Berkman returns to native Texas as Rangers' DH
Veteran slugger agrees to one-year contract with vesting option for 2014
The chance to return home and play in his native Texas and an attractive contract offer from the Rangers was enough to lure slugger Lance Berkman back to work.
Berkman told MLB.com on Saturday he had agreed to a one-year with deal with a vesting option for 2014 to be the designated hitter for the Rangers, pending a physical. Berkman said he had been mulling retirement and wouldn't have played if the circumstances weren't right.
The Rangers, who have not confirmed the deal, proved to be the perfect fit for several reasons.
"There is a lot of things," Berkman said. "One is the opportunity to DH. I think that's going to be really good for me from a physical standpoint in terms of staying healthy for a full year and obviously geography -- I'm a Texas guy all the way -- so I could get back to my home state, and being close to home is huge for me and my family. I think the Rangers have an excellent chance to win. I think they have a very solid team, so all those things kind of add up and it makes a lot of sense."
Berkman, who turns 37 on Feb. 10, was considering retirement after an injury-plagued 2012 with the Cardinals. He underwent two surgeries on his right knee and played 32 games, hitting .259 with an .826 OPS, two home runs and seven RBIs. Berkman appeared in only six games and started two after July 29 and was left off St. Louis' playoff roster.
"In my mind, I was retired," he said. "I really felt like I wasn't going to play and then as I got further into the offseason, my knee started to feel better, and the Rangers made me a real strong offer. That sort of got my interest piqued and it just kind of went from there.
"I'm glad that they reached out to me when they did and it kind of worked out. I always told myself I was going to leave the possibility of returning open and let the Lord dictate whether it was time or walk away or there was an opportunity that made sense to keep going. Obviously, this is an opportunity that made a lot of sense."
Berkman hopes he can still contribute at a high level.
"We'll find out," he said. "I'm not ancient, but I'm certainly older for a ballplayer. It's not unprecedented for guys my age to be extremely productive. I still feel like I can do that, and we'll find out if that's the case or not."
Berkman played for the Astros from 1999-2010 and was one of the most prolific offensive players in team history. Houston had interest in bringing him back, but Berkman said he was never made a formal offer. The chances of him returning to his hometown Astros were diminished when they signed Carlos Pena to be the first designated hitter.
In November, Berkman initiated a meeting with Astros owner Jim Crane to talk about the team and get to know each other better, and he also had lunch with new manager Bo Porter and had some recent conversations with general manager Jeff Luhnow.
"I have nothing but good things to say about the Astros organization and the way our negotiations went," he said. "I understand they're in a position they have a lot of young players they'd like to get Major League experience, and with the signing of Carlos Pena that kind of takes care of their DH spot. The fit wasn't quite right, but I still harbor an extreme amount of good will towards the Astros organization, and I hope to continue that relationship on down the road."