Lance Berkman made 8 million this season or roughly 7% of the St. Louis Cardinals payroll. He had a 4.23 WARP or .53 WARP/$M. This week they extended Berkman for another season for $12 million. Berkman will be 36 years old next year and does not truly have a position. Also, that would be a 4 million dollar increase in payroll to a team that will surely add more payroll if they resign star Albert Pujols. This season has been Berkman’s best since he posted a 7.4 WARP in 2008. Since 2005 Berkman has only posted a WARP higher than 4.23 twice. With Berkman being one year older next season, it’s surprising that the Cardinals think he will be as productive as this season, or in fact 4 million dollars more productive than he was this season.
As I mentioned before Berkman does not have a position. He is a below-average first baseman by trade, but the Cardinals will in all likelihood resign Pujols to play first base. Thus, Berkman will be back in right field where he posted a -9.5 UZR this season and a career of -20.5 . The Cards play in the National League, so Berkman cannot DH, which he is much better suited for. In other words the Cardinals are paying $12 million for an out of position 36 year-old who realistically will only post about a 3 WARP from only his bat.
Some experts have speculated the Cardinals signed Berkman in order to keep him away from their division-rival the Milwaukee Brewers, who most likely be in the market for a new first baseman if Prince Fielder decides to take his talents to the Big Apple. But throwing $12 million at a player just to keep him from going to your rival only makes sense in the world of the Red Sox and Yankees.
Needless to say, I do not feel as though economically this was the right move for the Cardinals. It most likely was not a smart move for Berkman as well. As a free agent last season after posting a 1.5 WARP, Berkman was able to get a 8 million dollar deal from the Cardinals. After an all-star year this season, Berkman would garner a multi-year deal, that may not be worth 12 million per season, but much closer to at least a 2-year 20 million dollar contract with another team. Accepting a one year extension will force Lance to perform as well as this season if he expects to get a decent salary after 2012.
The St. Louis Cardinals had the 10th highest payroll in baseball in 2011, after signing Berkman and with more money going the way of Pujols, you can expect the Cards to be even higher in the top 10 of spenders in Major League Baseball.