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Lance Berkman's A Cardinal And Winter Meeting Thoughts

Well, damn.

Part of my part-time life as a sports writers is that I travel to a lot of games. Yesterday, I had to leave in the early afternoon to get to a game in Mabank, Texas. It was a long drive, but a short game. Still, I spent about six hours yesterday just driving back and forth to this game, thus missing the Berkman announcement when it happened. Instead, I had to read about it here when I stopped for dinner. And almost cursed in the middle of the restaurant.

See, I knew Berkman would sign somewhere else. If I had to make a list of all the teams where he could sign/get traded to, the Yankees and the Cardinals would be tied for 30th. There could not have been two worse teams for him to be on, but that's what we have to deal with.

As much as I dislike the thought of seeing him in a Cardinals uniform, part of me thinks this could actually hurt St. Louis. First of all, this is the second straight move where the Cards have opted for more theoretical offense over guys who play better defense at a position. The first time was replacing Brendan Ryan with Ryan Theriot and now replacing John Jay/Matt Holliday with Lance. Holliday was no great shakes as a left fielder, but is there any evidence Berkman can still play out there? How can the Cards feel good about that tradeoff?

Because, as I said, the tradeoff is really theoretical. Is there any evidence that Berkman can return to being an elite offensive player? Sure, he'll draw walks, as he always does, but my best guess right now has him at .280/.360/.420 next season. To me, that's not worth 8 million dollars. Plus, there is no guarantee that he can get through a season or half-season fully healthy. That's a lot of risk to put in an expensive player. Ultimately, I think this has the potential to hurt the Cards more than help them, but that's just me.

Onto happier news, because the Winter Meetings begin today. TCB will be covering all the relevant news and moves that the Astros might make this week, but let's get things started by looking at what moves Ed Wade should look to make and what he might actually look to make.

What he should do

There is one and only one thing Ed Wade needs to do  over the next week: move Carlos Lee. According to Brian McTaggart, Lee's full-no trade is now expired, but he has a limited no trade for this season before his 10-5 rights kick in after the 2011 season. So, Lee can't be traded just anywhere, but there will be no easier time to deal him than right now.

I get it. Lee is one of the few run producers in the lineup. However, there is no reason to believe Lee wil have a big bounceback season in 2011. He'll probably be better than he was last year, but that's not hard to do. To live up to his lofty salary, Lee will need to be a 4.0-4.5 WAR player next season. For that to happen, he needs to limit his defensive liability by moving to first base AND start hitting again.

What gets a deal done? The Astros will have to pick up part of Lee's contract. How much they pick up will determine what kind of prospects they get back. I imagine to make a deal, the Astros will need to pick up at least half of the 37 million left on the deal. The Rangers, Rays, Twins and A's could all probably use a DH-type. If the Astros could get a high-upside guy in Low A ball or a low-ceiling reliever who's big league ready, I think this deal gets made.

What he will do

Wade already has his shopping list laid out. After shoring up his shortstop position, expect Wade to make a big push for Jeff Francis, adding another arm with potential to this rotation. He may make an outfield signing, but I also expect him to come back from Orlando with another reliever, possibly via the Rule V draft. 

They won't be exciting moves, but I do think Wade will come back with a couple new players. What do you think? Who will the Astros target this week? What are the odds the Astros make a trade before the Winter Meetings end?