When the Texas Rangers signed Lance Berkman to a one-year, $10 million deal (with a $12 million option for 2014, which vests at $14 million for 550 plate appearances in 2013), they really caused some chaos on their roster.
Berkman will be the primary designated hitter in 2013, at least for as long as his ailing knees will allow him to after he missed 117 games in 2012 due to injuries to both knees and his left calf. The Rangers are making a very questionable decision in this signing.
Texas has been linked to deals with the Arizona Diamondbacks all offseason, as Arizona GM Kevin Towers continues to shop Justin Upton. While Rangers GM Jon Daniels has refused to create a package around top prospect Jurickson Profar, the club may have just blocked their prized possession by signing Berkman.
Daniels announced on January 7 that with the signing of Berkman, the club was going into the 2013 season with Ian Kinsler at second base and Mitch Moreland at first base. Daniels confirmed on December 9 that Kinsler was an option at first base, which would have opened second base for Profar or allowed the club to keep Profar at short and move Elvis Andrus to second.
With Adrian Beltre entrenched at third base for the Rangers, Mike Olt, another top prospect for Texas becomes expendable, even after the club traded Michael Young to Philadelphia. Olt could play some first base, but with Moreland, Kinsler, and Berkman (possibly) capable of handling the position, he’ll probably head to Triple-A Round Rock for the start of the 2013 season…if he isn’t traded.
While the club mentioned Kinsler as an option at first, he could still make sense in left field. With Josh Hamilton signing with the Los Angeles Angels, the Rangers outfield is suddenly very weak, at least on paper. The top four outfielders are David Murphy, Nelson Cruz, Leonys Martin, and Craig Gentry. If Kinsler played left, where his bat could play well still, it would open the door for Profar at second, at least, and the club could still hope that a package featuring Mike Olt could still land the club Upton. Kinsler could handle center, possibly, as an up-the-middle player with solid speed (157 steals in seven seasons), which would allow the club to move Cruz to left.
While Berkman has been a fantastic player over his career, a club with so many options offensively should not have locked up a player for, potentially, two season if “Big Puma” were to actually hit his vesting option. Even a rotation of players would have been a solid use of resources, possibly DHing Nelson Cruz to keep his legs, which have kept him out of 83 games since the start of 2010, fresh.
What would the best-case scenario be for Berkman and the Rangers? With Murphy in left full-time and Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt in Triple-A, all because of Berkman’s inability to play the field at this point of his career, the Rangers are not better. They have de-valued one of the top prospects in baseball by tying Ron Washington‘s hands with a player in the decline of his career.
Jon Daniels has done nothing to help the Rangers this offseason. While we don’t know if it was his call to hope that Josh Hamilton called the Rangers to allow them to match an offer, only to lose out to their division-rival, the fact that the club continues to hold onto Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar instead of upgrading by getting Justin Upton continues to be the driving mistake of the offseason for the club. At least Upton is someone to build around, as he is 25 years old and signed through 2015.
Jon Daniels may have just blocked Jurickson Profar AND Mike Olt for the next two seasons. There is no excuse for that, even for a team that had the money to spend.