Texas Rangers land DH with $11M deal for Lance Berkman

01/06/2013 12:04 AM

03/24/2013 1:08 AM

Lance Berkman has dissed the American League because of the designated hitter, and he hasn't minced his words in regard to the Texas Rangers in past years.

Nolan Ryan and eight figures, though, can be awfully persuasive.

Berkman and the Rangers agreed to a one-year, $11 million contract Saturday that will make the veteran slugger and native Texan the Rangers' primary DH in 2013.

The deal, pending a physical to be taken Monday, will pay Berkman $10 million this season, and includes a $1 million buyout and a vesting option for 2014 that kicks in should he reach 550 plate appearances.

"If he stays healthy, he can put up some monster numbers with our right field the way it is," said Ryan, the Rangers' team president and CEO. "He could pick up some of the slack we have."

Josh Hamilton created that slack when he signed a five-year, $125 million contract last month with the Los Angeles Angels. Berkman is a switch hitter with 360 career home runs and a .409 on-base percentage, and he hit 31 homers in 2011 for St. Louis.

But he played only 32 games in 2012 because of two operations on his right knee. At age 36, he was considering retirement.

Ryan reached out to him last week.

"At the end of the season he was of the mindset that he wasn't sure if he wanted to play anymore," Ryan said. "Then, it came down to if he did play it would be us or New York because of Andy Pettitte."

Ryan also said there was nothing to Berkman's past statements degrading the Rangers, the most infamous of which came in the winter of 2011.

He said he thought the Rangers were going to be an average team in 2011, that they had been somewhat lucky in their 2010 run to the World Series, and thought that the six-year, $96 million contract they gave Adrian Beltre was a reach.

Berkman signed with St. Louis instead of the Rangers, and his two-out, two-run single in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series helped the Cardinals survive and eventually win the title in seven games.

To Berkman's credit, he admitted before the Fall Classic that his judgment was wrong.

"He's been outspoken about us at times, but I think that's just Lance," Ryan said.

The addition of Berkman, who turns 37 on Feb. 10, now puts into question whether top prospect Jurickson Profar will make the Opening Day roster.

Berkman will soak up the majority of the at-bats at DH, which could have gone to Mitch Moreland had the Rangers moved Ian Kinsler to first base and put Profar at second.

Moreland and Kinsler, though, are unlikely to change positions to open the season. If Profar isn't an everyday player, the Rangers will send him to Triple A Round Rock to start the year.

There are some in the organization who are concerned about Profar's ability to hold up physically as an everyday player as a 20-year-old, and others believe he needs more seasoning in the minor leagues.

The Angels' Mike Trout and Nationals' Bryce Harper, the rookies of the year in each league last year, started out at Triple A before receiving early-season promotions.

The Berkman signing could be the last by the Rangers, though they will continue to look for a utility infielder and continue to check in with Arizona about Justin Upton.

A source said that the Rangers continue to have interest in the right fielder, but only if the Diamondbacks ask for something other than shortstop Elvis Andrus or Profar in return.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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