two cents. Congrats to Puma.

Ortiz and the Yankees

Amidst the chaos going on in the Boston, David Ortiz told ESPN’s Colleen Dominguez that he didn’t want to be part of the drama next year. That led to an exchange about the Yankees, and possibly wearing pinstripes in 2012…

“That’s something I gotta think about,” Ortiz said. “I’ve been here on the Red Sox a long time, and I’ve seen how everything goes down between these two ballclubs.”

Ortiz stopped well short of saying he wanted to play for the Yankees, but did express respect for the organization.

“It’s great from what I hear,” Ortiz said of the Yankees. “It’s a good situation to be involved in. Who doesn’t want to be involved in a great situation where everything goes the right way?

Well, I’m glad Ortiz is willing to spend some time thinking about joining the Yankees, but it takes two to tango. As Joe explained yesterday, acquiring a DH is so far down the team’s priority list right now that it’s one notch above “get a new second baseman.” They’d have to give up a draft pick to sign Ortiz since he’s a Type-A free agent (and will certainly be offered arbitration), and then deal with the inevitable PED questions when the Red Sox throw him under the bus as part of their smear campaign like they do everyone else.

Yanks exec interviewed for Phillies gig

Just a small note, but George King reports the Yankees allowed assistant pro scouting director Will Kuntz to interview for the Phillies minor league director position, but he did not get it. This comes on the heels of the news that both Billy Eppler and Damon Oppenheimer were given permission to interview for the Angels vacant GM position (Kuntz works under Eppler). I guess it’s good to know the Yankees front office people are wanted around the league.

Open Thread: Puma

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

If you’d have told me at this time last year that Lance Berkman was going to be the Yankees starting first baseman in the ALCS, I’d have called you insane. And yet, there he was in October, manning first after Mark Teixeira blew out his hamstring in Game Four. Berkman had a full no-trade clause and didn’t have to come to New York at the trade deadline, especially since he was going to be little more than a platoon DH, but he did because he wanted to play for a contender. His tenure in pinstripes started out poorly (.091/.167/.091 in his first six games) but soon enough he started to deliver, hitting .298/.404/.417 in the final 31 games of the season and then .313/.368/.688 in the postseason. His homerun and double in Game Two of the ALDS almost single-handedly beat the Twins. Fat Elvis turns 35 years old today and I have no idea how the hell the Cardinals figure he can play the outfield everyday at this point of his career, but that’s not my problem. I appreciate his service to the Yankees cause last season no matter how brief.

Here’s the open thread for the evening. Both the Devils and Islanders are in action, so find your own entertainment. Talk about whatever, go nuts.