According to the St. Louis Cardinals official Twitter account, Lance Berkman has been extended for another season.
Always the professional, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch gives us some insight into the details:
Now the questions boil down to: why the Cardinals brought Berkman back, why now, and what does it mean for the future of the franchise?
To Prove A Point
Why now, with the team surging ahead in a wild card race, a week left in the season, and on the heels of extending Chris Carpenter?
Make no mistake, this one sends a message to the superstar himself, Albert Pujols. Pujols stance to not negotiate during the season due to causing a distraction is being taken to task the only real way to prove it wrong: by doing it. If Albert does not want to negotiate, prove to other players that negotiations are not a distraction and can actually inspire the team. After all, they are 7-2 since the Carpenter deal was announced on September 11.
Taking Care Of Business
If the team is to resign Pujols, they would prefer to do it quickly and be able to make the best offer possible.
Let’s face it. The return of Albert Pujols will require the team to spend and spend heavily to retain his services. These are businessmen that are well aware of what is coming in the next month or so. They know they have a budget, a team to build, and money to conserve. Pure and simple, the team is attempting to have as much of the roster solidified going into the off-season as possible so that they can make their best offer to Pujols and possibly take a “take it or leave it, it is what we have” standpoint.
If the unthinkable happens and Albert walks away, are you ready for Matt Adams (who has never played above AA) to take over at first?
Another message is sent today to the big guy and it is very clear “We are prepared to move forward without you, if we need to.” The Cardinals have retained their 2011 starting right fielder but that does not mean they did not just acquire their 2012 starting first baseman. Berkman is adept at first base and provides a middle of the order bat to soften the blow of losing the best hitter in the game.
Sidenote: let us all hope that this will keep the “Prince Fielder to St. Louis” rumors away as well.
It Is Business As Usual
Could the Cardinals simply be conducting business as usual without an agenda?
This is quite possible. The ever present and always informational MLB Trade Rumors reported recently that the Cardinals are the only team since 2007 to resign a player in the month of September and they have done so five times with the Berkman signing. John Mozeliak obviously likes to go into the off-season knowing what he currently has and tie up as many loose ends as possible, it is quite accurate to think that this is simply his style and he is continuing to run this team the way he sees fit.
A Boost To The Clubhouse
Despite the fact that this year’s “Add offense and sacrifice defense” strategy has been so horrible, the “put the right type of player in the clubhouse” has been very successful.
The Berkman signing for this season was two-fold. First, bring in someone that may have some offensive production to offer at a low price. Second, bring in someone that can be a club house leader. With everything surrounding this club, there is due to be a large influence of young players in the immediate future for the Cardinals. Puma has been the type of veteran leader that you need in a clubhouse to help bring these players along. His abilities on the field not withstanding, do not think for a minute the Cardinals underestimate his value behind the scenes.
It Is Exactly What The Cardinals Needed
Standing alone away from any other deal, this is something the Cardinals needed, right?
I have been very vocal as of late that this was the first time in a long time that I can remember there being this many questions about the outfield as we approached an off-season. With Berkman a free agent and Jon Jay not exactly dominating, 2/3 of the outfield became a question for 2012. If this signing stands alone away from other contracts, the Cardinals have solidified their outfield and made a move to ensure the lineup is strong. They can now look internally (read: Jon Jay, Adron Chambers, Allen Craig) at their best option for growth in center field.
Stay tuned to our ongoing series of articles today “Examining The Puma” as we take a look at Berkman’s year in Cardinal red and our reader’s thoughts on the signing.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
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