September 22, 2011
The team announced on Thursday morning that Lance Berkman(notes) had agreed to a one-year contract extension. Terms of the deal haven't been formally announced, but reports have the contract worth $12 million.
"I'm pleased as punch, I guess you'd say, at the way things have gone this year," Berkman said. "I'm very comfortable here. This is where I want to be."
However, Berkman made the Cardinals look smart with a resurgent performance that will likely earn him National League Comeback Player of the Year honors. His .300/412/.555 slash average with 31 home runs and 91 RBIs was far more production than most expected and certainly warranted a raise.
Earlier this week, it looked as if negotiations between Berkman and the Cardinals had stalled. When asked what was holding up an agreement, Berkman said what we all know but don't always hear: "It's always about the money." Obviously, the two sides finally found a figure they were happy with.
Berkman made it clear that he wanted to play in St. Louis next season. When rumors of a possible deal with the Texas Rangers circulated before the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline, Berkman expressed his preference to stay with the Cardinals. Furthermore, he wasn't interested in returning if the team traded him away.
A bold ultimatum? Perhaps, but the Cardinals were also in something of a bind. If they end up losing Pujols through free agency, Berkman would likely replace him at first base next season. Losing Pujols to a big payday elsewhere would be one thing, but the team couldn't afford to see a suitable replacement walk away too.
Does having Berkman in the fold give the Cardinals leverage over Pujols in their upcoming negotiations? It lessens the urgency to re-sign their incumbent first baseman and cleanup No. 3 hitter, which probably helps their bargaining position.
But bringing Berkman back — along with Chris Carpenter, who agreed to a two-year extension last week — also shows Pujols that the Cardinals are still serious about contending. The opportunity to win might not come with whatever mega-contract Pujols could find with another team.
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